An Appleshaw woman has said that volunteering with a veterans group has ‘put light in her eyes’ as she called on north Hampshire residents to support its fundraising.

Sue Cox said that working with Helping Homeless Veterans UK (HHVUK) had given her a “passion” in her life that she had been missing. She has acted as a collection hub for furniture donations to be given to veterans, as well as being a friendly voice for one ex-soldier she’s taken under her wing.

With lockdown easing, the 78-year-old asked for residents with any suitable excess furniture to donate it to the charity, and help veterans in need.

Sue has always been passionate about the military, with her home full of historical accounts, war militaria and battlefield art, especially from the first world war. For a time, the former motorsport photographer owned a second home in Flanders, where she produced painted glass to help raise funds for war memorials.

“World War One is my passion,” she said. “I would spend as many weeks as possible there while I was working and then 12 weeks when I retired.”

However, following health troubles, Sue was forced to return to the UK permanently, where she found herself at a loose end.

She said: “Because I had 2 minor strokes a couple of years ago, I had to sell my home in the battlefields of the First World War. A major part of my interest was taken away, and I was freewheeling for some time without having a passion in my life. I need a passion.”

Towards the end of 2020, she came across HHVUK, a group which provides accommodation, furniture and necessities for veterans at risk of being homeless. “It gave me something to get my teeth into,” Sue said. “It gave me an interest that had been lacking.”

Having spare furniture from her home in Flanders, Sue decided to get involved in supporting HHVUK by spreading the word in the village, as well as collecting furniture donations from house clearances and residents.

She said: “Because I cannot drive around and pick up furniture, I haven’t the physical ability to do that, I’m a drop off point. Because I’ve got a reasonable driveway, as soon as lockdown is over they [HHVUK] can clear me out and start again.”

Since the third national lockdown, collections have been unable to happen, with her conservatory full of large items of furniture. However, she says as restrictions ease, the group have cleared the collections with police, and so she is looking for residents to start donating again.

“If you’re setting up your son or daughter in their first flat, everything that would be needed would be very welcome,” she said. “That’s provided it’s in the condition you’d live with yourself, not skip-worthy.

“I will keep them packed with what I have, then it can be shipped down”.

In particular, she said that “good-sized” mugs are “most in need”, saying that modern mugs are “too dinky” for veterans.

This is one of the lessons she has learned from working with a Scottish veteran, who she has regular calls with as a friendly voice to listen to him.

“I never turn a call down,” she said. “I’m not a trained psychiatrist but I have the experience of talking to people. After a 20-minute conversation they leave laughing and smiling and joking. It’s extremely satisfying.”

She said she had taken the 67-year-old veteran, who she affectionately calls ‘Lump’, under her wing.

“I’m not going to let him leave that position,” she said. “Meeting Lump like a godsend. It put light in my eyes. We struggle to define our relationship, and the best we can say is mother and son. I’d adopt him if I could.”

As lockdown restrictions ease, Sue hopes that she can receive even more donations, and help add to the 112 veterans HHVUK has helped since its foundation in 2019.

If you have any excess furniture you would like to donate, please contact Sue on 07889 719412 to drop it at Woodhaze, Barncroft, Appleshaw.