A long standing Poppyscotland volunteer in the Howe of Fife is appealing for new volunteers ahead of Remembrance Sunday.
Former Fife councillor Anthony Garrett, 83, who has been poppy area organiser for Falkland and Newton of Falkland for 21 years, said he hoped the “disaster because of Covid restrictions” last year would be overcome.
The Scottish Poppy Appeal is the largest annual charity street collection in Scotland and raises more than £2 million each year.
Run by armed forces charity Poppyscotland, money raised from the Poppy Appeal and their year-round fundraising enables them to deliver support to members of the armed forces community in Scotland by providing tailored funding and assistance.
The charity also funds services in advice, employment, housing, mental health, and mobility.
However, last year the Covid-19 pandemic led to a reduction in the number of shops, pubs and other establishments selling poppies on their counters.
Mr Garrett, who was just two years old when his father was killed while serving with the Royal Tank Regiment at the Battle of Arras in 1940, said volunteers hoped to be “back with a vengeance” this year.
But he said it was a challenge searching for new poppy tin collectors both now and, more significantly, for the future.
“I’ve had five, six, seven helpers knocking on doors during the 21 years I’ve done this,” said Mr Garrett.
“All was going smoothly until last year when it was a disaster because of Covid restrictions.
“However, there’s another aspect to collections that need to be considered – the cashless society.
“We used to go round doors with cans. Donations would range from 50p in cash to £10 or £20 notes. “Nowadays people say ‘oh I want a poppy but I don’t have any money’.”
Use of technology
Mr Garrett said that last year, Poppyscotland introduced QR codes for the first time and they were rolled out across the whole of Scotland. People were asked to tap their phone which took them to a donation page.
However some local areas used them to a greater extent than others, and he remained a “bit nervous” about the use of this technology.
Mr Garrett, whose wife’s aunt was the famous war correspondent Clare Hollingworth, said people often volunteered to sell poppies if they had connections to the services, and he’d recently recruited a couple of new helpers from those backgrounds.
Overall, however, it could still be a challenge recruiting new volunteers.
Gordon Michie, head of fundraising at Poppyscotland said: “The last 18 months have been a very difficult time for us as a charity and, even more so, for the armed forces community that we support.
“The pandemic halted all our major fundraising events and we had to drastically change the way in which we reached out to the public for donations.
“Despite this we have still provided our vital, life-changing support uninterrupted throughout the pandemic.
“With restrictions now easing, we can’t wait to get back out in towns and cities, shopping centres and supermarkets, and engage with the public in a way that was not possible last year.
“We have a fantastic network of dedicated volunteers that give their time year after year, but we’re always looking for new recruits from individuals, businesses, groups of friends or community associations.
“Our volunteers are at the heart of everything we do and without their vital support we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver the Scottish Poppy Appeal.”
Mr Michie noted this year marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
With this in mind he said there had “never been a better time” for those that have thought about volunteering in the past to get involved.
He added: “Regardless of whether you give a few hours or days of your time, your generosity will help us transform the lives of veterans, those still serving, and their families.”