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Poppy Campaign to launch October 30 with COVID-19 precautions in place

October 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

It’s a very different year for Royal Canadian Legions across the country as they head into their Poppy Campaign and host Remembrance Day Ceremonies.

The Royal Canadian Legion’s Dominion Command, which represents all Canadian Legions, has advised against setting up in-person for the Poppy Campaign (unless safe to do so), starting October 30 and discourages spectators for ceremonies on November 11 due to COVID-19’s recent resurgence in Canada.

In terms of campaigning in-person, Branch 171 in Alliston has found a creative way of facilitating transactions safely, with social distancing, by pinning poppies to a military boot and allowing people to select one, before dropping a donation inside it.

“We thought how can we do it standing back six feet and still have people drop money in the thing, so the [Poppy Committee] held a meeting and we came up with the idea,” says Mary Ann Edwards, Br. 171 President.

“We’re saying ‘watch out for the boot’ because it’s a boot this year. We’re still putting boxes in the stores that will allow us, but it’s going to be different, really different.”

The Alliston branch typically fundraises between $30,000 and $50,000 from its Poppy Campaign, but Edwards said it’s going to be difficult to raise that total with this year’s restrictions and the public being out less.

All the money raised through Legions’ Poppy Campaigns goes towards supporting the country’s nearly 650,000 veterans and their families.

“It’s important to remember our veterans, there’s a lot living on the streets that we’re trying very hard to get them off of, but they do go through a lot of turmoil, the veterans,” Edwards said.

She told The Times because the Legion can’t have its annual Remembrance Day dinner, volunteers will be delivering dinners to veterans in Alliston instead.

“We really wanted to do something because we felt that they were going to be left out,” she explained.

Over in Tottenham, the Br. 329 Legion will have volunteers setting up boxes at stores and safely campaigning with social distancing and masks in hopes of raising funds for local veterans and the programs that support them.

Br. 329 President Gary Brown said they’ve been able to raise around $30,000 in the years past, but will be lucky to surpass $15,000 this season due to COVID-19.

“This is our fundraiser for the year. This is the one where we raise all the money to give back to the veterans to maintain the lifestyle they should get, where it’s lacking in some parts of the government or Veterans Affairs not giving it to them quick enough,” Brown said.

“Whatever comes shortfall we will then give it to them, so this is a very important part of our year.”

Brown told The Times it’s important to commemorate and honour Canadians who have lost their lives fighting for the country and those who are active in conflicts around the world today.

“Remembrance Day is the most important day of the year to not only the Legion but to a lot of individuals who remember their fallen comrades that have gone on before them,” Brown said. “Wearing the poppy is the most important thing…I just hope it’s a successful campaign and I just hope everybody stays safe.”

The Br. 421 Legion in Beeton is exercising extra precaution this year, having shut down last week due to the outbreak at Simcoe Manor, currently impacting 30 residents and 19 staff.

“We know there’s lots of places that are being impacted more than the little village of Beeton with COVID, but the outbreak at the Manor has hit home quite significantly,” said Br. 421 President, Chris Miller. “That’s the reason we shut down to try and be proactive in reducing it.”

With Beeton’s population around 4,000, Miller noted that his Town could be considered a coronavirus hot spot due to its high rate of infection per capita.

The Poppy Campaign will still go forward in Beeton but solely with boxes in stores. There will be no campaigning of any kind.

Miller told The Times he was excited about finally getting a Tim Hortons in Town, not because of the coffee, but as another location to stand in front of to campaign. However, that won’t be possible this year.

The Beeton Legion raises anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 from the Poppy Campaign, but Brown says it’s going to be very difficult to raise funds without campaigning in-person this year.

“I know personally I’ve stood out in front of Foodland here in Beeton and you can do $400 to $500 in three or four hours, but you’re never going to do that in a box sitting in a store,” he said.

Brown said without the Poppy Campaign and the community’s support, little legions like the one in Beeton wouldn’t be able to support their local veterans.

“It’s the single most important fundraiser for any Legion, because, let’s face it, that’s why we’re there is to support our veterans and veterans’ families,” he stressed.

“Without the Poppy Campaign those people are going to suffer dramatically.”

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


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