Poppy Power


The pandemic means the money raised through Golden Charter and Independents’ annual Remembrance campaign is more vital than ever

Thanks to the generosity of independent funeral directors and Golden Charter, £392,000 has been raised for The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland over the past four years – and this year, because of the economic fallout of coronavirus, that help is needed more than ever.

The partnership between Golden Charter and The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland is in its fifth year now, and last year the challenge was taken up by 611 funeral directors across the UK – the largest number to date. Funeral directors supported the campaign by donating £25 for each plan sold, and many also joined in the Remembrance window display competition to promote The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland’s campaign and to highlight their support.

The charity is close to many funeral directors’ hearts and the campaign is a special way for Independents to ‘Remember Together’ and help commemorate the contributions of all those who defended liberty.

The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland raise money to provide support to both serving and ex-serving personnel, as well as their dependents and carers. Ben France, The Legion’s Head of Corporate Partnerships, said that this year funeral directors’ support for the campaign is needed more than ever.

Ben explained: “The Legion is really grateful for the support that funeral directors give to the charity as these funds play a vital role in helping people in need. Last year we had one of the best levels of support ever and we hope this will continue to grow as more independent funeral directors appreciate how supporting our campaign, including through their eyecatching Remembrance window displays, also helps to cement their relationships with their local communities.

“We know that times are tough out there, as the coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone, but we are finding more and more ex-service people and their families are needing our help this year.”

The Royal British Legion has been at the heart of local communities across the UK since it was established in 1921. Today, it’s the country’s largest Armed Forces charity, with 235,000 members, 110,000 volunteers and a network of partners and charities who help support the 90,000 people that approach The Legion for help each year.

Ben added: “Golden Charter has been great at promoting The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland’s campaigns over the past years, particularly in 2018 when we celebrated the centenary of the end of WW1. They encouraged funeral directors to not only promote the campaign through plan donations but to also collect stories from their members who had family connections to the war. Last year they supported us again to highlight the diversity of people involved in the two world wars and other conflicts from Commonwealth countries.

“This year we were planning a theme around ‘Coming home’, particularly for those returning from WW2 who had to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, our plans have changed and we are going to use our poppy campaign to highlight how The Legion has reacted to the COVID-19 situation to help service people and what that has meant to the armed forces community. The pandemic has also affected our fundraising abilities as the large majority of our 4,000 volunteers who sell poppies on the street are in the vulnerable or shielding category because of their age, so they may not be able to support us this year.

“We are currently working with partners to develop new ways to deliver our poppy appeal this year, and that is why partnerships, such as the one we have developed successfully with Golden Charter and independent funeral directors, are so important to The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland as they allow us to raise money to continue our support of ex-service people and their families.”

How your money helps

Over the past four years, independent funeral directors and Golden Charter have raised £392,000 for The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland to help them provide support and financial assistance to service personnel and their families. To give you an idea how this money could be spent, £392,000 would fund:

16 Legion Case Officers for a year: Case Officers provide practical and emotional one-to-one support, helping serving and ex-serving personnel, and their families, to get the help they need and deserve. During the pandemic, the Case Officers have worked nationwide to provide essential support by telephone and video conferences, and also to administer grants where needed.

16 Legion Benefits, Debt & Money Advisors for a year: These highly skilled advisers help people move out of financial crisis, and plan for a secure future free from debt and worry.

3,018 ‘crisis grants’: These help people over short-term periods of financial hardship, and are particularly in demand at present as people are being made unemployed and are struggling to find money for rent or other financial responsibilities.

Secure, safe and sustainable accommodation for 490 people in crisis.

Ben France, The Legion’s Head of Corporate Partnerships, said: “The needs of the Armed Forces community are becoming more complex and can include a wide range of issues such as employment, finances, or housing.

“So many people are coming to us now that have never needed support before, especially for short-term emergency grants. These crisis grants are crucial to keeping people in their own homes and helping them make ends meet and continue to look after their families.”

Case study: Despair gave way to new hope… and a fresh start

Leon Parker, 24, from Birkenhead, served in the Army for four-and-a-half years, but when he left service he was unable to find a job, struggled to cope with life and, after a bout of PTSD, he tried to take his own life. He ended up on the streets.

Leon, who lived on the streets for three years along with his dog, Misty, said: “She is so important to me, she’s a therapy dog with her own Army number, and she goes everywhere with me. I wanted to live in the woods as a way of coping with my own paranoia, but Misty was amazing company during that time.”

When Leon was ready to return to regular society, The Royal British Legion was there to help him secure his new flat, pay his rent and bond, and furnish the property.

With help from The Royal British Legion, Leon is now working as a chef in a five-star Wirral hotel and looking forward to a better future. Thanks to the support of The Royal British Legion he now has a new life, new friends, a new career and hopes to be reunited with his daughter who he hasn’t seen in nearly a year.

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