The new president of Abergavenny Rotary Club Lionel Elton has some innovative ideas for the year ahead, including an Outreach scheme to support people who are lonely and also the launch of a Rotary choir.

Lionel was ‘handed the baton’ by outgoing President, estate agent Patrick Foy, at a lunch held at The Chapel, Market Street, Abergavenny on Sunday. David Tod was inducted as President Elect.

Rotarian Tim Reardon-Smith was invested as a Paul Harris Fellow, the highest award that can be bestowed for service in the furtherance of Rotary ideals and for support of the Rotary cause.

During the handover Patrick said he had enjoyed a hectic year with a successful Steam Rally and Eisteddfod as just two of the highlights.

“There was certainly plenty of hard work but tempered with the knowledge that we did an enormous amount not just for the town and its people, but internationally as well,” he said.

“A highlight was welcoming the club’s first female member, Jill Swain, which I hope will encourage more ladies to join.”

Incoming President Lionel is a music teacher and a lover of music of all kinds.

He pledged to create a Rotary choir with the words, “Everyone can sing - but they just don’t know it yet!”

After the lunch, Marc Elton (Lionel’s son) entertained with his blue grass band ‘Up The Creek’.

Lionel’s main theme follows the international ‘Rotary making the difference’ and the creation of Outreach, with a special committee.

Rotary will spearhead the new venture but it is hoped that it will be taken on by a wider net of people.

“I know that other Rotary clubs who are aware of this initiative are watching us, and if we succeed it could be the start of a national charity,” said Lionel.

“This has come into being as a result of my experience as a volunteer with Esther Rantzen’s Silverline.

“Speaking with my two aged and extremely lonely Silverliners, I soon realised that telephone communication was a gentle palliative, a partial solution to the vast problem of loneliness. Both of them constantly bewailed the fact that they would never meet me as all our communication was by phone. So I thought that this was an area well fitted for we Rotarians to fulfill.

“This also seemed to me to offer an additional place where we would be able to reach out on a one to one basis to give real help and support to those local folk who are lonely and crying out for help.

“It is not realised how loneliness is as deadly a disease as dementia, leading to depression and in too many cases suicide. And not just aged, bereaved and disabled folk - young people also suffer from this dreadful situation.

“Secondly, and linked to the Outreach endeavour, will be the creation of Abergavenny Rotary Choir which will, when trained to great proficiency, sally forth to hospitals, old people’s homes, hospices et al and give good cheer and joy to one and all. It’s going to be an interesting year.”