|Text of the Winter Distress League's reports for 1922-4, originals loaned by Christine Weiss|
Winter Distress League
The National Appeal to all People of
Goodwill during these difficult days.
THE WINTER DISTRESS LEAGUE'S REPORT FOR THE SEASON
IT is written that " The reward of good work is more good I work to do." Judged by that standard, the work of the WINTER DISTRESS LEAGUE must indeed be of superlative quality, for season by season the legitimate demands on its services increase. So, unfortunately, does the contrast between the funds available and what could be accomplished if only they were elastic !
The League will be needed more than ever in the winter season ahead of us, for the industrial machinery of this age is complicated and intricate, and its component parts so closely related that the breakdown of one has very far-reaching effects. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Coal Stoppage, there is no doubt that thousands of men and women in trades apparently quite unconnected with that industry are out of work because of its paralysing effects. So long as innocent persons are struggling against unemployment due to causes quite beyond their own control, the activities of the League ought to continue. Its methods safeguard it against exploitation by the lazy or incompetent, and the testimonials to the efficiency and spirit of those employed (a few of which are quoted on pages 8 and 9) are the best assurance subscribers can be given that the funds are used to help those worth helping.
We referred in last year's Report to the encouraging results of sending out a detailed statement of the League's activities, and it is splendid to be able to record that the circulation of the Report for 1924-25 brought in no less than £3,975-13-6, more than double the previous result.
The Committee hope that the following account of their stewardship will interest and satisfy you, so that they may again receive such encouraging practical intimations of your approval and sympathetic understanding of their endeavours.
It will be noticed that the number of interviews shows a substantial decrease since the previous year. This is due to the elimination of an unsatisfactory type of applicant, mostly working from the large lodging-houses, who make a regular practice of endeavouring to get grants in all directions, and who took up a great deal of time. Last season we made arrangements for outside investigation of their claims, which greatly diminished futile interviews and enabled genuine cases to be attended to more quickly.
About 2,800 applicants were personally interviewed; 1,500 of these were helped to take up specific jobs by providing them with the necessary clothing, tools, or travelling fares; whilst 253 were registered for work, of whom 132 were actually employed.
It was decided, in the light of our experience of former years, to aim at keeping our men in work for a longer period, even if it entailed a slight reduction in numbers, since after prolonged unemployment there are almost always arrears of rent, small debts, etc., to be cleared, whilst the family wardrobes and the home equipment are at a very low ebb, and it takes a considerable time to get things straight again.
FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE HELPED.
This season the average period of employment was between three and four months. All our workers were either married or had relatives dependent upon them. Almost without exception this was also the case with those helped with clothes or money, so that at a very conservative estimate of three dependents to each wage earner (the average is four to each for the men employed by us), the total number who benefited by the League's funds is little short of five thousand.
It will be noticed that although a slightly smaller number of workers were directly employed than in the previous winter, a larger number were enabled to take up jobs which would otherwise have been lost to them.
THE HUMAN FACTOR.
The Committee attach the very highest importance to the interviewing of applicants at the office. They consider that .he success of their work depends almost entirely upon the skill, tact, and commonsense of the staff performing this difficult and onerous duty. Money cannot buy the patience, sympathy and interest, which alone can sift the wheat from he chaff, gain the confidence of often disheartened men and women, and humanize the routine of a busy office. How much such treatment can mean to the men themselves is illustrated by letters such as the following :
Tipton, Stuffs. 21. 2. 26.
