This story has been published with permission and the member mentioned de-identified.
2020 started off looking like it was going to be a great year for most of us and especially the club, with some fantastic events in February, March rolled around and the Australian Grand Prix was coming to Melbourne and BMWDCM again had a great display area linked with E30 racing.
We had all heard about COVID in other countries and we had all be taking precautions, but I don’t think any of us really thought that we would be hit so hard by this pandemic.
On the Wednesday before the Grand Prix all of our members and sponsors took their cars to Albert Park to be placed on display and I can honestly say it was one of the best displays we have had there, with a wide range of BMWs on display. With the E30 Racing group next to us, it was a wonderful display of old and new BMWs.
We managed to get a day of Grand Prix on the Thursday with members and general public coming past and enjoying our display but then everything went pear shaped and it was feeling like the world was coming to and end. Friday morning, we got notification from the organisers to get our cars out as soon as possible and we had the task of contacting everyone and arranging for our members and sponsors to get their cars removed straight away. We were incredibly lucky as Lawrence was at the track with some of our members and managed to get in whilst the public were kept waiting for a decision on what was happening, so we could coordinate from Albert Park and from home as well.
Still even with the cancellation of the Grand Prix we did not think that we would be as bad as some of the other states in Australia, especially NSW as they were experiencing some bad clusters.
Once we (the club) were notified that we could no longer gather in groups or hold events, I contacted the other members of the executive and said we need to keep our members involved and engaged and we need to make sure everyone’s mental health is ok. I know we couldn’t contact everyone, but what we decided to do was go virtual with all our meetings and events and hold them via Zoom and continue on as best we could.
Our first Zoom meeting was really just a test to see what our members thought and how well it was going to work. The first meeting was mainly about what we would be doing through COVID and to get feedback from our members on what they wanted. We were overwhelmed by the success of the first Zoom meeting, so then we just kept adding more meetings and events week after week.
Our sponsors and advertisers were on board and we held some amazing events, even a private tour of BMW Classic in Munich, which gathered close to 100 members on the night.
For me, organising these events gave me a purpose and kept me engaged with our friends and members and I know for our sponsors and members it was something to look forward to. It was good for the club too as our membership continued to grow over the year. Even with the lack of in person events, people kept saying to us 'this is fantastic', as a lot of other clubs and groups just shut up shop and went silent.
What prompted me to pen this is that just recently, is that I had been contacted by a member who found the start of COVID ok, like most of us, but then when we went into stage 4 lockdown, they really struggled and went into a very dark place, as I know a few of us did, myself included. What helped me through this was my family and my video calls from our granddaughter and my connection with club members who just wanted to chat. Arranging these online events gave me something to do and I was determined to make the events I put on, both fun but also interesting and informative, so members could gain something from them all too. This member told me recently that having the constant COVID updates from Graeme and the articles from other members, along with all the brilliant events gave them a reason to get through each day and look forward to the events that were coming up. It gave them a purpose to go on and not take the road to nowhere.
I spoke to this member for several hours, not only about this but other things we share a common interest in, and I know it made both of us feel so much better.
It's not over yet and people are still struggling, so please reach out to your family, friends and loved ones, also your fellow club members and just talk. It doesn’t have to be a deep conversation about the meaning of life, just sharing a conversation with someone can make a huge change in their lives and we don’t all wear our hearts on our sleeves and sometimes people who look like they are coping are actually crying out for help.
Speaking to this member about their dark times really made me proud of how our club kept everything together and kept our members involved and to know we helped them, may mean we helped others as well. I am very thankful this person is still with us, and hate to think of those that had nothing to hang on to, or to look forward to, and I am very thankful we managed to help at least one of you, as well as ourselves, to get through what turned out to be a terrible year.
Jo Mawson | Member #2
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne