Canadian Legions feel crunch for volunteers during poppy campaign
Kristin Andrews, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2012 11:31AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 7, 2012 10:51PM EST
With Remembrance Day just days away, some of Canada’s Royal Canadian Legions say low membership enrolment has had them scrambling to find volunteers for their annual poppy campaigns.
A symbol of remembrance for the men and women who have risked their lives to fight for our country, many Canadians don the red-and-black flower on their left lapel ahead of Nov. 11.
And while the Royal Canadian Legion has managed the poppy campaign since 1921, in recent years, legions have found themselves consistently in need of more and more volunteers come the end of October.
“The Legion hasn’t had the greatest membership renewals in the past 30 years,” says Inga Kruse, executive director at the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command. “People think you need to be a veteran to join.”
That simply isn’t true, says Kruse. The requirements for Legion memberships are easy: You must be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant over the age of 18.
“The problem is that people from the public don’t realize they can actually volunteer to canvas poppies,” says Kruse. “If they want to give two hours to veterans they can come in and get a poppy tray, as long as they can provide ID.”
To make up for the lack of volunteers, the Royal Canadian Legion of British Columbia developed a text donation system, which was tested at a recent BC Lions game.
“We had great success with the text donations because if people didn’t see a poppy person in the concourse, they could just go to their seat and text a donation to the poppy fund,” says Kruse.
And despite low volunteer numbers, Kruse says Canadian support for the campaign is actually growing.
“The total collections in the last five years have been around $3.1 million across the province,” says Kruse.
And on the other side of the country, Betty McLachlan, provincial secretary for the P.E.I. Legion says they’re also in need of volunteers ahead of Remembrance Day.
“We need people to deliver wreaths, speak in schools and canvas poppies,” she said. “It’s just a very busy time of year.”
Volunteers are in high demand to keep up with the outpouring of support for Canada’s troops, McLachlan says.
But not all branches of the Legion are feeling the crunch.
“As far as we’re concerned our poppy campaign has never been better,” said Bruce Poulin, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command in Ottawa.
“In terms of numbers we’re looking at 18 million poppies that are going to be worn this year,” said Poulin. “And $13 million (in support funds) dispersed to veterans after the fact.”