11:00AM, Saturday 08 January 2022
The Maidenhead Poppy Appeal has made more than double what it did the previous year despite ongoing issues with COVID – but is nonetheless in urgent need of more members.
The Maidenhead branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) collected in excess of £43,000 during its 2021 appeal.
Despite being a lot better than in 2020 – when the branch could only raise £16,000 – this amount is under what it would normally expect. Pre-pandemic, it made upwards of £50,000 each time.
A major stumbling block has been restricted ability to undertake street collections. This was something RBL was unable to do at all at the height of the pandemic.
It has also struggled with not being able to use the support of the local cadet groups as much as usual.
Ordinarily there would be a gazebo set up in the high street on Saturdays, which the cadets would help to man. There would also normally be three or four fetes during the summer for collections.
In 2020 these were all cancelled due to COVID.
The money collected has been deposited in the National Poppy Appeal Fund and will be used to assist the men and women of the armed forces, ex-service personnel and their dependents.
Volunteers collected at Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, as well as distributing and collecting Poppy trays around Maidenhead and Cookham.
“These kind people are not Legion members but volunteer to help every year,” said Ray Williams, secretary of Maidenhead RBL.
“We’re lucky we have got so many people who help us, year in and year out.
“Having said that, the Maidenhead branch is once again in dire need of new RBL members. For the size of the town, the size of the branch is pitifully small.”
The group is finding it has to support more people as nearby branches, including the one in Woodlands Park, have closed.
“Since we restarted in 2007, our branch has got smaller and the area we look after has got bigger. We desperately need people,” said Ray.
Though membership tends to increase during conflicts, during peace time, it tends to drop. However, the armed forces remain busy.
“We should not forget that serving armed forces members are currently at the forefront of the fight to combat COVID-19,” he said. “There’s always a role for them.
“You don’t need to have been a member of the armed forces to join the Legion – what is required is a desire to assist those who have served or currently serve our country in any way we can.
“It’s about helping those people who have been damaged helping their country.”
Anyone interested in joining should contact Ray on 07747 341171.