THE Royal British Legion has confirmed Oxfordshire residents helped to raise a total of £472,242.97 in the 2013 Poppy Appeal.
This final figure sees a rise of 3.7 per cent on 2012 and has been hailed a “real triumph in a difficult year.”
It comes as the Royal British Legion (RBL) mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.
People are being urged to join several events to mark the anniversary, from hosting a Poppy Picnic, planting poppy seeds or joining an Honour Walk to remember a family member who may have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the conflict.
Cash from the Poppy Appeal and all the other events planned this year will go towards supporting former servicemen or women and their families.
Thanks to cash raised in the 2013 Oxfordshire Poppy Appeal, three drop-in centres to give advice and support have been launched in Oxford, Banbury and Witney.
Mark Collins, area manager for the South East Midlands, said: “The idea of the drop-in centres is to have advice and information centres on the high street.
“The eligibility is seven days’ service and you and your family are supported for life.”
Drop-in centres are at Oxford City Football Club, in Marston, on the last Monday of the month; Witney Methodist Church, on the first Tuesday of the month, and Banbury Town Hall, on the last Friday of the month.
The RBL has also teamed up with other military organisations including Combat Stress and the Regular Forces Employment Agency to give targeted help to current or former servicemen.
It can be support in dealing with bereavement or a disability, finding employment, or coping with financial problems.
As well as advice, the RBL provides grants to former servicemen or women for anything from electrical appliances, mobility scooters, food or even funeral expenses.
In the five months from October 1, 2013, to February 28, 2014, it supported former service people to the tune of £13,000.
Oxfordshire community fundraiser Laura Towell is urging people to help raise more cash this year by getting together with friends for a Poppy Picnic, organising a work place lunch or setting up an Honour Walk.
The official launch of the RBL Poppy Picnic is Saturday, June 21, but they can be held throughout the summer.
They can be held in memory of a family member and can include face painting, sponsored sports events and even a cake sale.
Ms Towell said: “The money raised by the Poppy Picnics is set to have a real impact on the lives of those the Royal British Legion helps. It will provide social, emotional and financial care to current and ex-service personnel and their dependants.
She said the county made an “exceptional effort” in 2013 to raise funds and added: “We are hoping for great things for this centenary year.”
As part of the centenary, the RBL has sent out packs to schools to encourage youngsters to learn more about the landmark and commemorate it in some way.
Businesses can take part by organising their own picnic, or even a pub lunch to raise cash.
On June 1, a Ride for Respect is expecting 10,000 motorcyclists to ride from Abingdon Air Field to Carterton Memorial Bell from 9.30am. Anyone who can help on the day should email ltowell@british legion.org.uk For more, visit poppypicnic.org
Why we wear the poppy with pride
THE Royal British Legion was founded by British veterans in the aftermath of the First World War and it adopted the symbol of the poppy.
During the conflict more than 1.1 million people from across the British Empire lost their lives.
Every November people wear their poppy with pride to remember those service people who have died in conflicts across the globe since the First World War.
On August 4 this year, Britain will mark the day it joined the First World War with a series of commemorative events.
At 10.30am on August 4, people across the country are being urged to light a candle as part of reflection and remembrance, and then they should be blown out at 11am to mark the hour war was declared. Many church services will also take place that day.
For more information, visit britishlegion.org.uk