“We have so many interesting donations and some are very obscure and unusual. There’s such a variety” – former engineer Tony gives his time to test electrical appliances and raise funds for EACH

A former engineer with a love of gadgets and technology is tapping into his skill set to raise funds for charity. Tony Robbins, who previously worked for BT, volunteers for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) at its Retail Distribution Centre (RDC), in Thetford.

He spares a day a week to carry out portable appliance testing – commonly referred to as PAT testing. He works his way through donated electrical equipment – portable, household items rather than heavy appliances – to check it is safe and fully functional.

The items range from irons, lamps and televisions to radios, stereos and games consoles and, if they get his seal of approval, they are sent out to be sold in EACH’s shops or listed on its eBay site.

Tony has been volunteering in his current role for seven years, having previously been a van driver for the charity for a similar amount of time.

“I love it because it taps into my skill set, given my background in engineering,” said the 75-year-old, who lives in Thetford.

“I never know what I’m going to find and my little room is a real Aladdin’s Cave. We have so many interesting donations and some are very obscure and unusual. There’s such a variety.

“Some of the items are unsellable – perhaps broken, in a bad condition or old, outdated technology. In that instance it would be sent to scrap. Every now and then you get some real gems, though.

“The other day, for example, I tested an infrared heating mat, used as heat therapy for the relief of muscular pain.

“I wasn’t sure how much it would make, so checked on the internet and discovered the item retailed at around £100. That’s the kind of donation we send to our eBay team.”

Tony, who has a wife and four grown-up children, first got involved with EACH after taking early retirement at BT. He was dropping off donations and got talking to the then RDC manager.

“It became apparent he was looking for more drivers and drivers’ mates. When I expressed an interest, he said ‘can you start tomorrow?’. The rest is history and it’s something I loved for seven years.

“I enjoyed going to the different shops, the hospices and into the fundraising offices. I got to see so many people and got a broad view of the whole organisation.

“Then I had an accident after being knocked off my bike and it meant I wasn’t able to do any heavy lifting. I had to change my role and that’s when I was told about PAT testing.

“At first I missed being out on the road but now I’m just as happy. It’s become part of my routine and something I happily do once a week, usually on Tuesdays.

“RDC is a fascinating place and a real hive of activity. A lot of people would probably be surprised by how busy it is and there are so many interesting, different revenue streams.

“The other thing I love is the chance to be around so many great people. We have a giggle, alongside our work, and it’s very sociable. It works on all levels for me and it’s lovely giving something back, contributing to such an amazing charity.”

Tony was speaking during EACH’s ‘Be the difference’ campaign – a drive to recruit more volunteers for its fast-growing Retail operation.

More volunteers are needed to help in the main warehouse with the sorting and storing of donated goods. The RDC team process all donations and then distribute them to EACH’s 47 shops across East Anglia.

“I’d recommend volunteering to anyone,” said Tony.

“In fact, I’m always suggesting it to others. There are so many things people can do, either in their nearest shop or here at RDC.

“Like me, they can tap into something that interests them or ties in with their skill set or background and it’s an amazingly rewarding thing to do.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities at RDC, email Warehouse Operations and Supply Chain Manager Stephen Ball via Stephen.Ball@each.org.uk

Notes to Editors

“EACH has made us all feel part of an extended family and, thanks to staff and fellow families, we’re not alone with problems. We always leave The Treehouse feeling positive, stronger and thankful.”

  • We care for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, and support their families.
  • We offer families flexibility and control over where they receive their care and support, including where their child dies – at home, in hospital or at one of three hospices at Milton (Cambridge), The Nook (Norfolk) and The Treehouse (Ipswich).
  • Our family-centred approach includes specialist nursing care, symptom management support, short breaks, wellbeing activities, therapies and counselling, all meeting the individual needs of the child, young person and whole family.
  • We are recognised as leaders in our field, with a reputation for excellence and commitment to pioneering development and innovation.
  • We rely on voluntary donations for the majority of our income and this year need to raise £5.8 million from fundraising and £6.5 million in income from our shops. The year before the pandemic we received just 16% of our total income from statutory sources.
  • EACH Royal Patron –Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales.
  • For more information about EACH, including forthcoming events and how you can help raise funds,visit each.org.uk or call our Suffolk fundraisers on 01473 917965.

Keep in touch:


For further information about this release please contact:

Matt Plummer | Media and PR Manager | 07738 328058 | Matt.Plummer@each.org.uk


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