Every year, millions of people across Canada wear a poppy in a symbolic gesture to “never forget” the brutality of war and to directly support veterans.
But this display of remembrance would not be possible without the efforts of thousands of Legionnaires who volunteer to distribute the biodegradable poppies to schools, community organizations and local businesses.
St. Albert’s Royal Canadian Legion No. 271 is once again gearing up for the annual poppy campaign running Thursday, Oct. 26 to Saturday, Nov. 11. And the legion is asking Legionnaires and individuals in the community to volunteer as partners.
Volunteers are needed to man tables at St. Albert Centre Mall, Canadian Tire and Costco. Teams of two people distribute free poppies, chat with visitors and collect donations to support veterans.
In addition, poppies and donation trays are available at the Legion and throughout the city at numerous local businesses. Volunteers driving vehicles are required to pick up donations at partner locations once per day and replenish poppy stocks as needed.
“The downtown core has been very open. Across St. Albert there are more businesses participating than not. I don’t think there has ever been a business that said 'no,' when we asked if we could deliver a tray,” said Rhonda Egar, St. Albert Legion office administrator.
The campaign launches Oct. 26 as a colour party marches to city hall and presents Mayor Cathy Heron with the first poppy. The outdoor ceremony will also include raising the Lest We Forget flag to mark the start of the campaign.
Tim Penney, St. Albert Legion president, said all funds collected are strictly used to support local veterans and their families.
“We offer student bursaries to veterans’ children and grandchildren. We help veterans with mobility issues, housing and home visits. We just gave $20,000 to the Sturgeon Hospital. We gave $8,000 to the Army Cadets and another $8,000 to the Air Cadets. And we’ve given the Youville up to $10,000,” he said.
Penny notes communication and connection are two benefits Legionnaires and non-military residents can enjoy.
“People are so pleased to talk. It’s a great relationship, especially with kids asking questions.”
Volunteers are given a Legion-inscribed T-shirt and a meal once their shift is completed. Volunteers driving around the city also receive a one-time $60 cheque for gas.
A sign-up sheet is available at the Legion lobby, 6 Tache Street. Alternatively, volunteers can call 780-458-3330.