Celebrating 50 years of keeping kids safe and sound

Save the Children volunteers l-r June Brooke, Gaynor Harland and Joyce Reed. Picture: Marie Caley D5623MC
Save the Children volunteers l-r June Brooke, Gaynor Harland and Joyce Reed. Picture: Marie Caley D5623MC

It’s every parent’s wish to see their children living contented lives out of harms way.

But for volunteers at the Doncaster branch of Save the Children, seeing their own children happy and healthy ‘isn’t enough’, and they have worked tirelessly over the last half a century to try and secure the same fate for vulnerable children across the world.

The Doncaster branch of Save the Children, which is the second oldest in the country, was set up in 1963 by Barbara Urwin, 86, Freda Close, 86 and June Brook, 78, and since then has raised over £1.7 million for youngsters in the United Kingdom and beyond.

The charity’s shop, which has been situated in Silver Street since 1973, has had a constant in Doncaster’s ever changing town centre landscape.

Gaynor Harland, 61, has been a Save The Children volunteer for 30 years and says something she has in common with every one of the volunteers is a ‘passion’ and the ‘need to make a difference’.

She has spent thousands of hours sorting clothes, taking part in fundraisers and circulating that all important collection tin, and Gaynor says one of her highlights was cheering on volunteer Richard Bennett as he ran the London Marathon.

The mother of two said: “He ran the marathon a few years in a row in the early 1990s, dressed in a clown costume with a huge dustbin strapped to his back so people could throw money into it as he ran past.

“We had to be on hand to empty it every couple of miles because it would get so full. He used to raise hundreds upon hundreds during the course of the race, and being there to watch him was always so much fun.”

Gaynor says she enjoys finding innovative ways to raise money, and cites the first Comic Relief in 1988 as one of her favourite fundraising ideas - when she and Joyce Reed spent all day sat in the window of the charity’s shop dressed as clowns.

She said: “I suppose it was a bit bonkers, but I’m like that. If I can think of something that I know will get people’s attention and help us raise money, then I’ll do it even if it makes me look a bit mad.”

Joyce, 79, is another of Save the Children in Doncaster’s longest running volunteers, totting an impressive 48 years of service to the charity.

Joyce recalls how the Save the Children shop, which was the first charity shop in Doncaster, initially did not have permanent premises and volunteers would have to keep stock in their houses.

She said: “The shop’s location used to rotate week on week, which was quite common in the 1960s. I remember one occasion having to take a rail of clothes on the bus, and then across several main roads into the town centre.”

June says she enjoyed some of the antique-themed fundraisers that were organised at Lady Scarbrough’s Sandbeck Park estate in the 1990s, which attracted Doncaster celebrities like Open All Hours writer, Roy Clarke and Avengers actress, Diana Rigg.

She also counts visits to the shop from Save the Children ambassador, Princess Anne as one of her highlights.

“I’ve met her a few times, and she’s always interested in what we’ve been doing,” said June.

“The first time she came in the 1990s hundreds of school children came along and they had to close the road.”