Long Melford WI set to close after 97 years due to lack of volunteers

Jane Collier Chairman and Elizabeth Lansman of the WI

Jane Collier Chairman and Elizabeth Lansman of the WI

A village branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) in west Suffolk has been forced to close after almost a century because none of the members would volunteer to help run it.

Long Melford

Long Melford - Credit: Archant

Long Melford WI opened in 1918 and has had a strong and active membership ever since. However, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes confirmed that the branch had been suspended because its 25 members were “unable and unwilling to form a committee”.

In order to operate, each local WI has to appoint a president, secretary and treasurer. But according to Elizabeth Lansman, chairman of the Suffolk West Federation, a meeting was held in April with a number of WI advisors present to appoint a new committee, but no-one would take on the commitment.

She described the decision to close after such a long history including the Second World War period as “very sad”.

She said: “I think many of the members were reluctant to close but because they couldn’t get officers together to be on a committee they simply could not continue to function.”

Last year another long-standing WI branch in nearby Whepstead also closed for the same reason. Long Melford WI had a mix of newer members and some who had belonged to the organisation for many years. Mrs Lansman continued: “You get people who have held committee posts for many years and step down, and then no-one can be found to replace them because there’s a perception that it is too much of a commitment. Times have changed since the WI began and there are now more working women who don’t have the time to commit. Other voluntary sector organisations are finding the same problem – it’s a sign of the times.”

The Long Melford branch will be “suspended” for three years, which means any outstanding funds will be kept by the federation and eventually used to start another local branch within the district. However Mrs Lansman hopes that a new branch could eventually be started in Long Melford.

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She added: “I am very disappointed that we have lost WIs in what is our centenary year as an organisation. They were quite active and a lot of ladies were shocked when they found out they were being shut down, and yet no-one would put themselves forward for the committee roles, which are nowhere near as onerous as you would think. If it had been my branch with such a long history, I would have probably fought harder to keep it going.”