To Miss Neville,
Winter Distress League, 23
Dear Miss Neville,Thank you very much for your great kindness in ending the other two pounds to enable me to "carry on" till I draw my pay next week, also for telling me that you will have my Kiddies sent on a soon as I am ready to have them. If you don't mind my saying so, I think that the letter you sent to me breathes the very spirit of the work he League is doing, an instant response to an appeal in a way that would help any man to do his very best to deserve all the kindness that has been shown towards me, every time I have had to come to the League for assistance. I will remember all that has been done for me, and will try in my urn to help others. From now on I am doing my best in every way to try to make known the great work that is being done, and shall try and lake others see just what that work means, what it has meant to me. I was doing pictures on the pavement in Kensington when a lady came and asked my name and address, also a lot of other questions. Then she took the trouble to make every enquiry she could think of before she recommended le to the League. For six months I had been sitting on the pavement ay after day getting sometimes a precarious living sometimes a good one because the majority of London people are very generous, so many days have made, or shall I say taken as much as thirty shillings others barely enough to " carry on " with ; when I had more money than I wanted at the moment I saved it for the time I was taking barely enough, and so managed to scrape along in some way. I do not drink at all, and in fact having seen what has happened to Wives and children of men who do, I am very glad that I don't, Besides, as I have told you before I happened to be in Love with my Wife and Children, and that would have kept me steady in any case. Now I have my two Babies to care for and I shall try to make up to them what they have lost by losing their Mother. If you had known my Wife you would understand just what my loss meant to me. she was so good and patient, and we were always Sweethearts. Ah, well, I suppose I must try to think it was all for the Best, because many times during the time she was in Hospital she was in terrible pain, and it was a Happy release from all that because the doctors told me months before that she would never get out of bed again. You ask what my work will be ? It is a job doing general house repairs, and I have been promised twelve months work, and very likely it will be a permanent job. I shall be working with my Brother, and from what I can see will be a very interesting job and that is just what I need more than anything. I will let you know when I am ready to have my Kiddies, and I thank you for your suggestion to let them stay a few more weeks where they are, as I think it will do them good and perhaps help them to forget.
Thanking you Again for all you and the League have done for my Kiddies and myself, and assuring you that I will repay.
I Beg to Remain,
Very Gratefully Yours,
3rd December 1925.
Dear Madam,As my period of Service with the "Winter Distress League" ends to-morrow, to my great regret, I venture to write and express my hearty appreciation of the courtesy and kindness with which I have, invariably, been treated.
It has, to me, been a very pleasant service and it is quite impossible for me to give adequate expression to my gratitude for the "League's" kindness.
I should, however, like to say that I hope D.V. to repay the "material" benefits I have received from the League and I think I have every ground for being confident that I shall be able to do so: perhaps I may add that anything I am ever able to do to forward the work of the "League" will be a great pleasure to me.
The Secretary has my address.
I am. Madam,
(Signtd) C. P. G.
Capt. Retd. List.
We are well aware that the results of the work and the appreciation of those to whom kindness and help have meant
so much are the only rewards our staff desire or treasure, but it would be misleading to issue any Report without some tempt to recognize this all-important factor. Miss Neville and Miss Sandford especially give wonderful service in this direction, being imbued with that true spirit of charity, without which, St. Paul reminds us, good deeds are both worthless and ineffective.
Our principal scheme was again the carrying out of work for Hospitals and other Institutions, after obtaining from them the assurance that the work could not be put in hand without our help, an undertaking to pay for the materials used, and, where possible, to make some contribution to the wages bill. Work was performed for the following Institutions :
Most appreciative letters have been received, of which the following are typical:
STEPNEY INFANT WELFARE CENTRE.
587 & 589,
I am writing on behalf of my Committee to ask if you will convey their most grateful thanks to the Committee of the Winter Distress League for the work done here, which was completed this week.
The re-decorations have been exceedingly well done and the two men sent by the League were most thoughtful and willing to work in with our arrangements, so as not to interrupt our work here. Our Matron greatly appreciated also the quiet way in which the men worked in the upstair rooms, in order not to disturb the night nurse.
With again many thanks for the League's valuable help. Yours faithfully,
(Signed) I. A. GEORGE,
THE BOROUGH OF S. MARYLEBONE HEALTH SOCIETY,
Winter Distress League.
Dear Madam,We have to thank you very much for the excellent work you have done for us. The redecorating of the premises at 14,
(Signed) M. MOSTYN BlRD,
The request of the London Children's Gardens Committee for help in clearing a waste piece of land, opened up a new and very useful method of providing work. One of the many problems that arise is how to help men who are either skilled in trades that do not lend themselves to our procedure, or who are quite unskilled. This clearance work could be performed by any ordinarily healthy and sensible men under the supervision of one gardener, and the Committee hope to develop this outlet during the coming season. The following letter from the Honorary Secretary of the Fund will interest our Subscribers :
The request of the london children's gardens committee for help in clearing a waste piece of land, opened up a new and very useful method of providing work. One of the many problems that arise is how to help men who are either skilled in trades that do not lend themselves to our procedure, or who are quite unskilled. This clearance work could be performed by any ordinarily healthy and sensible men under the supervision of one gardener, and the Committee hope to develop this outlet during the coming season. The following letter from the Honorary Secretary of the Fund will interest our Subscribers :
Dear Miss Neville,
I know that you will be glad to hear that the men are getting on very well with the work in
If we may keep the men a few more days they will be able to finish up all the really hard part before the boys take it over.
