A LEOMINSTER man who started life as an orphan and survived the Second World War has devoted his life to helping others.
Alec Haines – who turns 94 next month – has been volunteering to help blind and partially sighted people in the county for 74 years this May.
Born in Fownhope, Alec spent his childhood in an orphanage in Bristol before moving to London.
It was while he was working there as a trainee manager for Express Dairies that war broke out and was called upon to join the army in Dover where he saw the Battle of Britain above him.
Then, injured in Normandy while serving in the tanks regiment, Alec was flown back to England where he was treated at the Red Cross camp at Pudleston Court.
It was while on leave that he returned to Leominster and found the inspiration behind his volunteer work.
"Older people in Leominster will remember a woman known as "blind Kitty" – I got to know her while in Leominster on leave and she is the reason behind my volunteer work," Alec said.
A well-known character in Leominster, Alec has been mayor of the town three times and is an honorary alderman.
His book – Leominster's 20th century characters and its poacher – raised £6,000 for his local church and Herefordshire's blind community.
That book also took him to Leominster, Massachusetts, where his Herefordshire accent "delighted" locals.
Around 40 of Alec’s 74 years of volunteering have been spent working with Herefordshire charity Vision Links, and before that Herefordshire County Association of the Blind.
“Funding for Vision Links was once provided by Herefordshire Council and the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) but much of that has been withdrawn and the charity – based on Widemarsh Street – can now only open two days a week," he said.
“This is terrible for all the people in the county who are partially sighted. We have no finance – I hope someone would step in and adopt us so we can continue to offer the work that we currently do.”
The Priory Church in Leominster has also benefited from Alec's commitment to helping others and he has been volunteering there once a week for 70 years.
For him, volunteering is "more than a way of life".
“It means so much to me – a tremendous amount – and I will volunteer to my last breath,” he added.