STREET and supermarket collections for the Poppy Appeal will not take place in Uttoxeter this year. The coronavirus pandemic poses too much of a risk to volunteers for the annual appeal – many of whom are over 70. A question mark remains over Remembrance Services and how they will take place in November.
Judith Leedham is the organiser of the Poppy Appeal for the Uttoxeter area. She said: “It’s obviously very sad, but understandable because most of our volunteers are over 70 and are at risk. “I think Remembrance can be done at a distance but the fact is it’s the first time since it’s been going that it’s ever been cancelled. I presume there will be some sort of service, but it’s the first time there is not going to be a Poppy Appeal – and that’s going to be major. “What we’re hoping is that people will make a donation direct to the Royal British Legion, or they can send it to me and I will sort it out. It’s going to be difficult, but that’s the only way we can do it at this stage. I will still have wreaths available as usual and if anyone wants a specific wreath I’d appreciate it if they could let me know as soon as possible as I will be putting my order in this month.
“I personally will definitely miss it and miss the people we meet while out collecting as well as our volunteers. The people I’ve met and friends I’ve made through the Poppy Appeal have been tremendous and I shall really miss catching up with them. The regular people who volunteer are definitely going to miss it too.”
The Poppy Appeal is an annual fund-raiser for the Royal British Legion, a charity supporting serving and former servicemen and women. This year, it is expected that online shoppers will be given the opportunity to donate while ordering and the sales of wreaths will contribute to the appeal.
A Royal British Legion spokesperson said: “As we develop our plans for the Poppy Appeal 2020 we are exploring ways in which we can minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the Appeal, whilst ensuring that any activity aligns with restrictions and social distancing guidelines that may be in place at the time. This includes working closely with a range of partners to support with the distribution of poppies.
“The safety and well-being of our volunteers, staff and members is paramount, and at the forefront of our minds as we consider our plans. In order to protect those who are most at risk, we have taken the decision to advise collectors who fall into the vulnerable category not to take part in activity on behalf of the Poppy Appeal that would expose them to any additional risks whilst Coronavirus is still present. The tireless work of all our collectors is invaluable to us, and they are a much-valued part of our community and their respective communities, however, their safety must remain our number one priority.”
Uttoxeter Town Council, the town’s branch of the Royal British Legion and churches are liaising over plans for this year’s Remembrance Day services and Acts of Remembrance. But for the first time in almost 100 years (the Appeal will mark its centenary next year), poppies collections will not take place door-to-door, in streets, pubs or supermarkets.
Collection boxes and poppies may still be distributed to schools. Judith added: “It’s a sign of the times and unless we do this, the virus will come back and we’ll be in the same boat next year – we’re fighting a hidden enemy. We’ve got to carry on with life, but safely and then, next year, we will meet again.”
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