National Volunteer Award Profile - Bob Ferenth

Following on from celebrating National Volunteers Week in June, we launched the inaugural Bowls Scotland National Volunteer Awards.

The purpose of these awards was to recognise and celebrate the amazing volunteers working tireless hours for bowling clubs throughout Scotland. Our sport is lucky to have so many amazing volunteers that are hardworking, dedicated, and selfless. The time they commit to their clubs and our sport is invaluable and we want to reward their inspiring work.

We received 42 nominations in the first round of awards. A panel was formed, covering all areas of Bowls Scotland, with the thankless task of whittling these brilliant nominees down to our four eventual winners. The first winner we are highlighting is Bob Ferenth from Nairn Bowling Club.

Bob joined Nairn BC in 2015 and since then has led the club’s transformation from a declining membership to a thriving community hub. He has committed thousands of hours and assisted the club in obtaining over £130,000 in grant funding, which has allowed for mass changes to take place. Speaking on the club’s development, Bob said: “I get a great deal of personal pride in initiating improvements and helping people recognise that they can make a difference. Every year since 2015 we have made improvements to the club and its structure.

“Sometimes we do get some resistance to change. I have often heard ‘It's always been like that and why change’. Once we have initiated the change and it makes a difference to everyone at the club, these attitudes tend to abate.

“I don't like to see neglect and lack of maintenance and believe that our town and our members deserve to have their facilities well maintained and fit for the future.”

Thanks to Bob and his dedicated committee, Nairn BC has seen an overhaul of improvements ranging from toilet upgrades to installing artificial banking’s on their green. The club has also registered itself as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) which has allowed access to additional funding streams. Keen to share the process himself and the club have worked through, Bob added: “I initially worked with Jim Buchanan (our Treasurer at the time) to review and evaluate the club and its facilities. I then used this as the foundation for a 5-year plan of improvements and change to ensure that the club was ‘relevant’ for today and into the future.

“We made changes to the way the club was run and governed, initially we became a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) and subsequently decided that a SCIO was more appropriate to our future vision and applied to become a Scottish Charity. We had facilities that had not changed for 20 years and were aging and falling apart.

“Our infrastructure plan included the following; upgrading all the toilets with new modern ceramics, installing lockers, automated LED lighting (internal and external), all floor coverings, new tables and chairs, new windows, insulation, new kitchen, new efficient gas heating, painting (internal and external), new greenkeepers workshop, new greenkeeper equipment (lawn mower, greens iron, electric sprayer, aerator etc,), new artificial banking and ditches, new paving, flag pole, all exterior benches and picnic tables, Solar PV and battery solution and most recently a 14-seat covered stand.

“All of this was only possible with the support of many grant providers. I am really grateful to them for believing in us and providing us with over £130k to allow us to carry out these much-needed improvements. I also managed to get new supporters from local businesses to provide annual sponsorships to help our ongoing financial position.

“We now have a defined maintenance and replacement plan in place to ensure that we never find ourselves with so much work to do in such a short time frame.

Someone that knows Bob and his commitment to Nairn Bowling Club inside out is his wife, Anne Ferenth, who nominated Bob for this award. Anne has spent the last six years supporting Bob and witnessing first-hand just how much the bowling club, its members and the local community mean to her husband. When asked why she nominated Bob for a Bowls Scotland National Volunteer Award, Anne said: “He is totally committed to the club and its membership. Since he joined in 2015, he has spent countless hours applying for grants, looking for new sponsors and generally putting processes in place to help create a more stable future.

“I don’t think that anyone really understands the amount of time that it takes to investigate and apply for grants, not to mention the time involved in making the projects happen when funds have been awarded. He cares about the membership and through the Covid situation he made sure that all the elderly members were supported and looked after.

“He even installed an internet webcam to allow those members that were self-isolating to watch activities on the green throughout the season from the comfort of their living rooms. He never stops!”

Looking to the future, Bob is far from finished working to grow his beloved club with many other future improvements already in the pipeline. On the club’s plans, Bob commented: “Nairn Bowling Club is all about people and creating an environment that encourages everyone to respect and support each other. This is at the core of everything that has been initiated at the club and our growth from a membership of about 35 in 2015 to just under 100 today is testament to this.

“Having a supportive and forward-thinking Board of Trustees is important as we continue to look at the future and altering our course as and when appropriate. One key aspect of our success has been to retain the ‘leadership team’ for a minimum of 5 years. This creates buy-in and allows the vision to become reality. The old idea of changing Club Officers every two years does not support progression and forward thinking.

“Our focus is to continue to grow and look at ways of making lawn bowls more attractive to 20-to 40-year-olds. We also want to be Bowls Scotland’s first Gold BowlsMark club. We have a strong belief that this accreditation helps support our growth and ensure our processes and procedures are up to date and are pertinent.”

Congratulations to Bob on behalf of everyone at Bowls Scotland for receiving his thoroughly deserved National Volunteer Award!

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