The Poppy Factory helps more than 140 veterans find jobs over pandemic

The Poppy Factory charity based in Richmond has supported more than 140 veterans with health conditions get back into work since the April lockdown.

The charity helps veterans across England and Wales with mental and physical health conditions find work and continued its efforts by moving from in-person support, to virtual phone and video calls.

The Poppy Factory is also starting a new partnership with Stoll, a charity that provides affordable homes for vulnerable veterans to rent in London, to further support those in need.

Dan Hodges, a spokesperson for The Poppy Factory, said: “It’s proving really effective still despite the challenges people are facing, and they are facing a lot of challenges. 

“Whether that’s financial insecurity, anxiety, depression or isolation, all those things go hand in hand really with unemployment.”

Hodges highlighted that approximately 80% of the veterans they work with suffer from a mental health condition.

The charity works with veterans on job applications, interview preparations and supports them once in work.

Hodges stated: “It changes people’s lives and has a hugely transformative effect on people. 

“It’s not just about work, it gives them a sense of purpose and meaning, making a useful contribution to society, and makes them feel like a valid member of society again having had that experience in the armed forces before.”

On the new partnership with Stoll, Hodges noted: “Housing and unemployment are interlinked really. If you want to get secure, long-term employment, you really need a secure place to live and build that foundation.

“By building these partnerships we can help to address that.”

The new partnership will allow a member of The Poppy Factory to attend Stoll’s Fulham office and meet veterans in-person to provide employment advice.

The meetings will be made Covid-secure by speaking to veterans about employability through a perspex screen.

People can support the charity or find help through its website.

The Poppy Factory also works closely with the Royal British Legion, who lead the Poppy Appeal each year.

With more people staying home due to the pandemic and less commuter footfall in stations, poppy sales face a new challenge.

Charles Byrne, the Royal British Legion’s director general, said: “This will be the first time in the history of the Poppy Appeal that our volunteers will be unable to carry out face to face collections anywhere across the UK. 

“The loss of that activity could run into millions of pounds in fundraising which means online donations are crucial, and so we’re asking people to support the Poppy Appeal by donating via the Legion’s website.”

This is the first time in the charity’s history that all face to face collections have been cancelled.

The charity highlighted that even throughout the Second World War such measures were not taken.

Byrne stated: “Remembrance is a unique time in the year when people from all communities, cultures and ages come together and pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces community, past and present. 

“This year, however, we can’t stand together at Remembrance services and therefore the Legion is urging people to participate remotely and visually show their support by placing a poppy in their window, or standing on their doorstep for the Two Minute Silence.” 

With new online methods required to encourage donations, the Royal British Legion teamed up with Burleighs Gin to sell The Royal British Legion Poppy Gin.

With the first batch of 300 bottles selling out in the first night, and alcohol retail sales nationally growing by a third over the first lockdown, this could be a new way forward in raising important funds.

The gin, containing poppy seeds, was originally an initiative proposed by the Leicestershire branch of the Legion. 

However the idea was so popular that the charity decided to make it a national product that it aims to sell all year round.

Sam Watson, Burleighs’ commercial director, said: “We were delighted to be approached in the first instance. We were really inspired and wanted to do something to give back and help support what the Legion was doing.

“The plan for us and what the Legion have said to us is that they’d like to make this an all year round product.

“Hopefully this will raise more awareness and raise more funds.”

They have now sold in excess of 2,000 bottles in six weeks with proceeds going straight to the Legion.

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