87-YEAR-OLD Betty Smith has been collecting used stamps for charity for nearly 30 years, recently handing over a record 33kg box of them to help the needy.
The Inglewood resident is a familiar face at businesses in East Perth, the CBD, West Perth and Subiaco, as she goes stamp hunting twice a week.
“I don’t even have to ask,” she says.
After 27 years, all the office staff know her as the “stamp lady”.
Ms Smith hands them over to Rotary, which sends them to Oxfam, which then auctions them off to collectors for about $3 per 120 grams (so Ms Smith’s 33kg box raises $825).
The money’s then used for charity projects like eliminating tuberculosis in Nepal, or setting up an emergency hospital in India.
Smith started collecting used stamps in 1990 after spotting an ad saying helpers were needed to collect them for charity.
The busy work of carefully cutting out stamps from envelopes and packaging them up for fundraising replaced her hobby of knitting.
The Rotary Club of Perth used to provide her stamps, but she worked too quickly, so she set out to source them herself, going through the telephone book and contacting businesses until she had 600 places that agreed to supply them.
Her local Rotary District D9455 has raised $1 million so far.
Smith says the charity work keeps her active.
“I’m stuck in the house otherwise, my husband passed away 12 months ago,” she says, and when they were both doing it they’d often manage two or three boxes of stamps a year.
Now Smith’s so well known as the stamp collector, people are bringing them to her.
“I went out to lunch last Sunday, and when I came home there’s a shopping bag on the doorknob that someone had dropped, I don’t know where they came from!”
There’s millions of volunteers around the world working on this project, but Ms Smith’s one of their marathon contributors.
Rotary Club of Perth president Stephen Inouye says “people like Betty Smith are the unsung heroes of our organisation.”
by DAVID BELL