A pile of photograph albums in Geoff Brown’s house and 13 frames on his garage wall are crammed with faces. Most are smiling. Maybe that’s why Geoff sees the sunny side.

Standing in the garage, he points to a photo of a grinning bald girl. “That’s Naomi that died of cancer.” A few photos along is a young woman with dark hair and a slight smile. A modern Mona Lisa. “She was 21 when she died,” says Geoff.

Some of the faces are still alive and fully recovered. But many of these people were terminally ill when Geoff met them. That’s why the Geoff Brown Charitable Trust stepped into their lives.

Local people – often children – with life-threatening illnesses and their families are sent on holiday and given other memorable experiences.

People with disabilities, including Paralympic athlete Simon Lawson, are helped to fulfil their potential.

Dreams come true, thanks to Geoff. Christmas week seems a fitting time to talk to a man who devotes much of his life to giving.

“I can remember all the people,” he says. “It could be over 500 now. And the charities that have been helped. Everybody has their own idea of charity, whether motor neurone disease, cancer, heart disease or whatever. To me every charity is a good cause.”

Geoff’s trust has given money to lots of them. Much of the giving is the most valuable commodity of all: time. Hundreds of people have donated theirs. Many have given expertise, or loaned a prized possession such as a sports car or a helicopter.

At the kitchen table in his home at Harker, near Carlisle, a face in one of Geoff’s photo albums prompts him to pause.

“That’s Brooke,” he says.

Brooke Bell, from Currock, Carlisle, was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was five. She underwent a bone marrow transplant with her brother. But the cancer returned.

In August 2000, when Brooke was terminally ill, Geoff arranged for her to have a helicopter flight over Carlisle, courtesy of businessman Mark Weir.

Brooke looked at the clouds and said to her mother “Is this what heaven looks like?”

Brooke died three months later.

Naomi Bernard from Brigham, near Cockermouth, also had cancer. The Geoff Brown Charitable Trust funded a trip to Disneyland. Naomi died in 2011 shortly before her sixth birthday.

The albums are put to one side. Many of these stories come with unhappy endings. Doesn’t this ever feel overwhelmingly sad?

Geoff says no. He is making the best of bad situations. Bringing sunshine for a few precious hours or days. What’s to be gained by him feeling sad about it?

There’s something about Geoff that persuades people to give. It’s partly the question he asks. “Would you like to help people with an illness or disability?” is a tough one to decline.

Then there’s his warm, down-to-earth manner. “I tell it like it is,” he says. “To me, everybody has a talent. This is mine. You’d be amazed what I can get out of people.”

His trust helped send Maryport athlete Simon Lawson to this year’s Paralympics in Rio. Simon received £4,000 from local business people, spearheaded by Geoff.

“To me, Simon doesn’t realise what a good role model he is. To have your legs and then be paralysed, to not go down the road of drink and drugs.

“I rang businesses that I know and people that I know. I got £500 off all of them. I just rang them up. They said ‘I’m in.’ I’ll ask them, then leave them alone for three or four years.”

How did this all start? Geoff’s first fundraiser was in 1983 when he was 20. He organised a fashion show at Burgh by Sands for the spinal unit at Hexham General Hospital, having met someone who had been treated there. The event raised £323 and encouraged him to do more.

On the garage wall a grinning Geoff is handing over that first cheque. He says his weight has changed a bit since then. Inside he feels much the same.

Geoff was brought up by his aunt and uncle, Belle and Bill Hewitt, just off London Road in Carlisle. They were kind to him. Maybe this inspired him to be kind to others.

Another seed was sewn when Geoff was 13. “The school wanted some children to push disabled people around the Co-op on Botchergate for two days for their Christmas shopping. Everybody in the class put their hand up. They thought it was going to be two days off school.

“Then they said it was going to be on Saturday and Sunday. Everybody put their hand down, apart from me and three lasses. I thought ‘I said I would do it, so I’ll do it.’ And I did.

“The one I remember is a lady who was huge. Her personality was huge as well. She had me push her around the bra department. I was mortified! But the buzz I got out of helping people was amazing. It still is. As long as I’ve got blood in my veins I’ll do it.”

At 53 Geoff continues to volunteer for the front line when needed. He was recently auctioneer at an event for Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland which raised £4,500.

On Christmas Day he was Santa at the Cumberland Infirmary’s children’s ward, also visiting elderly patients then going to Eden Valley Hospice. Presents were courtesy of Morrisons supermarket. Geoff has done this for years. Why? “Just to see their faces,” he says.

In his youth some activities were more strenuous. Geoff and his friend William Edgar cycled to Blackpool on a tandem, dressed as clowns. “It took nine hours. I was fitter then.

“I’ve done parachute jumps but I don’t like heights. The worst thing was a bungee jump from the top of a crane at Hilltop Heights in Carlisle. I was dressed as Mr Blobby.”

He stresses the importance of those behind the scenes, whether they helped his charity once or have more permanent roles such as trustees. “All these people give their time for nothing. My accountant, Stuart Armstrong, does all the charity stuff for nowt.”

Geoff lives with his partner Sharon and their son Josh. Geoff also has two sons from a previous relationship.

He owns commercial cleaning company GBL & Sons and has always had a strong work ethic. During his school days he also worked in a butcher’s shop, delivered newspapers and bagged coal.

GBL has helped with emergency response during floods and foot and mouth. All company vehicles carry these words: ‘We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.’

These days Geoff makes a point of pausing to appreciate life. Ten years ago, while cutting timber at home, his chainsaw knocked off his helmet and hit his face and jaw.

He spent three days in hospital and had more than 200 stitches. Doctors told him the blade missed the main artery in his neck by two millimetres.

The lesson was the same one that his charity work had already hammered home: people’s time can be cut cruelly short.

“If you’ve got your health you’ve got the greatest gift you could wish to have,” says Geoff. “Enjoy life every day because it’s too short. One life. Live it.”