By Sue Palmer from the Volunteer Centre at Bossard House, West Street, Leighton Buzzard
Those who have seen the breath-taking display of 888,246 ceramic poppies forming a scarlet moat around the Tower of London will no doubt agree it is one of the most powerful images of the year.
However, it must be agreed that even a single scarlet poppy, in all its simplicity, is a powerful and thought-provoking symbol.
The first use of a poppy to remember fallen soldiers was in 1918, as WW1 ended, when American teacher, Moina Belle Michael, took inspiration from John McCrae’s poem In Flanders’ Fields and began wearing and distributing poppies to ensure the memory of those lost in battle was kept alive.
In 1921 The British Legion, which had been set up to provide practical, emotional and financial support to members of the British Armed Forces and their families, adopted this idea for its fundraising. A year later the Disabled Society was formed for disabled ex-Service men and women, and it was suggested that members could make poppies for the Legion to sell. The Poppy Factory was subsequently founded and the original poppy’s design was such that workers with a disability could easily assemble it. This principle still remains today.
Raising money to support welfare work for the Armed Forces community, the Poppy Appeal is the British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign. In this, the centenary year of the start of WW1, it would be amazing to push targets even higher and so the search is already on for volunteers to help co-ordinate, distribute and collect. All you need to get involved is good communication skills, the ability to carry boxes and, for a few roles, transport and a phone.
More than 40 million Remembrance poppies, five million Remembrance petals and almost 1.5 million other Remembrance items are made at the Poppy Factory each year, so it’s no wonder so many volunteers are needed to ensure they are distributed successfully.
If you have a little time to spare, contact the Volunteer Centre to see how you can get involved. And, if you can’t volunteer, make sure you show your support by buying a poppy before the 11th November.
Whether you spend £1 on a lapel poppy from a street seller, or go online to buy a mug, a picnic bag, some cufflinks or any of the other merchandise available, you will be playing a part in helping those affected by war.
You could even own a little piece of history by buying of one of the ceramic poppies from the Tower of London for just £25, with 100% of the profits going to support the amazing work of the Royal British Legion.
If you are interested in helping with this year’s Poppy Appeal, or would like to find out more about volunteering in general, contact Volunteer Centre Central Bedfordshire. Based in Leighton Buzzard town centre (near the multi-storey car park).
An adviser will be happy to meet with you to offer free advice on all the roles available and what might suit you.
Call 01525 850559 weekdays between 9.30am – 3pm to make an appointment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also search for opportunities in your area online at www.do-it.org.uk.