Volunteers needed to collect 'Sooty boxes' as blind charity's takings fall

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Andy Dickenson

The Royal National Institute for the Blind says it has seen its takings from Sooty boxes, down since the pandemic began.

Now the charity is calling for help as carrying cash, shopping on the high street, and volunteering is declining.

For fifty years the collection tins, donned with the famous children's TV bear Sooty, have taken pride of place on the counters of shops, newsagents and pubs.

RNIB volunteer Paul Goddard

Paul Goddard was born partially sighted and has relied on the Royal National Institute for the Blind all his life. He also volunteers for them in Tunbridge Wells, collecting Sooty Boxes.

Mr Goddard said: "It is absolutely vital. Not only for the income they generate but also for raising the awareness of RNIB, and raising awareness of visually impaired people within the community."

The well-known bear has helped to raise millions of pounds, but now their future is uncertain.

The RNIB uses Sooty charity boxes to raise vital funds. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Helena Pellier, the fundraising manager for the RNIB said: "We just really need some more volunteers, all across the country, to go out and collect and empty the boxes. It is such a flexible role, it can fit around all other commitments.

"Children still love to put money in the boxes and it is nice to see that older generations still have that affiliation with Sooty as well."

With fewer shops and venues open, those that do retain these collections are now in even more demand. And the charity is also working to update its furry friends with contactless options.