I cannot tell you how grateful we are for the help you gave us. We could not have done it alone or nearly so well with any other labour. L's supervision has been absolutely invaluable. May I also tell you that the men look so much better especially the dark one, for their work in the open air.
Yours very truly,
(Signed) Helen Lyons.
ELECTRIC HOME CLEANING SERVICE.
Seventy-seven clients made use of this Service during the season, and, as before, universal satisfaction was expressed. We feel sure this useful Service could be greatly enlarged if our patrons would be good enough to tell their friends about it.
WHAT IT IS.
For the information of new friends, may we just explain its working. Intelligent ex-service men of good character are specially trained in the use of electrical suction machines, and sent out by the half or full day to clean carpets, hangings, upholstery, anything or everything in or on which dust and grime collect. The amount of electrical current used is negligible, and machines for all voltages are available. Contracts for regular cleaning are also undertaken.
NEEDLEWORK AND BACHELORS' MENDING SERVICE.
Educated women suffer severely, though usually silently, n times of industrial depression. This Service is the League's special effort to help them. Workrooms staffed by women unaccustomed to regard their needle as a definite tool are naturally more difficult to organize on a commercial basis, and the Committee decided last autumn to try and find a skilled trained supervisor, conversant with the methods and charges of good-class workrooms, to develop this activity. It was not easy to obtain someone who possessed not only the necessary technical qualifications, but who would handle her workers with sympathy and understanding, know how to train them in quick and methodical methods of work, and, in short, turn them from amateur into professional needle women. A long search ended happily in the appointment of Mrs. McClure, who has done wonders in the short time she has had control. We have no hesitation in guaranteeing that anyone who will be good enough to test the Service will be satisfied.
On an average six workers are employed, but, if we could make the workroom better known and obtain more work, we could increase this number many times and still have a pathetic waiting list.
Cards giving details of both Services are enclosed, and further supplies of either or both will gladly be sent to any reader who would help us by distributing them among friends and acquaintances resident in or near London.
BOARDING OUT CHILDREN.
The arrangements for boarding out children in country cottage homes which have proved such a godsend to many little folk suffering from lack of proper nourishment, proper clothes, or proper anything else, were renewed through the kindness of Mrs. Potter, whose mother-love seems inexhaustible. We are deeply in debt to Mrs. Potter and to the foster mothers who, inspired by her, welcomed our little people not only into their homes, but into their hearts. Many wee kiddies have gone away wan and pale and come back fat and rosy. Such work inevitably brings responsibility, and often makes heavy demands on those who undertake it. In two instances serious illness developed, but skill, care and devotion brought the little ones safely round. The father of one wrote the following letter after a visit to his sick child :
When I went to see my Kiddies last Friday Feb. 5th, Mrs. Potter was very kind to me, and I was able to see Eva at once, and when 1 saw the home she was in and had talked to the people who were looking after her, I was more than satisfied that everything possible was being done for her, and that she (Eva) had turned the corner and was getting better again. On Saturday morning I saw both Eva and Lily and Lily is looking great and made a great fuss of me. I would like to say that it is a great work that it being done by the Winter Distress League, a work too little known. Giving the poor children of that terrible place London a chance to see the "Country" that so many poor Kiddies have never seen except inside the rails of a park, also the work that is given such men as I to do, to help us over the worst part of the Winter when otherwise we should be more than half starved with our Kiddies too. Having had a little experience of this I am in a position to say this, and I have more to Thank the "Winter Distress League" for and you than I can find words to say these Thanks with, so will close.
Very Gratefully Yours,
In another case, the Mother, who was asked to act as escort, gave a very happy account of her impressions :
Dec. 3rd. 25.
