*Please note that the Christmas Tree Collection has now been postponed and some information in this article may be out of date. For more information click here.*
James Bunker was not even born when East Cheshire Hospice’s first Christmas tree collection took place in 2001.
But the teenager is now a key part of operations as the scheme celebrates its coming of age this weekend (Jan 9-10).
He was just 13 when he first volunteered for the collection with his dad Richard by joining the team on vans collecting trees for recycling.
James, who is 20 in March, is still out on the vans collecting trees each January, but is also increasingly involved in the planning and co-ordination process, assisting organisers Richard Raymond and Pete Chapman.
He was on the helpline before and after last year’s tree collection, spending the actual weekend on a round with his dad.
Richard and Pete began the pioneering collection which now collects around 7,500 trees and raises in excess of £100,000 for the Hospice each year.
James said: “Richard and Pete do an absolutely incredible job organising and co-ordinating the collection each year, spending more than three months on the event with all the planning.
“I’m still quite young, but I’m keen to do as much as I can to help them and pick up tips on how it works so that in future years I can help as much as is needed.
“The Hospice are keen to ensure the long-term sustainability of the collection to make sure it carries on for years to come as it’s such a vital part of their fundraising.”
James is a manager in Wilmslow for Mitchell’s and Butlers who operate pubs, bars and restaurants all over the UK. He also freelances as an event manager for large-scale public sporting events and works on major Hospice fundraising events.
James Bunker and Richard Raymond, co-founder of the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas tree collection scheme.
Route planning company 121 Systems optimises journeys for the 40-strong fleet of vans, a service it provides voluntarily to more than 50 charities.
Managing director Chris Sisson said: “There are a number of reasons we help East Cheshire Hospice. The collection brings the community together, donations go directly towards caring for patients facing challenges at end-of-life and trees are recycled so there are also environmental benefits.”
The company is one of many providing support, including main sponsors AstraZeneca. Organisers are asking tree customers to be patient about collections of their tree due to Covid restrictions.
* For any queries email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Customer Care Helpline 01625 708939.