Age, inflation make it difficult to make ends meet
While supporting Canada's veterans is a year round effort for the Calgary Poppy Fund and Veteran's Food Bank, the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day are key to raising the money required to carry out that task.
Last year the non-profit organization, which operates under the auspicious Royal Canadian Legion, raised $2.5 million and used the money to provide support to veterans — and their families — in need.
"Our primary focus is providing emergency assistance," says Joey Bleviss, the Calgary Poppy Fund's chief administrative officer. "This includes things such as shelter, food, utility bills, prescription medicine, glasses, and at times, transportation."
The bulk of the organization's donations are raised during an annual fundraising campaign that runs from late September to December and includes Remembrance Day poppy boxes.
A large part of the funds raised go towards supporting the Veteran's Food Bank. Donations are used to stock food hampers with $350 worth of food. Designed to last recipients for two months, each hamper also includes a $300 gift card for meat, dairy and fresh produce.
Bleviss says there is a steady and significant need for the assistance the poppy fund provides in the Calgary area.
"For many veterans, their pensions haven't necessarily kept up with the rate of inflation," Bleviss says.
Any veteran in need
The Calgary Poppy Fund has a mandate to help local veterans who may not otherwise qualify for government assistance.
"Veterans Affairs Canada only looks after those veterans who served with the Canadian Armed Forces," Bleviss says.
"We look after not only those veterans who are from Canada, but also those who were allies of Canada and members of Commonwealth countries."
Assistance is also extended to former members of the RCMP, as well as those who served with the Merchant Navy.
Bleviss says that the number of individuals who obtain assistance from the Calgary Poppy Fund and Veteran's Food Bank varies from month to month. On average, he estimates approximately 75 food hampers per month are given out.
"In July alone, we provided assistance to 189 people," Bleviss says. "We provided 65 food hampers with an approximate value of $22,000."
Bleviss says $20,000 in food vouchers and $29,000 for medical and household needs was also given out in July.
The seven local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion kicked off their own poppy campaigns on Oct. 25. Last year Centennial branch No. 285 — the city's largest — raised $255,000 for the poppy fund in the two weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.
Doug Boyd, the branch's manager, says that the short duration of the poppy campaign means that recruiting volunteers to help out is key.
"We only have about 15 days to raise the funds," Boyd says. "Whatever we raise has to do us the year, because we only can do it those two weeks and then we are done."
In addition to poppy boxes, financial donations to the Calgary Poppy Fund can be made online.
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- By KARRY TAYLOR