Volunteers in the spotlight

Ron Cameron and Sue Seabrook have been collecting fundraising tins for Helen Rollason Cancer Charity for a number of years, and take huge pride – and deservedly so – in being an integral part of raising a huge amount of money each year. In fact, the 2015 total was a record-breaking £23,814. Both go out and about in the home counties on their rounds, and Sue also co-ordinates the entire process at the Charity’s Head Office.

When did you start volunteering for our Charity, and why did you want to volunteer for us?
Sue: In 2008 – I was familiar with Helen’s name as my late husband Tony was as an avid sports fan, and often watched Grandstand. He passed away from prostrate cancer and spent his last days at The Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth. His oncologist was Professor Neville Davidson, who formed the Charity.
Ron: I retired early and I wanted to do voluntary work for a cancer Charity. My brother and father died of leukaemia, my first wife Val. with whom we are very good friends, thankfully recovered from bowel cancer and a long time ex girlfriend, Wendy, sadly died from breast cancer a couple of years ago. I took her to her chemo appointments which heightened my awareness and motivation and also encouraged her to use HRCC’s free facilities at The Rivers Hospital in Sawbridgeworth.
One day I walked into the HRCC shop in Sawbridgeworth, met Retail Manager Alison Matthews and signed up to be a volunteer. Having learnt from a visiting trustee that the Charity was in real need of someone to develop the tin collections in Hertfordshire and its borders – I set to work on growing this area.

Did you start tin collecting immediately?
Sue: When I first started I just did one day a week doing whatever was required. I was then asked to keep a record of where our tins were and who had them; then I was asked to put some tins in the Chelmsford area. I ended up liaising with other collectors, finding new sites, counting and banking the money and being responsible for the whole process.
Ron: Initially I worked in the shop, but – having learnt from a visiting trustee that the Charity was in real need for somebody to develop the tin collections in Hertfordshire and its borders – I set to work on growing this area. I went to meet Tin Collection Co-ordinator, Sue Seabrook, in Chelmsford and she trained me up, and has been a constant help and support throughout, although she does I think get a bit fed up with ‘the ridiculous income targets’ I set each year. I started off with just eight tins and I now have 160 in my area.

What gives you the most satisfaction working as a volunteer?
Ron: After retiring early I felt I was getting a bit insular so going round and talking to the people in the shops, pubs, restaurants and garages who kindly support us is really good fun. The Charity is also a great one to work for and is always appreciative of my efforts. They make no demands on me, or my time, so I really like being my own boss, and I can do as much or little as I want to when I want to. It is extremely rewarding to think you can spend time hopefully helping to alleviate somebody’s pain and suffering.
Sue: I have got to know quite a few of the people I collect the tins from and I like to think that perhaps, in some small way, I have helped, which gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I was extremely honoured in 2013 when Angela Lodge nominated me for the Braintree District Voluntary Support Agency’ Volunteer Award, and I won.

How many tins do you think you have collected over the years?
Ron: Last year it was about 700 tins but I target and monitor the amounts collected rather than the number of tins. Last year this was £8,850, my first full year was £2,800. I guess I have to keep driving it forward so I can prove to Sue that my targets aren’t as ‘ridiculous’ as she thinks.

How much time a week does tin collecting take up, and how far do you travel tin collecting?
My area goes from Saffron Walden down to Enfield and from Welwyn across to Sudbury in Suffolk. So with planning collection schedules, preparing tins, travel, collecting, counting, banking and tin cleaning and recycling I spend on average three and a half days a week. Some outlets require ‘harvesting’ every two weeks, some every six months but I think it is important to keep a high profile so that I can build relationships, and ensure monies are not left lying in tins for too long but are quickly turned round and paid in so that people’s generosity can have the intended benefit as soon as possible.

Do you find it quite a social activity?
Ron: My outlets are all really supportive and it is staggering but sad in that nearly everywhere I go people share their own personal experiences of suffering cancer. either directly themselves or via friends and family.

Do you ever manage to switch off from ‘tin collecting mode’, or when you are just visiting any shop/restaurants are you looking to see an opportunity for HRCC, or seeing if they are already supporting multiple charities?
Ron: Finding new outlets is critical to our mission so I need to get a lot more this year to grow our income. If you are reading this please call our Charity on 01245 380 719 and me or one of my colleagues will arrange to come along and sort it out. All you have to do is agree to display one or more of our tins and we do the rest including sending you a thank you certificate after each collection showing the total amount you have raised to date. Alternatively we always need new volunteers.
Sue: If I see a tin for another Charity I do always put money in it, but also ask ‘would you consider having one of our tins here also?’

How difficult is it to count the coins and not lose track?
Sue: I actually find counting coins quite therapeutic in some ways! I have also found a variety of objects and quite a few foreign coins.

A big thank you to Sue, Ron, Dick, Alison, Teri and Sandi who are the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity tin collection team – your passion and dedication is making a real difference to people living with cancer.

Meet more of our volunteers in the coming days as Helen Rollason Cancer Charity celebrates Volunteer’s Week 2016. If you would like to know more about the volunteering opportunities at HRCC contact the Fundraising Team on 01245 380719, email fundraising@helenrollason.org.uk, or click here


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