Dear Miss Neville,
I thought you would like to know what I thought of
Arrived at Kettering about 1P.M. Mrs. Potter was there to meet us the children were ever so good going down, I were taken to most of the houses where children were to stay also to the school and spoke to teachers, everything and everybody were so nice the houses so clean and spotless, the children are in good homes and I am quite sure will have a good time and be well cared for.
My children were at home immediately, Mrs. T and P were ever so pleased to accept them. A thousand thanks for your great kindness Miss Neville and every success to your wonderfull institution the Winter Distress League.
(Signed) Mrs. B. J.
A lady almoner speaks thus of the results of this work :
1st March. 1926.
Re May & Violet R, 58,
Dear Miss Neville,
I feel I must write to you about these children. They were brought up to see me this morning and I have never seen such an improvement in such a short space of time. They have obviously been extremely well looked after, and they have been sent back with a great many clothes for which their mother is most grateful. Both she and her husband would like you to know how much they have appreciated the kindness of those at
(Signed) A. E. Cummins,
The Daily Graphic made two generous and very welcome contributions to this branch of our work out of their special fund, and published reports of some of the cases helped. Its kindly co-operation enabled us to avoid shutting down the Children's Care Department during the period when our other activities have been suspended, and we still have some thirteen under-nourished kiddies regaining their health and strength in country surroundings at the date of this Report.
IMPROVEMENT OF HOME CONDITIONS.
Although, of course, the children are the principal concern of this scheme, we should like to emphasize the relief their absence brings to a harassed father, over-worked mother, and over-crowded home, during difficult times. Another encouraging feature of it is the improvement in home conditions wrought in many actual cases by the desire of the parents to maintain the health and spirits of the children at a higher standard than they had ever envisaged before.
We have referred earlier in this Report to the constant need for clothing to enable applicants to take up work, and to provide our kiddies with suitable outfits.
The ladies who either attend the workroom or undertake to make clothes at home render valuable service by replenishing our cupboards, which, even with such generous help, are ill too often bare. During last season 149 yards of various materials were given, and made up into shirts, dresses, pyjamas, children's clothes, and so forth. There were 603 attendances and 794 garments were completed. Splendid I jut not nearly enough to satisfy us or our applicants, so here it yet another way in which sympathisers can help us.
Each year we endeavour to express our gratitude to the Press, and each year sees us deeper in debt to those who jive us so much of that precious commodity, Editorial Space, in which to tell the public of our work, our needs, and our efforts to supply them. Again we can only record our appreciation and thanks, which are sincere, though haltingly expressed.
BRINGING GRIST TO THE MILL.
The Committee has, of course, been handicapped through-jut the season by the immense discrepancy between the legitimate demands for help and the available funds to provide it. Unfortunately this experience is common to all philanthropic efforts. The Committee has always acted on the assumption that money is entrusted to them for wise and effective disbursement, and not for hoarding. As the money comes in, more men and women are given work, or helped to take up jobs, more children sent away, and the increased activity creates fresh responsibilities and needs, some of which cannot possibly be foreseen, so that in a short time we are always again faced with the need of replenishing funds, plus I higher standard of requirement than before. Sufficient is kept in hand to keep each scheme running for periods long enough to be of genuine benefit to the applicants, but that is the only limitation on expenditure, and at the end of each season only a small balance to enable the League to get under way again in the autumn is kept on deposit.
The administrative expenses are cut down to the lowest possible level consistent with efficiency and at least some degree of fairness to the staff, who as it is work many hours overtime without additional remuneration.
As is usually the case, a great deal more could be accomplished and much larger funds administered without any appreciable increase of overhead expenses.
OUR BEST CANVASSER.
We have already mentioned that our best canvasser is a very satisfactory one to us, namely, the Report of what has been done. In the vernacular, "results talk," and the Committee are greatly heartened by and keenly appreciative of the practical approval expressed by renewed and often increased subscriptions. The Annual Report brought in £3,975-13-6.
MR. SHEPPARD'S HELP.
At the beginning of the season the Rev. H. R. L. Sheppard most kindly consented to make a broadcast appeal on our behalf, and £900 in cash, and a really wonderful supply of clothing, resulted. The Committee valued Mr. Sheppard's co-operation, not only for the loaves and fishes, welcome though these were, but for the confidence in our work and methods that his advocacy gave to listeners, and for the compliment to that work his readiness to speak of it implied.
NEED FOR CLOTHING.
Clothing in reasonably good condition is so necessary that when unable to obtain it by appeal the Committee has to buy it, for a shabby man or woman cannot take up a job in a decent house of business however " clean and tidy " they may strive to keep themselves, and the provision of outfits to enable applicants to take up a definite job (of which proof is, of course, demanded) is a very practical method of assistance.
THE BBC.'s SCHEME.
The British Broadcasting Company kindly agreed to a suggestion we made for a mystery competition. The first two acts of a play were broadcast and a prize of £100 offered or the most accurate and concise solution of the mystery sent in before the 3rd act was given, each attempt being accompanied by 1/- postal order. The League benefited to he extent of £500, and as the B.B.C. provided the play and they and Sir George Lawson-Johnston, our Chairman, generously presented the prize, the cost of this effort to the League was practically nil. Our grateful thanks are due to the many kindly volunteers who undertook the clerical labour involved.
BOTANIC GARDENS FETE.
Sir George Lawson-Johnston again secured for us a stall it the Hospitals Fete in the Botanic Gardens, as well as a ride-show for children and a small country produce stall. Unfortunately the weather was disastrous, deluges of rain transformed the grass into a slippery and muddy morass, and the paths into rivulets. Special thanks are due to Lady Mackinnon and Lady Lawrence, who did yeoman service; Miss Faith Celli took charge of the produce stall and provided her own helpers; the Ladies Imperial Club again rendered much assistance; and Lady Ermyntrude Malet, one of our most constant and generous patrons, proved, as usual, a fairy godmother in many quiet ways. To these ladies and to all who supported us by contributions and services, we tender very grateful thanks.
MR. STUDDERT KENNEDY'S SUPPORT.
In November the Rev. G. A. Studdert Kennedy spoke about the League's work at a drawing room meeting given by Lady Moir. It was a very interesting meeting, and we are most grateful to the hostess and to the speaker. Over £70 was contributed to our funds as a result of this effort.
There are fortunately no changes to report as regards office accommodation. We are much indebted to the
There has been no increase in staff. We have already referred to the valuable work done by three of its members, and subscribers will like to know that the auditors have each year commented on the admirable way in which Mr. Starkey, our accountant, who has been with us for three years, performs his duties.
Last January the WOMEN'S ADVERTISING CLUB provided a most glorious party for the children of the men employed by us and some of those who had been boarded out by the League. One hundred kiddies were entertained to tea, a special performance of Beaver's Theatre was given, and after monster bran pies had been emptied of their alluring mysteries, each child was given a pair of boots, some sweets and fruit to take home.
The party was held on the premises of Messrs. Samson Gark & Company, Advertising Agents, of
"MISTER BEAVER'S THEATRE OF MAGIC."
This ingenious and delightful entertainment gave many performances during last season, and the Children's Depart-lent was enriched by more than £250 in consequence, leaver's Travelling Theatre was designed and painted by Miss Doris Zinkeisen, and made by Mr. Hill, of Daly's Theatre, so that it could be adapted to any size room or hall. Mr. Eugene Goossens arranged the music incidental to leaver's magical fantasy. It is not to be wondered at, there-ore, that its popularity increases year by year. The intriguing wizard hopes to find time to pay a few visits, at any rate, on our behalf this winter, together with his maid of all work, Fanny Fraude, and his cat, and anyone who enlists his help for a children's party is sure to have a very successful time, and will be hailed as a public benefactor by the audience, ourselves, and the children who so badly need the League's care. Full particulars can be obtained from our secretary, or from Mrs. Loughborough Pearson,
ALTERATION OF CONSTITUTION.
It had been found for some time that the procedure under the Constitution entailed an unnecessary amount of meetings and office work, and was unduly cumbrous in actual practice. After careful discussion, at the Council Meeting held on April 22nd, amendments were duly proposed, seconded, and unanimously carried, the effect of which is to simplify the procedure and economize time and labour. In future there will be only a Council and an Executive Committee, although the latter will, of course, have the power to appoint Sub-Committees to deal with any special matter, should it appear desirable to do so. Sir George Lawson-Johnston has kindly agreed to be Chairman of the reconstituted Council.
DEATH OF LADY MACKINNON.
