While the presence of poppies on lapels become more and more prominent in late October and early November, the poppy committee at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 164 is at work throughout the year, looking after the Poppy Trust Fund. The committee includes poppy chairman Bill Demkiw and secretary/treasurer Karen Crashley.
“We are there for the veterans, widows or widowers and dependants of veterans who may be in need of assistance during the year for such things as walkers, wheelchairs, dentures, to name a few,” says Crashley. “Our committee also applies for grants-in-aid for the Remembrance Day parade and service, usually in March each year.”
The committee orders poppies, wreaths and promotional materials for the annual campaign by the end of August, but cannot offer poppies to the community before the last Friday of October or after November 11.
“We purchase 11,000 to 12,000 lapel poppies each year and put 60 trays of poppies with tins in businesses from Lund to Saltery Bay,” explains Crashley. “We do our poppy tagging on the first Friday and Saturday in November and are usually stationed at the various spots in Town Centre Mall, Save-On Foods, Quality Foods and Safeway. The cadets also have spots.”
Crashley says the poppy committee grows by six members in October as people are needed to deliver the poppy trays and tins to the businesses on the last Friday of the month and monitor them for the two weeks they are out.
“We have members looking after the various services that are held at the schools and our local care facilities: Willingdon Creek, Kiwanis Manor and ECU, prior to November 11,” she adds. “Members are needed to help with the parade, the service at Dwight Hall and the ceremony at the cenotaph and wreath laying all on November 11.
According to Crashley, approximately $18,000 is brought in over the two weeks of the poppy campaign and through various donations received from the community.
“This money stays in Powell River, with the exception of a Poppy Assessment, which goes to our BC/Yukon command each year,” says Crashley. “The rest of the money goes to the cost of poppies, wreaths and promotional materials, assistance to veterans, bursaries to local graduating students and campaign expenses.
A poster/literary contest takes place each Poppy Campaign where information is sent to the schools so students can submit black and white posters, colour posters, poems and essays about remembrance. Posters are submitted for primary, junior, intermediate and senior categories; the poems and essays have junior, intermediate and senior categories. All entries must be submitted to the Powell River Legion by November 15.
“These entries are all judged and the first-place winners go on to our zone level for judging by December 15,” explains Crashley. “The first-place winners go on to the provincial command level and the first-place winners at that level will go on the Dominion Command. We have had some young people win at all these levels and it is amazing what they receive for their entries.”
Since there are very few World War II veterans remaining, the local Legion is are embracing younger “new” veterans, who are in need of support within our community.
“You will notice a lot of vehicles around town that have veteran plates on them; I’m sure a lot of them are not Legion members and that is entirely their choice,” says Crashley. “It would be great if these people know that we help veterans in a lot of ways, and you do not need to join the Legion in order to receive assistance from our Poppy Trust Fund.”
Anyone with questions is encouraged to call the Legion at 604.485.4870 between 10 am and 2 pm, Monday to Friday to make enquiries.
“We have a service office that is very helpful and all you need to do is call,” says Crashley. “We also do dinners for veterans in conjunction with our Candlelight Tribute, usually held in May. Veterans can come to this dinner for free, but need to sign up at the Legion.”