Belfast finds that grant funding helps build a great bowling club.

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Overhead view of Belfast Bowling Club and their magnificent solar panels 
Every bowling club needs a Murray Jones.

Murray’s one of those guys who’s become an experienced practitioner seeking out, applying for and accounting for charitable grants.

He has come to understand the ‘dark arts’ of sussing out charitable funds, and has zealously put that understanding into practice on behalf of the Belfast Bowling Club.

The bowling club on the northern outskirts of Christchurch has become his funding palette.  “I just look around the club to see what we need,” says Murray, “The list is endless … just like I imagine it is at any other bowling club.  The club executive then tells me what the priorities are, and authorises any applications.”

One of Murray’s latest signature funding projects has been the installation of solar power at the club.

“Last August, we installed 32 solar panels on the roof of the club pavilion,” says Murray.  “It’s early days yet, but the resultant power savings have already been noticeable.  Over October and November, we made a power saving of over $500 compared to the same period last year.  I haven’t done the sums yet, but with the hotter, longer summer days, I imagine the power savings will be much more dramatic.”

In tandem with the solar panels, the club installed timers on the hot water cylinders so they heat up during the day on solar power.  They’ve also changed to a power company which gives them a cheaper rate at night when the solar is out of action.  “The icing on the cake is that we now export surplus power back to the national grid at 8 cents per kilowatt hour!”

But Murray isn’t finished.

“We would also like a battery back-up,” he says, “so that we can gain the advantage of the solar energy when the sun isn’t out”.

The money-saving and planet-saving solar system is just one of a long line of assets the club has up-graded, with the use of charitable funding.

The club’s late Patron and Life Member, John Esplin, came up with a prototype for powder-coated aluminium seating which could be used around the perimeter of the green.

“We were finding that the old wooden seating needed continual painting and repair,” explains Murray.  “One of the charities was more than happy to fund replacement seating with John’s design.  What’s more, the more durable design has now been adopted by other clubs around Christchurch.”

Murray also noticed that the pavilion awnings were getting well past their use-by-date. “We got funding for new electrically-operated awnings.  They’re fantastic!”

Murray’s list goes on.

The toilets have been clad with melamine wallboard to reduce maintenance.  As has the club kitchen.  At the same time, the kitchen was spruced up with the installation of a new bench top and some new appliances.

The club members have received new lockers as a result of Murray’s persistent grant applications.  And new locker room carpet.  The 1970’s stipple ceiling has gone in the clubhouse … which also sports a new exterior paint job.

Venture into the green-keeper’s shed, and you’ll find a lot more goodies that have been obtained through charitable funding.  Mowers, sprayers, rollers as well as consumables like sprays and fertilisers.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to do something constructive for the club,” says Murray referring to his aptitude for grant funding.  He laughingly refers to himself as a ‘bad member’ - making little contribution to the clubs he previously belonged to, due to work commitments.

Murray started off playing bowls 50 years ago while living, and working with the Post Office, at Cromwell.  “The Post Office moved me on to Dunedin where I played out of Kaikorai, then back to Christchurch where I played at New Brighton.  I joined Belfast when we built our home down the road in Redwood.”

Murray’s now been at Belfast for 14 years.

‘The grant-funding is only a small part of the club’s success,” says Murray. “We have a great group of volunteers within our membership of 60 or so … whether it’s rallying for a working bee or helping out with the catering.”

“Our Secretary Ross Groves puts out a weekly newsletter via e-mail, which keeps members up-to-date on what’s happening around the club, along with all interclub information”.

“We also have an excellent group of sponsors, who look after us year after year … and naturally we look after them, year after year, as well.  It’s a two-way street.  It’s very easy for clubs to forget about the contributions sponsors make.  Every year, we write to them, letting them know what the club has achieved with their help.”

Keep up the good work Belfast.  You may be getting a few phone calls from clubs wanting to know a little more about sprinkling some of that grant-funding fairy dust over their own clubs!