After what can only be described as the Christmas mayhem it’s now time to think of the year ahead. First and formost to thankyou letters, I am a stickler for these as they show  the people that have donated that we do not take them for granted and what they give is very much appreciated, these can also pay dividends in the future, I usually do a bog standard letter and alter it to suit the donator/ donators. It is also time to don my begging hat, I put out appeals for any unwanted Christmas gifts to use as tombola prizes in the future, this usually pays off well.
Having discarded the Christmas label it’s time for me to start printing our Troops details onto the normal SOS label and to start thinking about fund raising for the year. I always do the usual Supermarket letters and hope for replies from such, I am always on the look out for new places to put SOS collecting tins as well, sometimes these will only be full of coppers but every little helps as they say. I also send out letters to women’s groups, scouts, brownies and retirement homes etc and ask if I can go along and give a talk about our charity, I really enjoy doing this and it gets the word around to people who have never heard of us, the retirement homes are a pleasure to visit, the residents after all have lived through wars and conflicts and love listening to you, I have made many friends at these homes and visit them once a month, it is not unusual for them to have a pile of goodies for me to send out to our lads and lassies, I always put a note in the boxes saying who has donated the goodies and I know they have had replies, one dear old lady was in floods of tears and couldn’t wait to tell me about her letter.
I have my begging hat on at all times, people in Dudley had never heard of SOS when I took on the role of A/C but they certainly have now, ( I swear some people walk the other way when they see me coming LOL ) I collect books all year round and anything that can be used on a tombola including any items that are unsuitable for our boxes, e.g. large size toiletries and aerosols, these are all used on what is my favourite day of the year, Armed Forces Day, I am very lucky to have an awesome venue for this day, an old historic building with beautiful grounds in which to pitch our stall and gazebo, it is where Edward and Mrs Simpson went to be out of the public eye.
Dudley council are very good to me, they let me choose my spot in the grounds as I have attended every year and always write and thank them for putting on a wonderful display, so far the weather has been very kind to us and my amazing team of helpers always come up trumps, last year we loaded 4 cars with merchandise, books, raffle prizes and indeed anything we could make money out of, all this led to us raising over £1800.00 in one day which still amazes me.
Armed Forces Day to me is what we are all about, it is the day we get to meet some amazing people, lads who have been injured out in Afghan who come over to talk to us, lads from the Mercians who have received our parcels and come over to say thank you and give you a kiss, it brings to mind just why we do what we do, not for any monetary gain but we believe that our Armed Forces deserve all the support and respect we can give them.
I cannot say an A/C’s role is an easy one, but is it worthwhile? I can surely say it is, not all events are successful, weather can be against us sometimes but the satisfaction of meeting so many lovely people and spreading the gospel according to SOS gives you a feeling of much pride in what you do. I am very proud that no one in our charity gets paid a wage and I always state this when giving a talk, it is the main reason I joined and stay with SOS. I am always on the look out for fund raising ideas which are a bit different and this year will be just the same, hard work but at the same time very enjoyable and most satisfying.
Hazel XX

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