She has been a stalwart of Portsmouth Poppy Appeal helping the city to raise in excess of £1m for a forces charity in just over a decade.
But after 11 remarkable years at the helm of the city’s annual fundraiser for the Royal British Legion, veterans champion Louise Purcell is stepping down.
Mrs Purcell said she had been blown away each year by the swell of support, with last year’s monumental effort in Portsmouth raising a record-breaking £116,000.
It’s a far cry from the £25,000 sum the city used to generate before the 52-year-old Louise, of Adames Road, Fratton, took the reins.
Mrs Purcell said: ‘I’m absolutely over-the-moon with how the Poppy Appeal has grown.
‘Portsmouth’s support has been overwhelming over all these years, it’s just amazing. I can’t put it into words how much it means to me.
‘Now I just want to go out on a high and I want everyone in the city to help to raise our biggest amount ever.’
This year’s launch took place last month at Tescos, North Harbour and Gosport Town Hall with a march of veterans and standards at Gunwharf Quays.
Grandmother-of-six Louise said she was stepping down from her leadership role after a tough year, which saw her being made redundant from her job at Rowlands Pharmacy and diagnosed with skin cancer on her nose.
Thankfully, she has bounced back from both, clinching a new job working for Boots as a pharmacy deployment manager and having an operation to remove the cancerous growth.
But she said she now wants to spend more time with her family, something she says isn’t always possible when organising yearly Poppy Appeal drives.
‘When I first started I said that once I managed to raise £100,000 in a year that I’d retire – well we hit that about five years ago and it’s just gone from strength to strength.
‘But now I think it’s right for me to step down as a Poppy Appeal organiser. I want to spend more time with my grandchildren and I have to think of my health,’ she said.
The role saw her leading an army of about 60 volunteers and coordinating the cash collections of more than 800 Poppy Appeal tins.
At one point she used to lead Portsmouth Central collection, as well as Hilsea’s and Southsea’s. Now she is just in charge of the central area.
Jim France, the Royal British Legion’s former co-ordinator for Hampshire, has worked alongside Louise and her husband, Chris Purcell – a former Royal Navy veteran who is an ambassador with the charity.
Mr France, who is now the legion’s south east area manager, said: ‘Louise epitomises the legion’s motto of “service not self” and she should be very proud of the difference that her efforts have made to the lives of those who we have supported over the years. She will be a hard act to follow.’
Sarah Ferris, community fundraiser for south Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for The Royal British Legion, said more than 40,000 people volunteered to collect for the Poppy Appeal.
She added: ‘Our amazing volunteers, like Louise, are very much the lifeblood of the Poppy Appeal and it wouldn’t be possible without them.
‘The legion’s vital work is dependent on the public’s generous support and the people of Portsmouth have been incredible in showing their support for the Poppy Appeal and the armed forces.
‘The money raised from the Poppy Appeal in Portsmouth will help the legion continue to provide care and support for today’s armed forces community through hardships, injury and bereavements so please wear your poppy with pride knowing that you are supporting our service and ex-service personnel and their families.’