Chichester Royal British Legion branch could be forced to close

Remembrance Sunday 2013 in Chichester'PICTURE BY MAKAELA PAPWORTH ENGSUS00120131111105556
Remembrance Sunday 2013 in Chichester'PICTURE BY MAKAELA PAPWORTH ENGSUS00120131111105556
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A LACK of new members could force the Chichester branch of the Royal British Legion to close.

Branch president Graham Matthews made the sad announcement at a recent monthly meeting of the club.

Graham Matthews

Graham Matthews

“At the moment I’m extremely concerned and members of the branch concurred with me,” he told the Observer.

“Unless we get new members who become active, then in the foreseeable future we will have to consider requesting Sussex county if we can disband.”

The disbanding of the branch would not mean the end of the poppy appeal in Chichester, which so far has raised more than £51,000 since October for the Royal British Legion.

However the branch of the legion with members coming together monthly to meet and attend events would no longer exist.

The appeal would be run separately by organiser Paul Gaffney.

At the age of 75 himself, Mr Matthews said a number of members were now quite elderly or in poor health, meaning they could not play an active role in the committee.

The branch currently has 38 members, however out of this he estimated the number of active members is in single figures.

“We don’t have a standard bearer at the moment,” said Mr Matthews. “Most of the work is being done by three or four people and I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do it. We desperately need new members.”

Mr Matthews said he hoped by raising the issue it could encourage people to come forward and join up.

“We’ve got to be positive,” he said. “I think if Chichester goes the poppy appeal won’t go because we’ve got a good organiser.

“Most poppy appeals don’t have branches.”

He said it was a ‘great shame’ Chichester did not have people looking to join the branch.

Mr Matthews has been involved with the RBL since leaving the navy in 1979.

He ran the Felpham poppy appeal for 30 years, before stepping into the Chichester appeal in 2012.

Anyone wanting to join can contact Mr Matthews on graham@riverbend.freeserve.co.uk or 01243 823997. He stressed people did not have to be ex -service to join.

Changing trends

ONE of the reasons behind the dwindling branch members is that young people are not joining, according to branch president Graham Matthews.

He said younger people were still active at campaigning and donating, but fewer were likely to actively join up for a club and attend regular meetings – a problem he said was afflicting the majority of charities and community groups.

“It’s systematic of all charities, I think,” he said.

“The younger people tend to not volunteer to join organisations. They do the odd thing but they don’t tend to become members.

“I think that the modern generations tend not to join organisations and the legion is one of those.

“If you look around at how the Women’s Institute are getting on and how are all the other community membership clubs getting on, everyone’s saying they’re struggling to get the younger members.

“It’s symptomatic of the younger generation.”

He said Felpham Parish Council, of which he is a member, had not reached its full quota of councils, having 14 out of 16 spaces filled.

He said it would be sad if some of these organisations continued to struggle with lack of members.

“Hopefully something can be done,” he said.

People might realise the club this problem, he said, and from this design to sign up and help out the branch.

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