Gerry Allen, 70 from Thirsk, became an RNIB Sooty Box Collector after retiring from the police in 2000
Gerry Allen, 70 from Thirsk, became an RNIB Sooty Box Collector after retiring from the police in 2000

Thirsk fundraiser raises half a million pounds for RNIB with the help of Sooty

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A charity volunteer has raised more than half a million pounds for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) by placing Sooty collection boxes across Yorkshire for nearly 20 years.

Gerry Allen, 70 from Thirsk, became an RNIB Sooty Box Collector after retiring from the police in 2000. Since then, he has built up a huge network of places to host his Sooty collection boxes, collecting donations from around 1,000 pubs and shops covering the length and breadth of Yorkshire.

Gerry said:

When I retired, I registered with my local volunteer bureau to keep myself occupied. I was contacted by RNIB who asked if I could become a Sooty box collector and I said I’d be delighted to do it.

I started with 6 or 7 boxes in Thirsk and I’ve now got well over a thousand. In my first year, I collected around £500, which I was pleased with. A couple of years later I got a letter from the RNIB saying I’d raised £5,000 in one year. Now I raise around eight times that!

When you are collecting for people who are blind and partially sighted, there’s a great sense of achievement. I was told when I started finding homes for Sooty that it becomes addictive and it is! That’s why I do it – I get a real buzz out of it. People are so generous and kind, and it sounds like a cliché, but it genuinely rekindles your faith in human generosity. It’s a very worthwhile and rewarding.

After nearly two decades with RNIB, Gerry – known locally as ‘The Sooty Man’ – is planning to reduce his round in 2020 and the charity is now campaigning to find a number of volunteers to help continue this astonishing legacy.

RNIB’s Regional Volunteer Fundraising Manager, Neil Grainey said:

Gerry’s dedication to raising money for RNIB is nothing short of phenomenal and it’s incredible that he’s been able to raise a whopping £500k on his own. We are so grateful to all the time, and energy that he has put in to raise this fantastic amount.

Without people like Gerry, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services that we do. We’re now on the lookout for fresh faces to help us find new homes for Sooty and would welcome new volunteers from all over the Yorkshire.

RNIB is seeking help from volunteers in a number of areas, including Market Weighton, Pocklington, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Pateley Bridge, Grassington, Pickering, Malton, Norton, Richmond, Hawes, Leyburn, Catterick, Garrison, Colburn, Pudsey, Yeadon, Guiseley, Horsforth, Sherburn-in-Elmet and Tadcaster.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering as a Sooty box collector can find out more on or contact RNIB on 0345 345 0054 or

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