Monday, 27 September 2021

Poppy Appeal organiser to step down after this year’s drive

THE organiser of Henley’s Poppy Appeal is stepping down.

THE organiser of Henley’s Poppy Appeal is stepping down.

Shirley Lees, who took on the role in the summer of 2012, will hand over to her successor once this year’s appeal finishes in November and the proceeds have been counted.

A candidate has been identified but their appointment is not yet formally confirmed.

Mrs Lees, who lives in Boathouse Reach, Henley, with her husband David, said she felt it was time to move on as she only intended to serve for three years initially.

She volunteered after Lt-Col Stuart Thompson, her predecessor, left the role and the Royal British Legion’s Henley and Peppard branch, which organises the annual fund-raising drive, appealed for a replacement through the Henley Standard.

Over the four Poppy Appeals since then she has helped to raise more than £100,000. In 2013 the branch raised £30,000, £10,000 more than the previous year, and won the Legion’s Goadby Cup for the biggest increase in takings.

Mrs Lees said she and her husband would continue to support the branch’s activities.

She said: “I started doing it because the Legion needed somebody and I felt it was important. I would have hated to see the Poppy Appeal die off in Henley.

“It is vital that we continue to remember the sacrifices of generations that came before us, and indeed the current generation. We should give them and their families as much support as possible.

“It hasn’t been a small task by any means. There’s a lot of work involved behind the scenes but I’m pleased to say the appeal is now in a very healthy state and I’m certain that it will continue to grow.

“The role has been very satisfying and has introduced me to some absolutely lovely people in the Henley community. I’ve enjoyed it very much but the time is right for someone else to take over.”

As usual, this year’s Poppy Appeal will be launched in Market Place, Henley, by Sonning Common musician Sam Brown and members of her ukulele groups. Further details will be announced nearer the time.

John Green and Brigadier Malcolm Page, branch chairman and president, respectively, paid tribute to Mrs Lees.

Mr Green said: “Shirley has, without doubt, been the most outstanding appeal organiser we’ve ever had.

“She has done an amazing job and we are incredibly lucky that we will continue to benefit from her help in other areas. I should add, of course, that her husband has also been a great source of support.

“She has brought an energetic, rigorous and entrepreneurial vision to the role and to the entire appeal, not just in terms of the door-to-door poppy sales but across all areas of fund-raising.

“She has really shown what can be achieved through commitment to the cause. She knows how to build relationships and get cooperation from people, which has especially shown through in the support she has won from Henley’s businesses.

“Her stepping down will be a great loss but we are confident that her successor will be able to carry the torch. The success of the appeal ultimately depends on the people of Henley but they’ve always shown a great willingness to support us.”

Mr Page added: “We’ve had four extremely successful years under Shirley’s leadership, each more successful than the last, and we have been delighted with what she has achieved.

“She has brought a real sparkle to the role and is also a valued member of the branch committee. We’re very glad she will be staying as a member — we’d be most vexed if she wasn’t.”

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