Alan puts the smiles in the miles for sick children at Francis House

AT 82, Alan Dickinson thinks nothing of driving hundreds of miles every year to help a children’s charity that he describes as ‘amazing’.

Alan Dickinson volunteer

The kind-hearted great-grandfather from Chadderton is a regular visitor to Francis House Children’s Hospice, where he volunteers to collect and distribute more than 20 charity tins across the north Manchester area.

His efforts have resulted in more than £500 in donations safely making their way to the Didsbury hospice.

Alan first became involved with the charity when he was a tour guide at Manchester United and read an appeal in a match day programme for bucket collectors at the stadium.

“The club was involved with Francis House at the time so I arranged to take part. I’ve got the gift of the gab, I enjoy meeting people and thought it sounded like bit of a laugh,” he said.

That was almost two decades ago and the cheerful pensioner, along with his wife Joyce, has taken part in collections, bag packs and Christmas fairs ever since.

“When you are retired, volunteering gives you something to do and I enjoy it,” said Alan.

“It is something that Joyce and I can do together.

“The hospice is a really happy place. It’s fascinating seeing the incredible facilities and everything they do for the families is amazing.”

The couple replace the charity tins in Oldham, Chadderton, Middleton and Bamford every six months. Since the collection box project started three years ago, local residents have helped to raise more than £1,450.

“When we visit the shops, pubs and businesses people get to know you,” said Alan. “It’s pretty easy and a big help to the hospice to have someone local that can do it.”

Alan and Joyce keep active attending ballroom and sequence dancing every week at Jagers Dance studios in Oldham.

As a young man Alan worked on the railways in the booking office, was a bus driver for North Western, and even attempted selling encyclopaedias.

He retired aged 55, after working for thirty years as an insurance agent for the Prudential.

Kate Puc, fundraiser at Francis House said: “Alan is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.

“We can’t thank him and Joyce enough for giving us their time over the years.

“The collection box project would not be so successful without the support of volunteers like Alan.”

Back at home Alan is already set for his next supporting role – collecting donated creme eggs from supermarkets, hospitals and schools for the Easter knitted chick appeal.

Alan added: “There must be plenty of people who could become involved and help Francis House.

“Rather than sitting about at home get in touch and see how you can help out in your area.”

Anyone wanting to help with the Francis House Easter Chick appeal or to find out more can call 0161 443 2200 or visit  their website: www.francishouse.org.uk/easter-knit-a-chick-appeal

Francis House Children’s Hospice supports families from across Greater Manchester.

All services are given free of charge and include respite care, homecare, sibling support, end of life care, emotional and bereavement support.

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