Dedicated to volunteering: the RNLI’s 99-year-old fundraiser

The RNLI is lucky to have so many dedicated fundraisers; many of them have given so much of their time and have amazing stories to tell. It’s really important that we celebrate these inspiring people and tell their stories. One such fundraiser is Joan Webb who celebrated her 99th birthday in July…
RNLI fundraiser Joan Webb

Photo: RNLI

Inspired by her mother

RNLI fundraiser Joan Webb has always been drawn to the sea, despite never having lived close enough to the coast to hear the maroons going off when the lifeboats launched. Talking about her childhood in the 1920s in England, Joan says:

‘My mother was a loyal RNLI supporter, so she got me involved first. I remember standing eagerly with her while she volunteered at church-gate collections when I was four or five years old, as tall as her waist.’

Her mother would collect donations and enthusiastically recount stories of RNLI volunteers saving lives at sea. And as Joan grew older, she teamed up with her mother, shaking a collection box of her own. She learnt more about the RNLI’s service, hearing tales of the sea from family members and from sailing and boating enthusiasts.

Getting involved in the Basingstoke and District RNLI Branch

Although she spent many years abroad, the RNLI and its volunteers remained on Joan’s mind. Returning home to England in the early 1980s, she settled in Basingstoke, Hampshire and offered her services to the Basingstoke and District RNLI Branch who welcomed her into the group. She attended committee meetings and helped with regular collections at supermarkets, twice-yearly coffee mornings and the popular Christmas card sale every December. Joan still helps at all these events now!

In 1985, Joan took on the role of Box Secretary for the Branch. For 20 years, she was responsible for collecting and distributing fundraising boxes in shops, bars, restaurants and every countertop she could negotiate placing a box on.

In 2016, Joan was awarded the Gold Badge, having received the Silver Badge in 2004 and the Bronze Badge in 1997. These badges were awards that used to be given to fundraising branch members based on a range of criteria, including the amount of time a person had volunteered for the RNLI. Joan’s nomination for the Gold Badge cited: ‘Even at the age of 95 Joan manages to attend committee meetings and help out on supermarket collections when she is able. She also organises RNLI Christmas card sales at her retirement home.’

Four years after receiving her Gold Badge, Joan continues to give up multiple weekends a year to help out with events. Recently she volunteered at local collections at GO Camping, Morrison’s and Tesco. She credits her fellow committee members with whom she has ‘forged fantastic friendships with over the years.’

In addition to her dedication to fundraising at Basingstoke, Joan has also very kindly pledged a legacy to the RNLI. Legacies such as these are so important for the future of the RNLI to be able to keep running a world-class lifesaving service.

Celebrating her 99th birthday

Happy birthday to you Joan from all of us at the RNLI!

Dave Nicoll, Area Manager for Community Fundraising, says:

‘With 95% of our total income coming from generous donations and legacies, we depend on our dedicated volunteers and supporters to save lives at sea. Every penny raised by fundraisers like Joan means our lifeboat crews can reunite the 22 people they aid each day with their families.

‘Joan is an incredible inspiration to us all. I cannot fathom how much she has collected in her donation boxes, and how many people she has shared the RNLI’s safety messages with over the years, there is no doubt that her work has contributed to saving numerous lives at sea. The RNLI are incredibly grateful for her many years of dedicated fundraising, and wish her a very happy birthday.’

If you have an inspiring fundraising story that you’d like us to help celebrate, please get in touch with us at Internal_Communications@rnli.org.uk.