Royal British Legion gets working to distribute poppies across east London
PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 November 2013
The 24-hour-a-day operation of distributing poppies across east London ahead of remembrance day got underway this week - and it's a team effort to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Money raised in last year’s appeal
Elm Park and Rainham: £25, 725
Harold Wood: £19,039
Upminster: £ 22,046
Havering total: £183,686
North-east London total: £1.17m
London total: £7.4m
Tens of thousands of the red flowers are being sent to every corner of the capital as the nation prepares to pay its collective respects for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Their enduring symbolism shows our recognition of the debt each of us still owes to those who fought in the two world wars.
As well as pausing on Remembrance Day to reflect on that debt, we must surely be grateful to those who give up their time to ensure the nation never does forget the sacrifice made by our veterans.
Sharon Bonner, 52, is the Royal British Legion’s north-east London community fundraiser and oversees the vast operation to distribute poppies across the region from its headquarters in Chingford.
Last year alone, she helped raise more than £1million for the military charity.
“It’s a 24-hour-a-day job. It takes over your life – but I love it,” she said.
“The phones are ringing and I have got hundreds and hundreds of emails. Sometimes I stay here, I don’t go home always and we just stay in the office overnight.”
The operation is a family affair, with Sharon’s husband, an army veteran, and mum roped in to volunteer.
Sharon herself has been employed by the British Legion for seven years, having previously been a volunteer for five years before that.
She now helps oversee more than 50 volunteers who ensure jackets, shirts and jumpers in east London are decorated with poppies.
“I cannot praise them enough,” she said. “They are so good. They have got massive commitment. People give their time and money… they just give everything.
“You do it once or twice and you are hooked. There’s lots of camaraderie – everybody enjoys the jokes around, it’s nice. It’s rewarding, it’s fun – but not in a disrespectful way. It’s just fun to do.
“Selling poppies is for remembrance, but when you are getting ready it’s fun to go out and talk to people. No-one takes it for granted, they just love it.
“People get upset if I say to them you cannot go to that place this year. They get an attachment and they love going, and people get to know them.”
As the years since the two world wars continue to fly by, the British Legion continues to raise tens of millions of pounds with each appeal – with last year’s national taking a record £36million.
And Sharon, whose granddad was in the RAF, father was in the army, and son was in the navy, said the poppy campaign continues to attract young volunteers.
“I have got collectors who have been doing it for 50 years, but we also get universities coming down to help collect for the day.
“They get into it through family connections or adverts, especially if you hear about people coming back from Afghanistan injured or in a coffin. They see that and they think; I want to do something.
“That mix of young and old works well because they show them how it works. The younger people are very good, they’re really good. We need them to keep going.”
Her manic period will last until the end of November – but she will continue fundraising for the rest of the year.
She said: “This year we would like to get what we got last year. It’s hard times, but it’s needed even more at the moment.”