'Every dollar counts,' Legions in dire need as poppy campaign kicks off
BARRIE, ONT. -- As legion's kick off their annual poppy campaigns, the question remains how the pandemic will affect this year's fundraiser.
With less than two weeks until Remembrance Day, the Barrie Legion officially kicked off its annual campaign Friday morning, but Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard says this year, legions can use all the help they can get.
"Legions across this country are facing a very difficult situation because of COVID-19 and their ability to collect funds," says Brassard.
Brassard, who is also the Shadow Minister for Veteran's Affairs, says the concern is at all levels of Legions, including the national, which he says could see a 50 per cent drop in this year's poppy fund revenue.
"If that happens and we're hoping it doesn't, it means that's less money that goes directly to veterans and their families for the services the legions provide," says Brassard.
One-hundred per cent of funds collected through poppy campaigns go directly to the veterans and their families across the country.
According to Fern Taillefer, the chairperson for the campaign, the legion began accepting donations for the campaign on Wednesday through e-transfers.
But Taillefer adds the legion itself is in dire financial need. While it has enough to keep the lights on for at least the next few months, Taillefer says the worry is what happens if the funds don't come in.
"It's in the back of my mind," says Taillefer. "If we go into another phase 2 and we have to shut the doors down, then it's going to be a possibility that we lose the legion "
This year's campaign is looking to raise about $100,000, but due to safety reasons, traditional fundraising methods, including cadets and veterans canvassing for donations, isn't an option.
So, the Barrie Chamber of Commerce is stepping up.
"We need to support them in a big way," says chamber interim executive director, Paul Markle.
According to Markle, about 50 businesses that generally wouldn't have a donation box now do, and the Chamber is asking those businesses to match dollar for dollar if they can.
"Every dollar counts," says Markle. "Those monies go directly back to our local legion in support of our veterans in our area, so every little bit helps."
Meanwhile, John Tom, the owner of Superior Home Health Care, says the pandemic cancelled his annual veteran's luncheon, which honours those who served.
So instead, he spent thousands on television and radio commercials urging people to donate.
"We can only do so much on our own," says Tom. "Everybody's kind of gotta come together and work on this. It's about the community supporting the legion when they need it."