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Ray Salmon, age 81, has been volunteering for the last 30 years as a sooty collector for RNIB

He took up volunteering following a long successful career in banking when he took early retirement. Ray is based in South Sheffield, right on the border between South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, about five minutes from Peak District.

Ray Salmon

“I took voluntary redundancy when I was 50. I started out as a PE teacher, and then changed to banking. I was a bank manager at Midland Bank when they were taken over by HSBC and I took voluntary redundancy in 1992. So, I took advantage of that at the right time.

In Sheffield at that time, we had a very good volunteer bureau. So, I just happened to go there and looked through loads of information about people wanting volunteers, and RNIB was the organisation that grabbed my attention. The rest is history, and I’ve been volunteering and collecting for RNIB ever since.

Collecting sooty boxes for RNIB

I did a few stock collections, but mainly it’s just sooty boxes. I started off just in Sheffield, and then gradually that’s expanded. I’m responsible for collecting sooty boxes in Sheffield, most of the South Yorkshire, the Peak District, Chesterfield, Mansfield. We have sooty boxes in shops, pubs and clubs, all sorts of places. I go around on a weekly basis, but most of them I collect after six months. I’ve got about 360 sooty boxes now.

We are the people that most people ever see from the charity. Most of the places I go to, the people know me quite well now after so many years. It’s a big area that I cover - about 2,500 square miles. I have raised £499,074.66, and another month, it will be over the 500,000. This is mainly in small denomination coins. It’s about 13 million coins.

A way to be independent

I enjoy just getting out and becoming familiar with the area, meeting other people and having conversations. I certainly got to know my area very well, which I didn’t really before. On a lovely spring day, getting out in the Peak District is a very nice experience. I usually get out once a week collecting from the boxes. But then I have a day for sorting out all the paperwork and banking.

It’s good for my relationship as well, because my wife and I retired at the same time. Being out and about helps your relationship at an advanced age, when you find yourself together all the time, which you hadn’t been since probably you were courting. And with the age of the children who have gone off to university or working.

To anyone who’s thinking of volunteering, I’d say go for it, give it a go. I’m now one of these odd people who actually enjoys all the administration of it. I wouldn’t be volunteering for RNIB for longer than 30 years if I didn’t enjoy doing it. I’ve now been volunteering for longer than I actually worked.  My retirement was brilliant, it’s the best career move I ever made. I have been a volunteer most of my adult life. Because of my job, and while I was working, I was Treasurer for a number of organisations and for nearly 10 years I was an officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve running an Air Training Corps Squadron.”

I’m going to the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in May. I think, they used to have about 8,000 people there at the time. I don’t necessarily like the recognition, I just enjoy doing it, but it doesn’t hurt. I actually saw the coronation and procession for Queen Elizabeth in 1953 in Hyde Park.”