The need for a benevolent fund for members of the dental profession was first identified in 1856 by Samuel Lee Rymer. An article, in the forerunner to the British Dental Journal, in 1873 publicly promoted the proposition to the profession. However it was not until the early 1880s that any serious discussions took place.
In August 1883 Lee Rymer saw his dream become a reality when the first meeting was held in his hometown of Plymouth. A Management Committee was appointed under the chairmanship of (Sir) John Tomes and the Fund began. The Committee were made up of members of the profession, many representing branches of the BDA.
The First Help
The first help was given – £116 in grants were given to 8 beneficiaries including;
- A dentist who has broken down in health, with a paralysed wife and no means of support, unable to work at his profession.
- A widow with seven children and no means what so ever. Two of the children are being educated and provided for at Orphan Schools, and the widow is being trained in an occupation that will enable her to support some of her other children
- A daughter of a deceased dental surgeon is being provided with board, lodging and education at the expense of the fund with a view to her receiving such training as will enable her to earn her own living.
The Need for a Charity
The Committee, by the time of the first Annual General Meeting in August 1884, believed they had ample proof of the need for a benevolent fund by the ‘recital’ of cases that had come to their notice in the first six months. They also noted that the rate of income at that time would prove totally inadequate to the probable expenditure. The Committee commented
‘Your Committee are most solicitous to know whether a body of men who claim to belong to a liberal and learned profession will allow the widows of their deceased brethren to remain in want and their children to grow up in ignorance.‘
Photograph of the first British Dental Association AGM. Copies were sold for 5s in aid of the Benevolent Fund.
Grant Support Increases
Their predictions proved correct and the number of beneficiaries continued to rise – 38 beneficiaries were being helped by 1925. The type of beneficiary helped over the years has altered: in the early years the emphasis was on retired practitioners or their widows who had fallen on hard times.
Many social policies, recommended in the Beverage Report were implemented reforming pensions, national insurance, rent and funds for family life. This didn’t initially change the remit of the charity but it was thought applications for support would decline. However that was not the case and the number of beneficiaries continued to rise.
BDA Benevolent Fund was registered as a charity under the new Charities Act (1960) which introduced the register of charities and gives the Charity Commission powers to investigate charities.
The Benevolent Fund formed a Ladies Guild on the lines of one already associated with the British Medical Association. Due to lack of support, it was regretfully decided to disband the Ladies Guild in 1983.
The idea of a fundraising raffle at Christmas was created, which was run annually. Originally the top prize was a car.
Funding From the Profession
The Dental Science Advancement Foundation was reluctantly disbanded by its Directors who kindly gave the residue of its funds (£2787) to the BDA Benevolent Fund.
Fundraising Through Merchandise
As a fundraiser, the new BDA tie was introduced in blue, maroon and grey and proved popular with BDA members, selling at the annual conference and generating funds for the Benevolent Fund. Many more items were introduced over time including sweatshirts, silk scarves, polo shirts, Christmas cards, baseball caps, diaries, umbrellas, coasters and mugs, etc.
New rules approved on 2 June 1995 came into effect and the Committee of Management became the ‘Board of Trustees’ with a slightly smaller membership and losing the position of elected members. The ‘Secretary’ became ‘Administrator’ and the option of computerised records was to be investigated.
Sally Atkinson was appointed as the Fund’s first full time administrator in March 1997 and worked for the charity until her retirement in May 2013.
A cuddly toy bear known affectionately as ‘Ben Bear’ was first sold at the BDA Conference in Torquay and subsequent events to raise funds and awareness of the Benevolent Fund.
Trustee Dr John Turner designed the present logo. He was representative for the Western Counties BDA branch and involved with the BDA Benevolent Fund for over 30 years until his retirement in 2016.
The BDA Benevolent Fund celebrates supporting dentists and their families for 125 years at the BDA Conference.
The Last Christmas Draw
The Christmas draw was organised for the last time. During its lifetime it was run by three people; Tony Chivers for approximately 14 years; Sylvia Theaker for 10 years and Mavis Phipps for 13 years and raising nearly £800,000 in aid of the Benevolent Fund – its most successful fundraiser to date.
Vice-President, Tony Chivers MBE was a torch bearer for the 2012 Olympics, aged 92. He was nominated due his charity work, particularly for his involvement in the BDA Benevolent Fund.
A campaign was launched- ‘Be Active for the Ben Fund’, encouraging the profession to undertake fundraising activities all across the country as well as a photographic competition to help raise money and spread the word about the charity.
Changes to 'The Rules'
At the Annual General Meeting on 13 June, resolutions were put forward and unanimously agreed to; amend the Membership; update and modernise the administrative and procedural process of the Charity, and to the election and nomination of Trustees. This has been the most significant governance change to the organisation in over 30 years.