Hitchin Poppy Appeal under threat

Adrian Jones, Pilot Officer, Esme Gianfrancesco, cadet, Alieu Jallow, new entry cadet, Meg Stephenso

Adrian Jones, Pilot Officer, Esme Gianfrancesco, cadet, Alieu Jallow, new entry cadet, Meg Stephenson, Cadet, Kyle Bryder, cadet junior and Mary Prowse, Poppy appeal organiser - Credit: Archant

A poppy appeal which has been running in a town for more than 90 years will not be able to continue if a new home is not found.

Members of the Hitchin branch of the Royal British Legion have said the annual appeal – which this year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I – will stop unless an alternative base to the Paynes Park Social Club is found.

The group had been using the building in Paynes Park to hold meetings and store stock but can no longer do so after the social club went into administration.

The Hitchin branch has been told by owners, the Royal British Legion, to look elsewhere after the electric was cut off, with plans for the building to be sold.

The money raised from the appeal forms part of the legion’s work throughout the year to provide immediate support and life-long care to current and former members of the armed forces, as well as their families.

Speaking to the Comet, Hitchin Poppy Appeal organiser Mary Prowse said: “It would be very disappointing and shocking if it had to stop. Everyone would be devastated. The appeal has been running in the town since 1921 and we were one of the first branches to start the poppy appeal. It would be a double blow if we were not able to continue with the appeal because it is the centenary year of World War I.

“But if we can’t find anywhere then we won’t be able to run the appeal this year.”

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The Comet reported last month that the branch was looking for a new home but so far no business owners or community groups have come forward.

Regarding the group’s needs, Mrs Prowse, who has been running the Hitchin Poppy Appeal for the past eight years, said: “We would need a place where we could store all our tables and chairs. It would have to be a secure room or building so that we can store all the poppy stock – we have almost 500 poppy boxes.”

The 77-year-old, who lives in Hitchin, said that the location would have to be central to the town as many of the members who take part in organising the appeal are elderly and would need to be within walking distance of the base.

If you are able to help, email Mrs Prowse via mary_george@btinternet.com or call 07925 528988.

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