The Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Poppy Campaign poppies. This year the fundraising effort was mixed for local legions which have suffered from financial strain due to COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

The Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Poppy Campaign poppies. This year the fundraising effort was mixed for local legions which have suffered from financial strain due to COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Mixed year for local legions during annual poppy campaign

Some find success, some struggle amidst the pandemic

It was a mixed year for legions within the Comox Valley following their annual poppy campaign earlier this month.

Expectations across the area were low given the COVID-19 pandemic and limited access to retail locations and volunteers, explained Kent Gulliford of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160 in Comox.

“The campaign did start – and I’m going to use the cliche – in unprecedented times. It relies on volunteers and we had no expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised.”

Generally, the legion relies on in-person volunteers at various locations throughout the Town of Comox, particularly at the Comox Centre Mall, but there was no opportunity for that, Gulliford noted. Additionally, their campaign aimed to minimize trips to merchants who had poppy boxes available for donations.

“Our big concern was that our demographic would be most challenged (in getting out), and we were hopeful that we were just able to cover costs. Everyone is struggling … but we had just such an incredible response from the community.”

RELATED: Royal Canadian Legion adjusts to pandemic with electronic poppy sale pilot

Gulliford said their branch is always happy when they can reach about $15,000 during a campaign; last year they reached $18,000. This year, however, they set their sights lower – he admitted $12,000 was their goal.

That was, until, the legion started to get reports back of people coming to the branch office to drop off donations. He said it was noticeable the branch distributed fewer poppies, and therefore they believed fewer donations would come through.

Once members starting tabulating donations, they were very surprised by the total.

“We just couldn’t believe it. We received over $19,000 in community donations. We’re so grateful, and with everything that’s going on in the world, it’s so incredible,” described Gulliford. “We are over-the-moon grateful.”

Funds raised by the campaign are held in trust and are used to support veterans through grants for food, housing medical equipment; comforts for those in hospital; support of cadet units and much more.

At the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 17 in Courtenay, members faced similar challenges for fundraising.

Member Robert McDiarmid who assisted with organizing the campaign said they were understaffed due to an aging membership fearful of COVID-19.

“We were only able to cover about a third of our usual locations (grocery stores, liquor stores, big box and so on). The first week the weather was pleasant and we were able to cover a few shifts (at grocery stores and other retail outlets).”

McDiarmid said during the second week as the weather turned, they were restricted to Costco and Wal-Mart because they allowed members to be inside.

“In total, we had 50 volunteers contribute two or more hours each which included about 10 private citizens who came forward on their own to help out. We also had fewer in-store tribute boxes distributed.”

The total amount raised was not available by deadline.

In Cumberland at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 28, Ward Harrison noted the pandemic also took its toll on their poppy campaign.

Similar to the Courtenay branch, Harrison said the weather also played a role in the lower amount of donations this year. Additionally, they were unable to get the assistance of cadets to help fundraise, but he did add membership renewals for the branch are up overall.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board is concerned about having to fund more than just hospitals like the one in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona board worried over funding more than hospitals

Island Health points to seniors care to reduce demand at acute care sites

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Courtenay area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 is featured at the Feb. 5-13 World Community Film Festival. Photo supplied
First We Eat celebrates resourcefulness of Yukoners

First We Eat: Food Security North of 60 celebrates the ingenuity, resourcefulness… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Investigation at burned Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

“it’s believed that the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby is the deceased”

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Chemainus public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Most Read