National Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1 to 7, celebrates the tireless work of people like Poppy Appeal organiser Sian Cameron

SIAN Cameron never intended to get involved in the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal in Hartlepool, it had always been the passion of her father Ian.

But when he died suddenly in 2010 during a holiday in Spain, having headed the Poppy Appeal in the town for many years, she knew what she had to do.

"I just phoned up the Royal British Legion and offered to take over – now I’m in my seventh year,” Sian says.

"It was a shock to lose him, but I know this is what he would’ve wanted."

Sian, from Wolviston, has already cleared a space in her loft in preparation for the 2017 campaign, when she will give up two weeks of her own free time, working 14-hour days to raise money for veterans and their families.

In fact, Sian, 35, has even had her loft converted and fully boarded out so she can accommodate 60,000 poppies every year.

She says: “My dad had a big four-bedroom house, it was easier for him. Most people have Christmas in their loft, but I’ve got the Poppy Appeal.”

Sian works as a Centre Support Manager for the NETA Training Group at Stockton Riverside College, and they have been very supportive.

She says: “60,000 poppies get delivered to my office and nobody bats an eyelid. A lot of my colleagues get involved in the Poppy Appeal, and the college have also given me great support.

“My dad was so proud to be the Poppy Appeal Organiser, that’s why I took over and did the first one in his memory, and I’ve been here ever since.

"He was only 61 when he died – he used to stand in the Middleton Grange shopping centre every day during the appeal, raising as much money as he could for our veterans.

"He ran his own taxi firm for 40 years and was well-known in Hartlepool having stood in the local elections, too. But the appeal is the legacy that he has left. Mind you, I’m raising more money than he did, so we must be doing something right.”

Ian took the annual campaign from generating about £15,000 to raising more than £30,000, but Sian now raises in excess of £50,000 in the town every year.

She says: “I have friends who travel from Wales and Northampton just to help me out during the appeal, whilst colleagues from work use some of their annual leave so they can help out, too. I’m very lucky in that respect, I have a proper army of volunteers from all walks of life, young and old.

"We basically flood the town with poppies, and the Army Cadets are very helpful, too, and it’s great to have young people involved. They’re acutely aware of what a difference the donations make to brave veterans and their families.”

But Sian says it’s the generosity of spirit in Hartlepool has kept her coming back year after year.

“The generosity in the town is unbelievable, some of the people living there don’t have a great deal, but it’s amazing how generous people are during the Poppy Appeal, they would give you their last penny.

“The volunteers can’t believe it - it’s not unusual to see people handing over a twenty pound note in exchange for a paper poppy. They’re just incredible.”

With five months to go, the Cameron loft is already set up for another successful campaign.

Sian says: “I get to meet some amazing people doing the Poppy Appeals, and lots of them talk to me about my dad, they still remember him, it’s really touching. My dad was a fabulous man and I am very proud of him – I hope he’s proud of me, too.”

*Volunteers’ Week is an annual event which takes place at the start of June. It celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK and is run by NCVO in partnership with Volunteer Development Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.