DESPICABLE thieves who snatched Poppy Appeal collection boxes from a leisure centre have been branded as “disgusting”.
Police are investigating after two British Legion Poppy Appeal charity containers were stolen from the reception area of Mill House Leisure Centre, in Raby Road, Hartlepool.
It has shocked fundraisers and the services community, who have been busy launching this year’s Poppy Appeal, ahead of Remembrance Sunday this week.
Sian Cameron, British Legion poppy sales co-ordinator for Hartlepool, said: “I just think it’s disgusting behaviour.
“Whether there was 2p in the box or £20, the people that put money in the boxes wanted to support the British Legion, not to support a thief.
“People work hard for their money and they are very generous giving that money.
“But it is disgusting to think a thief thinks it’s okay to steal it.
“It’s just disrespectful to what the Poppy Appeal stands for.”
Sian, 30, started this year’s Poppy Appeal early, having taken delivery of 65,000 poppies and is selling them throughout 227 outlets across Hartlepool.
She had been hoping the early start would help her beat her total for a third year running since taking over from her late father Ian, who had devoted seven years to raising cash for the Royal British Legion, before his sudden death in August 2010.
Sian originally stepped in “as a one-off” to ensure her dad’s good work was continued and that the Legion received donations from Hartlepool to add to the millions of pounds it collects each year across the country.
But she quickly decided to take on the role full-time in his memory, first breaking his all-time record and then beating her own total by more than £1,700 last year when she collected almost £46,000.
Her hard work and dedication earned her the title of 2012 Fundraiser of the Year at the Mail’s Pride of Hartlepool awards.
Sian, who fits in her Poppy Appeal work around her full-time job as a management secretary for the Billingham-based training organisation NETA, added: “This is a bit of a blow to the good work that has already gone on.
“Everyone I have mentioned it to is absolutely appalled by it.”
Her view was shared by Andrew Drake, manager of the Royal British Legion north, said: “We are deeply disappointed by the theft of these poppy collection boxes.
“This loss will deprive those in the service and ex-service community and their families of very much needed assistance and support from the legion.”
The theft is said to have taken place around 3.30pm on Saturday, October 27.
It is not known how much money was in the boxes.
A 31-year-old man has been charged with theft and bailed to appear at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court later this month.