Halfway through its 2021 campaign, the Brandon Poppy Fund has distributed more than $24,000 raised last year to local organizations.
The Poppy Fund, with collection boxes dispersed throughout the community, started accepting donations on Oct. 29. Poppies will be available for purchase by donation until Thursday.
Most of the funds raised from the campaign go to support veterans and their families, but donations are also distributed locally.
“We have a lot of young veterans that we need to take care of,” said Cindy Stumme, president of the Brandon Royal Canadian Legion Branch 3. “Supports are needed for them.”
Organizations can request funding through the local Poppy Fund committee. The funds — once approved by the committee, legion general membership and province — are presented in early November during the campaign.
“It lets the community know the money they’re giving for poppies here in Brandon stays right here in Brandon to help people living here,” Stumme said.
Last year was challenging for the Poppy Fund due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 2020 saw a dip in fundraising compared to previous years.
The decrease in funds was largely driven by the fact they were unable to have volunteers out in the community, and the legion was working to adapt the Poppy Fund accordingly. Some grocery stores agreed to conduct a point of sale for the poppies and the partnership proved fruitful.
The success of the collaboration with local grocery stores allowed the legion to expand the Poppy Fund this year.
“Hopefully, our numbers will be back up and we can provide more support out there,” Stumme said. “We still can’t have our volunteers sitting out there with the poppies. Many, many businesses have stepped up, so we’re very hopeful that it’s going to be a healthy poppy year and we’ll be able to support the community and the organizations that take care of us all.”
Deputy fire Chief Jason Potter said the $2,300 donation from the Poppy Fund is a welcomed contribution to Brandon Fire and Emergency Services.
“It provides equipment and it provides vital assets that help out the members of the city,” Potter said.
St. John Ambulance received $1,020 from the Poppy Fund. Program co-ordinator Jadee Webster said the donation will help buy much-needed equipment, including the mannequins used to run first-aid courses. Funds also support other programs, including sales, community service and therapy dog training.
Webster added St. John Ambulance is facing an increasingly busy time as COVID-19 public health measures are lifted. Many people let their first-aid courses lapse during the pandemic and there is now an increased demand as people look to learn these skills.
“We’re starting to see an influx of people coming in to get training,” Webster said. “We’re always looking for volunteers to become first-aid responders.”
A $1,500 donation to Prairie Oasis will assist that organization’s relaunch of its Meals on Wheels program, said executive director Amanda Fast. It had been on hiatus due to the pandemic.
“This is us starting to get going again and trying to find the funds to do so,” Fast said. “We have been closed, so we haven’t been bringing [in] any form of revenue.”
She added along with raising funds, the organization is also looking to recruit volunteers to help with the program.
The donation will help in purchasing new equipment, along with covering the rising costs of gas and groceries.
Meals on Wheels is predominantly geared toward seniors and people living with disabilities, she said, helping them access healthy food and giving them a break from meal prep.
“They can just focus on all the other tasks in their day,” Fast said.
Stumme said the legion is hoping community members will attend the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Keystone Centre on Thursday. Proof of full vaccination will be required.
A live-stream will also be available on WCGtv.
“It’s still going to be a little different, what everyone is calling a new normal,” Stumme said.
“I hope everyone takes some time to stop and remember.
“Canadians need ... to be able to stop, pause and remember those who gave it all so we can enjoy all that we do today.”
» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp
Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun