This year’s Shropshire Poppy Appeal launched in Shrewsbury on Saturday, with the Royal British Legion urging people to show their support in a new way during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gathered for the launch, were the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire Mark Cuthbert-Brown, Royal British Legion County Chair Ian Williams, Royal British Legion County President Marius Coulon, Shropshire Army Cadet Force Captain Simon Protano, Shrewsbury Poppy Appeal Organiser Susan Coleman, Community Fundraiser Jenny Robey and special celebrity guest ‘Ollie’ Ollerton from Channel 4 SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Jenny Robey, Community Fundraiser for the Royal British Legion in Shropshire said: “It is a huge privilege to bring together a selection of representatives from the RBL, the Lieutenancy, the Cadets and a well-known Shropshire based media personality who also represents the Special Boat Service.
“In 2020 the RBL are asking everyone to back the Poppy Appeal in a new way. Like so many things this year, the Appeal has to adapt to the threat of Covid-19 and we are asking the public to support us like never before, because every poppy counts. The Shropshire Poppy Appeal Organisers have worked incredibly hard to ensure that everyone who wants to wear a poppy has access within 5 miles, no mean feat for such a rural county.
“Today we launch the Shropshire Poppy Map, an interactive Google Map which anyone can visit and find out exactly where their nearest poppy is available.”
Each year 40,000 volunteers make the Poppy Appeal happen. However, many of the Poppy Appeal collectors now fall into vulnerable categories, so it is simply not safe for them to do face to face collections. The same risk exists for many of the RBL’s supporters who can’t leave their homes as they would normally to find a poppy.
A variety of cashless donation options are available for paper poppies and other poppy products this year, including QR codes, text to donate, and contactless devices, to ensure the safety of those collecting and those choosing to donate in person. More than 15 million paper poppies will be distributed in supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrison’s, Aldi and Asda stores as well as via online retailers including the Poppy Shop, Amazon and eBay. Customers will also be able to donate at the till point in Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s.
The reduction in collectors makes running the Poppy Appeal much harder, but the Legion still has a job to do. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods and way of life, leaving some in the Armed Forces community in dire need of urgent help and support. In Shropshire, the cadets are key to many street and manned collections, communities will notice the difference this year without their fantastic presence however this has not deterred the cadet detachments. Many are signing up to two brand new virtual fundraising challenges, Move to Remember and the 11/11 Challenge.
Shropshire Army Cadet Force, Capt. Simon Protano said: “The cadets always take great pride in supporting the Poppy Appeal each year. At the start of lockdown we moved very quickly into the virtual world taking up a number of virtual challenges which helped to keep them motivated in such a difficult time. The RBL virtual challenges is another great opportunity for all our cadets to get involved and fundraise.”
In attendance at the launch was, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant Mark Cuthbert-Brown who said: “For obvious reasons, this year is going to be especially challenging for the Poppy Appeal, it will not be easy collecting in the normal way. Please be ready for new initiatives… poppies could be ordered through the post for neighbours, for example, with delivery to those in the community who don’t feel safe or cannot get about. Think, too, about printing a poppy for display in your window or undertaking a virtual Poppy Run. Every poppy counts so please support the appeal in any way you can.”
The Poppy Appeal and Remembrance are important to Ollie Ollerton, having signed up for service at the age of 18 with the Royal Marine Commando’s, touring operationally in Northern Ireland & Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, subsequently being recommended for SAS Special Forces Selection. More recently he is known for his staring role on the Channel Four series SAS: Who Dares Wins, and is CEO of Shropshire based business BREAK-POINT.
Ollie said: “Dealing with the pandemic has brought home the sense of duty we all have to protect the most vulnerable in our society and our way of life. The same sense of duty has endured through generations of our Armed Forces community from the oldest of our Second World War veterans to the newest recruits, and this year once again they have been there when we need them, standing alongside essential workers on the front line in the fight against Covid-19.”
The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal takes place from 22 October until Armistice Day on 11 November. Donations raised during this vital fundraising period are used to provide life-long support to serving and ex-serving members of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants through hardships, injuries and bereavements.