By KEN JACKSON
Special to the Driftwood
As a veteran of service in Canada’s Reserves and a leader of the Legion’s poppy and Remembrance activities, I’ll share with you some of my insights and experiences about how we’re using donations for poppies and wreaths here on Salt Spring.
First, an important point of clarity. All funds collected by Canada’s Legions are held in trust on behalf of the donors in a segregated Poppy Fund. The distribution of any of those funds is highly regulated, with layers of oversight. They can be used only for approved projects meeting provincial and national standards. They cannot be used for any other Legion operational needs, (e.g. rent or salaries).
This year is my 10th year involved with the Poppy Campaign, most of those years as a “tagger” on the streets, more recently as a program overseer and a Legion executive member with input on spending proposals. Each year, I can still proudly say how amazed I am at the support and generosity of Salt Spring’s residents for our Poppy Campaign.
To honour that support, in 2023, the Salt Spring Legion Branch #92 membership has approved the distribution of over $10,000 in approved Poppy funds, with an additional $5,000 approved for further distribution in the first quarter of 2024. There were three educational bursaries of $1,000 to descendants of Veterans, and two allotments of $1,000 in support of “Quilts of Valour” for the provision of a handmade poppy-themed quilt to eligible Salt Spring veterans.
Most significant for the Salt Spring community this year, we have recently dispersed $5,000 to Veterans House Victoria, with $5,000 more approved for early 2024. Veterans House Victoria provides vital transitional housing to Canadian veterans who need a helping hand with housing and support programs as they work towards securing more permanent living arrangements.
The non-profit society managing Veterans House Victoria also provides an array of outreach support to Canada’s veterans of any age or service in need, including ready-to-go “apartment packs.” These packs are readily available to transitioning veterans who, when homeless or displaced, often have very few household possessions needed when moved into housing. Each provides basic household items such as a complete bedding set, toaster and kettle, cooking and dining supplies as well as bathroom needs. It’s not hard to imagine that the value to the individual in need greatly exceeds the cost of providing it, supported entirely through Poppy Fund donations and the Legion Foundation.
My annual challenge to the Salt Spring community is to proudly wear a poppy in memory of those who have served and to honour those serving today, in the forces and the RCMP. For this year, the 102nd year of Canada’s adoption of the Poppy as the official symbol of Remembrance, I also once again encourage everyone to take a step beyond making a donation, and to get involved personally in a program or activity of Remembrance.
For example, last year I had the privilege of interviewing a number of Girl Guide Pathfinders who had undertaken veteran research within their own families. They shared with me stories, photos and memories they had learned from family elders who were all too eager to see their children and grandchildren interested in them, and for learning more about their own family.
The common trait that each interview revealed to me is that few of the Pathfinders interviewed had any prior knowledge of the stories and memories they shared. It brought to mind just how important that our trademark phrase “Lest We Forget” is to be put into practice in our homes.
Please take a moment to honour the memory of the family pictures of veterans in your albums and on your mantle tops by sharing your memories of them with the younger generations in your family. Bring the meaning of the poppy symbol as a remembrance of service and sacrifice to life.
And wear your poppy with pride. “We Shall Remember Them.”