Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 President Joyce Norberg pinned the first poppy on Mayor Walt Cobb’s lapel Friday morning, Oct. 28, to officially start the legion’s annual Remembrance Day poppy campaign in Williams Lake.
Volunteers also distributed thousands of poppy pins along with donation boxes to local businesses and community groups. The poppy pins are worn to honour those who serve and have served Canada and to remember those who have died in the service of Canada.
The poppies are given freely but it is also hoped that people will donate generously to raise funds for veterans and their families who are in need as a result of their service.
The Poppy Campaign runs for just 14 days, wrapping up on Thursday, Nov. 10, just before Remembrance Day on Friday, Nov. 11, when people traditionally place their poppies on the Cenotaph outside city hall following the ceremonies.
In that time the local legion hopes to at least match last year’s fundraising efforts on behalf of veterans, Norberg said.
“Joe Bazan is managing the poppy campaign this year and is doing a wonderful job,” Norberg said.
Bazan was busy throughout the day with a team of more than 23 volunteers delivering the poppies, donation boxes, wreaths and crosses to businesses and community organizations where people can pick up a poppy and make a donation for the cause.
The poppy campaign is important, “lest we forget,” Bazan said. “We need to remember those men and women who leave all of their lives behind, and in many cases lose their lives to defend the principles we hold dear.”
Last year Bazan said the poppy campaign raised approximately $20,600 to assist veterans in need.
“We appreciate all of the support local merchants and the community do in supporting the campaign.”
He estimates that more than 100 local volunteers have been involved in preparing for the poppy campaign over the past few months, from making phone calls asking businesses to host poppy boxes, to ordering the poppies and preparing the boxes, to keeping wreaths and crosses in good repair and delivering the poppy boxes to merchants.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6, weekend before Remembrance Day, sea and ranger cadets dressed in uniform will also be out and about in the community with poppy trays.
He hopes the community will give generously.
As older veterans age, their needs become greater and given conflicts around the world today, there are also more younger veterans coming home in need of assistance, Bazan said.
Norberg said people often don’t realize that the poppy fundraising campaign doesn’t just help veterans from the First and Second World Wars but all veterans who are in need.
During the past two years she said 31 younger veterans of conflicts such as Afghanistan and Bosnia have joined the local legion because they recognize the work the legion does for veterans and their families.
In addition to physical injuries that can be seen, she said many veterans are coming home with seemingly invisible injuries.
“In my day when the boys came home they called it shell shock and treatment was to just suck it up and move on,” Norberg said. “Many of the veterans didn’t realize what was the matter with them.”
Today, she said, there is more understanding about the unseen health effects of war we now know as post traumatic stress disorder.
“It is something that needs to be looked after,” Norberg said.
She said poppy funds helped to establish Honour House in New Westminster where veterans and emergency service personnel and their families can stay free of charge while receiving medical care and treatment in the Vancouver area.
More recently Honour Ranch in Kamloops was opened to provide a retreat for veterans and first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, Norberg said, noting she would also like to see an Honour Ranch established in the Williams Lake area.
Funds raised through the poppy campaign also help to support the George Derby Veteran’s Hospital and Care Home in Burnaby.
The legion website and information pamphlets provide more information on how the Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Trust Fund directly supports Canada’s serving and retired veterans and their families, while ensuring Canada never forgets.
The legion provides financial assistance and support to currently serving and retired veterans, including Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP, and their families who are in need.
Poppy funds are held in trust at every level of the legion and the use of these trust funds are strictly controlled for the following uses:
• Grants for food, heating costs, clothing, prescription medication, medical appliances and equipment, essential home repairs and emergency shelter or assistance.
• Housing accommodation and care facilities.
• Funding for veteran transition programs that are directly related to the training, education and support needs of veterans and their families.
• Comforts for veterans and their surviving spouses who are hospitalized and in need.
• Veterans visits, transportation, reading programs and day trips.
• Accessibility modifications to assist veterans with disabilities.
• Educational bursaries for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of veterans.
• Community drop-in centres, meals-on-wheels, and seniors services in communities where veterans would benefit.
• Community medical appliances, medical training and medical research which will assist in the care of veterans in the community.
• Support the work of legion command and branch service officers across Canada in assisting and representing veterans.
• Donations for relief of disasters declared by federal or provincial governments which impact veterans in those communities.
• Promotion and administering of Remembrance activities to ensure Canadians never forget the sacrifices of Canada’s veterans.