Borders couple reach £100,000 poppy target ahead of centenary

PoppyScotland fundraisers Mike and Sheila Stark.
PoppyScotland fundraisers Mike and Sheila Stark.

A Borders couple have poignant reasons to feel proud after raising £100,000 for Poppy Scotland before the centenary of the end of the First World War next year.

Mike and Sheila Stark have been rightly lauded for reaching that milestone target after collecting for the forces charity for 15 years.

The achievement holds special significance for Mike, 82, as his grandfather was killed in France in September 1915, and Sheila, 80, because her grandmother lost a son in the conflict on the last day of the war in 1918.

Mike, Poppy Scotland’s area organiser for Peebleshire since 2002, said: “I knew we were close to breaking the £100,000 this year, and I was confident that we’d smash through the barrier.

“As the Poppy Appeal began to wind down this year, I started to get totals in. Sainsbury’s and Tesco, between them, raised around £3,000.

“The schools always like to know how much they raised, and their total was £961.

“Costa raised over £100, and the garden of remembrance was well over £100 as well, which is a great effort, especially as it was late to go up this year.

“The total from the cadets was £300.

“Even without all of the money added up, I knew that we were well over £100,000.”

Mike, originally from Somerset, added: “We’ve achieved what we wanted to achieve – breaking the £100,000 barrier by 2018.

“Running the Poppy Appeal in Peebles is a very satisfying role.

“When the local Royal British Legion branch needed help, I was happy to get on board, and, for me, it’s all about where the money goes.

“It’s special to know that we are raising money to help support our veterans and their families.”

Sheila, originally from Devon, added: “The poppies have always been so close to me because my grandmother lost a son during the war.

“He died on the last day of the First World War. It was malaria that took him.

“This is how I came to be a part of the Poppy Appeal along with Mike.”

“I do this for what it represents. We’ve been lucky enough to go down to the Cenotaph in London a few times and when you walk past, you just think ‘wow’! That is motivation in itself.”

As well as her collecting duties, for the past five years Sheila has organised an annual coffee morning to raise money for the 15 wreaths laid in each of the local parishes.

Poppy Scotland spokesman Gordon Michie said: “It is incredible that Mike and Sheila have reached this fantastic landmark. We cannot thank them enough for their wonderful fundraising efforts over the past 15-plus years.

“Without the Starks and our volunteers, it wouldn’t be possible to provide our year-round help for Scotland’s armed forces community.”