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Column: So, what exactly does the Legion do with all that poppy money?

As Gisele Pharand, the chair of the Poppy Committee at the Minnow Lake Legion, explains, poppy donations do more than show your support for Legion members
What happens to the money collected for poppies at this time of year? Legion volunteer Gisele Pharand answers that question. (Supplied)

October is here and it’s a wonderful time of the year. The fall colours are becoming more apparent and here at the Legion we are busy preparing for the most important time of our year. 

Poppy tagging time is on the horizon and everyone is hard at work. As Zone H3 public relations officer, I wanted to answer a commonly asked question: What happens to the money that the Legion collects?

Poppy funds are made available through the generosity of the Canadian public and are part of the public trust between Canadians and the Legion. The basic purpose and obligation of the Poppy Trust Fund is to assist veterans and their families. 

Poppy season runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 31 of the following year. It is the foundation of our Remembrance program. 

Consider the importance of the Poppy Campaign. The Legion and its members are the Guardians of Remembrance and the lines from John McCrae’s poem, “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Field,” are as true today as they were on May 3, 1915, when he wrote them.

As a result of the generosity of the citizens of Sudbury and district, we are able to ensure veterans and their families are cared for and treated with the respect they deserve.

Zone H3 covers a large area. To the north, we have branches in Chelmsford and Onaping. To the west, we have branches in Espanola, Little Current and Gore Bay. Heading down Highway 69, we have a branch in Britt and one in Parry Sound. Locally, we have a branch in Noelville, Capreol, Falconbridge, South End and Minnow Lake.

The following is a tally of the money collected and how it was disbursed in our area.

During the 2015-2016 campaign, and including the sales of wreaths and poppies, we collected $201,646. To everyone, we send out a big “Thank You.”

This income allowed us to support the following groups:

  • Veterans: $28,895
  • Bursaries: $8,500
  • Youth education: $6,087
  • Veterans dinners: $800
  • Housing/care facilities: $18,000
  • Vets homeless program: $500
  • Charitable Fund: $4,200  
  • Northeast Cancer Care: $18,500
  • Parry Sound Hospital: $100
  • Sea Cadets: $2,300
  • Army Cadets: $12,550
  • Sam Bruno Pet Scan Fund: $20,000
  • Meals on Wheels: $2,000
  • Disaster Relief: $9,750

As you can see, the numbers are impressive. The numbers for Ontario are also worth looking at. We have 403 branches with a membership of 100,000 people in the province.  

Donations from the poppy funds to our veterans and their dependents totalled $800,814.  Additional funds spent on vets programs totalled $ 306,000.  Money spent on medical equipment and research totalled more than $1.3 million. Seniors programs totalled more than $341,000.

Our Ontario Provincial Command branches and Ladies Auxiliary Charitable Foundation approved $449,094 to Ontario communities in 2016.

Since its inception in 1979, donations of more than $15,837,600 were given to various hospitals, health clinics, seniors homes and charities. With more than $1.6 million, our youth programs were not forgotten. 

Total donations to the Homeless Veterans Program (Sudbury being was the first community in Northern Ontario to get off the ground) totalled over $ 1,550,000 and helped 500 veterans.

Legion members annually put in more than 422,200 volunteer hours.

In closing, I wanted to thank each and every one of you who wear a poppy. Without you, none of this would be possible. As a member of the Legion, I encourage everyone to get involved. 

In my next column, I look forward to showcasing all our branches and the amazing people who give tirelessly of their time. 

Gisele Pharand is the Poppy Committee chair for Legion Branch 76 in Minnow Lake. Northern Life is running a series of three columns on the Legion leading up to Nov. 11.


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