By Lethbridge Herald on November 26, 2020.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lethbridge Royal Canadian Legion General Stewart Branch 2020 Poppy Campaign has exceeded expectations.
While the final numbers are still trickling in, this year’s campaign has received $98,823.63 as of Wednesday, said Glenn Miller, co-chair of public relations for General Stewart Branch 4.
Those exceeded totals came from the usual southern Alberta generosity as well as the ability for the public to make electronic donations this year with a new tap-to-donate at a poppy box option through the campaign’s national partners, HSBC, and a text-to-donate program.
“Last year we received just over $90,000 and that was the goal this year,” said Miller. “We didn’t want to reduce the goal because there are still needs and in the COVID environment we anticipate needs. We have roughly 300 veterans within our membership, but there are many more veterans in the community who could use help. They can ask for assistance. You don’t need to be a member of the branch. Just identify yourself as a veteran through our service officer.”
This year’s Poppy Campaign was helped immensely due to large donations totalling $25,000.
Three came in partnership of donors with the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta in the amount of $21,000 and another from Cor Van Raay for $10,000.
The others were in amounts of another $10,000 and $1,000. Those two donors wished to remain anonymous.
In addition the Lethbridge United Services Institute made a $4,000 donation.
“So overall, the level of support has been overwhelming in a COVID environment and it’s through that generosity of Canadians that we can address veterans’ needs as a poppy committee.”
New this year was the text-to-donate program.
“We don’t have those numbers yet, but that is still active until the end of November and then provincial command will shut that off and disperse those monies to the various branches,” said Miller. “In our branch, and you can also donate online through our website (http://www.lethbridgelegion.ca), we raised $1,700 through that means.”
Also new this year was the HSBC tap-to-donate.
“There’s one in each branch across Canada. We have one here stationed at Park Place Mall at the Shoppers Drug Mart. To date it has raised $1,735.39,” said Miller. “But all that money didn’t necessarily happen through the Poppy Campaign. We brought it back after to help educate our members and the public who are visiting the Legion what it looks like and how it works. So we actually received approximately $1,000 since the Poppy Campaign finished here at the branch by people simply donating with the tap method.”
Miller said HSBC will assess the outcome of this year’s campaign and decide what to do going forward.
“But through their generosity that was an untapped resource that we’ve talked about for many years, in a cashless society to help people make a donation. So they stepped up to the plate and helped us as an organization. So we look forward to seeing how the campaign ran from their perspective.”
Miller said over 454 poppy boxes were distributed by 14 volunteers on Tag Day.
“Normally we have a lot of youth involved, but because of COVID this year they did not participate for everyone’s safety,” he said. “At the end of Tag Day, I went out to some of the bigger stores just to see how many people were walking in and past the poppy box and how many were walking out with poppies and very few actually were. We encourage people that when you see a poppy, look down to see if you’re wearing one, not just on Remembrance Day. It helps to show everyone you’re thinking of veterans throughout the whole campaign.”
Another part of this year’s Poppy Campaign was the chance for people to thank the veterans with a card.
“We had some students from a local high school drop off some homemade cards. All of these efforts make a difference to veterans, especially because they are locked down,” said Miller.
With the Poppy Campaign complete, the Legion turns its attention to The Legion Poster and Literary contest with deadline for submissions on Tuesday.
Miller said the number of entries submitted so far is the lowest in recent memory.
“Normally we would have 300 or 400 by this time. So I would strongly encourage parents to take the time in the next few days to have a student participate. They can drop off their submission along with the entry form on Friday, Saturday or Tuesday here at branch.”
The branch is closed Monday.
Local winners be submitted for advancement through the district and province, said Miller, adding the Legion has two national winners, one in a colour poster contest and the other with a poem.
“The colour poster hangs in the Memorial Hall at the General Stewart Branch 4 and the poem is in bronze located beside the cenotaph,” said Miller. “So you never know what talent is out there. Don’t ever think you’re not good enough. Think of the chance you’re missing by not applying. We encourage everyone to apply and make a submission.”
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter