Is there anyone who epitomises the Royal British Legion’s motto of ‘service, not self’ more than Louise Purcell? For the past 11 years, she has worked tirelessly as head of Portsmouth’s Poppy Appeal to raise as much money as possible to help veterans and their families.
What a huge difference she has made with her energy and enthusiasm. Before she took the reins the city's Poppy Appeal used to generate £25,000. Last year Louise and her amazing team raised a record-breaking £116,000.
We all know the people of Portsmouth are a generous lot. We look after our own here, never more so than if they are ex-servicemen and women. Nowhere else appreciates the armed forces quite like this city. But it has taken Louise's drive and organisational skills to ensure people can show their support for the Poppy Appeal in increasing numbers.
The Portsmouth appeal has been run, appropriately, like a military operation, with Louise leading a small army of about 60 volunteers and coordinating the cash collected in more than 800 Poppy Appeal tins spread around the city.
Perhaps when you've given your donation in return for a poppy, you've not really given a thought to what happens to your money afterwards. But it's people like Louise whose work behind the scenes ensure it gets to where it's needed.
After a tough year which saw her lose her job and be diagnosed with skin cancer, 52-year-old Louise, a grandmother of six, has made the decision to stand down from her Poppy Appeal role. We agree with Jim France, the Royal British Legion’s south east area manager, who said: ‘She will be a hard act to follow.’
Wouldn't it be great to send Louise out on a high by raising the city's biggest-ever amount? We have every faith the people of Portsmouth will do all they can to make that happen.