The Committee has lost a very staunch friend through the sudden death of Lady Mackinnon. She was an active, though quiet, supporter of the League in many ways, and one to whom we never turned in vain for interest and help. We shall miss her very much, and are grateful for her friendship and approval during so many seasons.
The League owes much to the friends who give so generously of their time and labour, both inside and outside the office. Without them the staff could not possibly keep pace with the work.
The Audited Balance Sheet to the end of May is enclosed with this Report, but if any of our supporters would like further information on any point we shall welcome their questions as evidence of interest in our efforts. Our most grateful thanks are due to Messrs. L. R. Stevens & Co., Chartered Accountants, of 5 Guildhall Chambers,
There is little more to add. We can only end as we began, by referring to the dire straits which many of our countrymen and women are suffering as a result of the financial and industrial upheavals which have followed in the wake of the Great War. If those more fortunately placed will think of the disastrous effects on body, mind and spirit of empty days and sleepless nights; hunger and cold undermining physical resistance, whilst disappointment and despair corrode the mind, they will realize that beyond a shadow of doubt, it is infinitely worth while to ease the burdens from even one pair of shoulders, and to dispel the gloom enveloping one home. That conclusion reached, it will be deemed a privilege to offer help that hurts no man's self-respect, and lessens no personal responsibilities. The words written by Mr. Ian Hay Beith four years ago, unfortunately are still so true that we cannot refrain from quoting them yet again :
"Men out of work, over a million-and-a-quarter of them. And most of them likely to remain out of work all the winter. There is not enough public money to support them. There are men it is true who are quite content to accept a pittance and do nothing; but not the vast majority of men of whom I speak. These men are desperate. They see everything slipping awaytheir savings, their efficiency as workers, their self-respect as independent citizens . . . What matters is the spirit of the gift . . . the largest possible number of subscribers. There are few I think who would not be glad and proud to contribute their mite to such a fund. It would not really be a fund at all. It would be a testimonial - a friendly gesture - to those who are fighting the battle - our battle - until we get round the corner again as a nation."
Signed on behalf of the Council
Geo. Lawson-Johnston, Chairman of Council.
Ethel M. Wood. Chairman of Executive Committee
F. W. Goodenough, Hon. Treasurer.
ONE OR TWO SPECIMEN CASES
E. T.Married, three dependent children. Photographer by trade. Had been ill for a long time and had to pawn his camera. Succeeded in getting good orders, but was unable to execute them. We redeemed the camera, and the man has since been doing very well.
W. H.An Ex-Service man with a splendid record. When he came to us his wife was very ill in hospital, and he had two small children. We sent the latter to the country and found the man work in one of our schemes. Soon after, he developed pleurisy and went into hospital. Just after he came out his wife died. We paid his fare up to
R. H. J.An ex-Service officer who obtained work but had literally nothing with which to pay his fares for the first week. The League purchased a season ticket for him and he is now doing well.
W. J.A married man with four dependent children, a rag and bone merchant. His pony ran away and caused a bad accident, and had to be sold at a loss. We co-operated with another Society in enabling the man to obtain another pony, and he was thus enabled to carry on.
H. L. T.An Australian ex-Service man of excellent character. He had been making fruitless attempts to get repatriated. We took the matter up for him, provided the necessary landing money, and outfits for the whole family. We have had very happy letters from him since he reached
M. R.An educated man who had found a post as house-man to a doctor, provided he had decent clotheswhich were given by the League. Some months later the doctor decided to employ women only so M. R. was again out of a job. When he came to see us he had used up his savings and was absolutely destitute. The League paid for him at a Hostel for two weeks, to give him a chance to find work, which he was successful in doing and has kept it ever since.
E. M.An ex-officer, who had been a theatrical manager before the war. After the armistice he did odd jobs in the theatrical world, but everything was slack, and owing to his five years service he had lost touch. He was practically starving when he came to us, and on the verge of despair. We arranged board and lodging for him for a time in comfortable quarters and gave him a complete new set of clothes, as it seemed useless for him to try to get work until he had at least a week's decent food and rest and got back hope and energy. This he didand by help of introductions eventually obtained a temporary job, and is now in permanent work, not a lucrative post, but just enough to keep him going. It is hoped that eventually something better will turn up.