Supergran has been a can-collector for two decades

Muriel McKenzie has recorded over 20 years of service as a can-collector for Children 1st in Dundee. Photo: Children 1st
Muriel McKenzie has recorded over 20 years of service as a can-collector for Children 1st in Dundee. Photo: Children 1st
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With a background in nursing, Dundee pensioner Muriel McKelvie has collected cash for Children 1st for more than twenty years.

Dundee’s town centre may have changed a lot over the last two decades, but Muriel’s work has remained constant.

Muriel McKelvie with her award for longstanding service from the Dundee Children's Panel, presented by then-Dundee Lord Provost, John Letford. Photo: Eric & Muriel McKenzie

Muriel McKelvie with her award for longstanding service from the Dundee Children's Panel, presented by then-Dundee Lord Provost, John Letford. Photo: Eric & Muriel McKenzie

Every few weeks, she’ll visit the shops, clubs and pubs of Dundee to collect donations for charity Children 1st

So why does Muriel do it?

“I’ve always been in the right time and the right place for it,” Muriel explained.

“I’ve always worked with children - previously, it was through the Children’s Hearing System and so many children came before us that I really wanted to do something practical for them.”

I’ve always worked with children - previously, it was through the Children’s Hearing System and so many children came before us that I really wanted to do something practical for them

Muriel McKenzie, Children 1st Volunteer in Dundee

Muriel was one of the members of her community who stepped forward to help make decisions about the welfare of vulnerable children as part of her work on the panel.

It was her work with children’s hearings that led to her being introduced to Children 1st by another panel member.

“We went to see them at the Children’s Shelter in Laurelbank at the time. I used to be a children’s nurse, having trained at Dundee Royal Infirmary, and I worked for charities when I was abroad, so it seemed a natural progression to do something here because my children were grown up.”

Muriel’s donation boxes are scattered across multiple locations in Dundee city centre.

She maintains a little notebook that contains the location of each box and the date she last collected from it. While some in businesses fill up quickly, others aren’t as well-serviced.

“I only collect money from the dentist’s box twice a year or so!”, she laughs.

While she collects the money round the town, her husband Eric helps carry the boxes from location to location. “He’s a very supportive volunteer”, she adds.

As the Children 1st volunteers don’t follow the stereotype of standing in the street collecting money, Muriel believes that the closure of the Dundee Children 1st thrift shop in May this year has hurt the cause.

Despite the closure of the shop, the charity is still active in the city supporting vulnerable children and families.

“I think more could be done to promote Children 1st. Once you’re on a charity’s list of volunteers, you get phone calls asking for you to collect for others. I tell them that I collect for Children 1st.

“It [Children 1st] is not so widely-known as Save the Children or Cancer Research UK and now we’ve lost the shop in Dundee it’s more difficult. The costs of running the shop were going to go up and it may have needed some structural work which they couldn’t afford.”

Only a few years ago, Muriel had an accident in the garden which resulted in her breaking her hip. This incident may have deterred other volunteers but for Muriel, she’s determined to continue her volunteering well into the future.

“I had finished a round of collecting boxes and I was just back from my holiday, so it was an opportune moment to break my hip!”

“A few hundred pounds every now and then is a little to help. It’s the least I could do to help and it’s no big deal. I’m still able and still on my two feet, so I’ll continue to do it until I can’t”.

Those interested in volunteering or learning more about Children 1st can do so via their website.