'Desperate shortage' of Poppy Appeal volunteers in Sheffield

More volunteers are urgently needed to sell poppies in Sheffield, where it has been warned there is a ‘desperate shortage’.

Monday, 28th October 2019, 2:50 pm

Poppy sellers have become an increasingly rare sight in the city centre as the number of volunteers has dwindled, drastically reducing the amount the Royal British Legion raises to support members of the armed forces past and present and their families.

Last year, the appeal raised £13,000 in the Sheffield Central region, where in previous years donations have totalled as much as £30,000.

Organisers in the area say there was once a collector on almost every street corner in the run-up to Remembrance Day but this year there are only about 15 volunteers.

The launch of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal 2019 in Sheffield (pic: Chris Etchells)

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They have urged more helpers to get in touch, reminding people that you don’t have to be a member of the legion, those of all ages can get involved and if you’re not able to stand outside in the cold, it’s possible to collect within shops.

Karen Plummer, of the Girls Venture Corps Air Cadets, has been collecting in central Sheffield for around 35 years and is the regional Poppy Appeal organiser.

She said: “Any time people can spare will help, even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, and all you have to do to become a volunteer is fill in a small form and provide some photo ID.

“This money makes a huge difference to veterans and their families. It’s not just people who served in the world wars who benefit, but anyone who’s served their country and needs help.”

John Walsh served during the Falklands War and is still haunted by watching HMS Sheffield go up in smoke from another ship.

It is the memory of those and other fallen comrades which has driven him to volunteer as a poppy seller since leaving the Royal Navy in 1995, but he has seen a huge decline in collectors since first getting involved.

“There’s a desperate shortage of volunteers to help with street collections and we’d be hugely grateful to anyone who’s able to help,” said the 58-year-old.

Karen’s daughter Samantha Plummer-Burgin, aged 23, has been collecting for the Poppy Appeal since she was nine.

“It’s important to remember the people who have served for use and given us the life we have now, and this is my way of saying thank you,” said the outdoor instructor, of Southey Green.

“It’s a really good cause and it means a lot to me because I have friends in service and my Dad, Jason, and grandfather, Samuel, both served too.”

Tony Curtain, who has been collecting for about a decade, recalls visiting Sheffield railway station as a very young boy and seeing mothers weeping as wounded servicemen returned from action.

“I’ll never forget that day. If it had been a few years later I could have been one of those men, and I think a lot of people don’t realise how privileged we are,” said the 77-year-old former surgical instrument maker, of Base Green.

While the amount collected in central Sheffield during 2018 was down on previous years, in the city as a whole it rose to £300,000, but volunteers are still needed in all regions.

The money raised helps the legion support veterans, active servicemen and women, and their families, providing everything from expert advice to support with recovery and rehabilitation from their injuries, and help transitioning to civilian life.

Sylvia Laing, RBL’s community fundraiser for Sheffield, knows very well the difference it makes as it was thanks to the legion her husband Ramon got the help he needed having being medically discharged from the Army.

“The legion’s there for all the veterans and their families who need our help. I’m so grateful for the support we got, and the Poppy Appeal ensures the legion can continue to be there when it’s needed,” she said.

They were speaking at the official launch of this year’s Poppy Appeal in Sheffield this morning, supported by Sheffield lord mayor Tony Downing.

To volunteer as a poppy seller, email Karen Plummer at sheffieldg.v.c.a.c@gmail.com or call her on 0114 281 3495.