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Remembrance: Elm Park’s Poppy Appeal organisers share delight at raising almost £300,000 in 10 years

PUBLISHED: 16:00 07 November 2017

Elm Park Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal organisers Joanne White and Lin Reynolds

Elm Park Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal organisers Joanne White and Lin Reynolds

Archant

When the Poppy Appeal reaches its zenith around Remembrance Sunday, you may be under the impression that following its conclusion Royal British Legions can put away their boxes and collection tins, and pick them all up again 12 months later.

Poppies growing near the Thiepval Memorial in France. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PAPoppies growing near the Thiepval Memorial in France. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

But although this time is the busiest of the year for legions, in fact their members are hard at work through all seasons.

The Elm Park branch is led in its appeal by organisers Joanne White and Lin Reynolds, who have made thousands of pounds for the charity.

Since taking over the role a decade ago, the pair have raised, with the help of their collectors, just under 300,000, with the figure to be exceeded this year.

“It’s fantastic that we’ve made so much money, taking it from almost nothing to over 30 grand [a year] for the last three years,” said Joanne. “It’s hard work, but very rewarding.

Councillor Barry Mugglestone is the chairman of the Elm Park Royal British Legion.Councillor Barry Mugglestone is the chairman of the Elm Park Royal British Legion.

“The main reason we got involved was we were on site at the legion anyway, and we could see what a fantastic cause it is and how we needed to help our ex-servicemen. We thought, ‘We can have a go and see how it goes the first year’, we had to go around shops and places to see if they could get boxes in, and talk to people.

“It’s grown from there, many people come back year after year and help us – most of our collectors have had their five-year certificates.”

Joanne, 53, is still the club secretary, while Lin, 59, is the steward, and used to work behind the bar.

They are assisted by many each year, including students from Barking and Dagenham College and Havering College, who collect in Tesco Airfield Way.

Elm Park Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal organisers Lin Reynolds and Joanne WhiteElm Park Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal organisers Lin Reynolds and Joanne White

“Probably about 30 people come and help us,” said Joanne. “Volunteers raise the money for us, we just couldn’t do it without them all.”

Councillor Barry Mugglestone, the branch’s chairman, added: “I am so proud of what a great team effort we have, the legion motto states ‘service not self’; I can truly say this is very well embedded in the Elm Park branch, and all branch members should be proud.

“I know all branches in Havering collect a lot of money for the Poppy Appeal, so all the collectors over the borough should be proud of themselves.”

The appeal couldn’t be a success without its collectors, and also the continuing generosity of the public.

Poppies on crosses dedicated to all who served during a service for the opening of the Field of Remembrance at Royal Wootton Bassett, near Swindon, in 2016. Picture: Ben Birchall/PAPoppies on crosses dedicated to all who served during a service for the opening of the Field of Remembrance at Royal Wootton Bassett, near Swindon, in 2016. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA

Joanne mentioned one gentleman who donates £1,000 to the legion every year (in £20 notes) and “says he’s been saving it up all year long”.

There is strong support from the community year-round, with residents taking part in, or donating to, sponsored events.

Elm Park’s Party Box card shop has again been selling balloons filled with poppy seeds, with part of the proceeds donated to the Poppy Appeal.

On Remembrance Sunday, just after the two-minute silence, children will release their balloons into the sky.

Following the Elm Park service, an auction and raffles will be held at the legion branch, in Maylands Avenue.

But how does the money support ex-servicemen and women?

Joanne said: “It goes to help the veterans, the ex-personnel, and their families, and a lot goes to the four break centres to help fund them.

“There’s the eight convalescent homes, and then that’s before you even look at the welfare side: assistance for those that are struggling, and help with paperwork and getting the benefits they need.”

The break centres offer short holidays for veterans and families in need of respite.

2017 is Joanne and Lin’s 11th year leading Elm Park’s Poppy Appeal, and they hope to continue their work far into the future.

“That’s definitely what we’re hoping to do,” said Joanne. “It’s constantly evolving.”

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