11:00AM, Thursday 08 October 2020
The Maidenhead branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) has launched a call for volunteers as the pandemic looks set to hit the poppy appeal this autumn.
Ray Williams, RBL member in the town, says he and his team will be ‘doing the best’ it can during a national shortage of poppies and fewer volunteers to call upon.
The COVID-19 crisis means many of the Legion’s members across the UK will not be able to perform their usual volunteering duties, with the majority in higher risk categories more susceptible to the virus.
Volunteers who usually stand outside Marks and Spencer in High Street will not be able to do so this year due to social distancing, and people carrying less cash also poses a problem for the RBL.
But Ray is confident that the Maidenhead branch will see through predicted tough times.
He said that Sainsbury's, in Providence Place, will be storing poppies in bulk for those wanting to purchase one, and socially-distanced volunteers will also be in the High Street, opposite Lloyds bank, on select Saturdays in a gazebo to promote the appeal.
They hope to be there on October 24, October 31 and November 7, and the gazebo will also contain a contactless card machine.
And for those who cannot get to the shops, the RBL website will be selling poppies online.
Ray added that ‘a limited number’ of banks, offices and pubs will also have poppies on sale.
“The Legion have been quite firm to say, if you are in danger of COVID, you should not volunteer. So it has reduced the number of our volunteers drastically,” Ray said.
“We have got about 55 full members of the Legion in Maidenhead. Of these, probably about 60/70 per cent are over 70. And quite a few have some kind of health problem.
“We urgently need volunteers to help with our stall and deliver collection boxes both now and in the future.”
The shortage in poppy supplies has come about due to the RBL’s poppy-making factory in Kent closing during lockdown.
Ray added: “Last year we raised more than £60,000 – we do not expect to be anywhere near that but if we can get £20,000 this year we would have done well.
“We will still do our best, and we are pretty lucky in Maidenhead, we have got local volunteers, but we still could do with some more.”
To get involved, phone Ray on 07747341171 or call 01628 620579.
To buy a poppy online, visit the RBL’s ‘poppy shop’ at www.poppyshop.org.uk
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