GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
It takes a lot of coordination to run the Poppy Campaign.
Each year, Legions across the country get together to distribute the poppy, a flower famously immortalized when John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields, during the First World War. The poppy was officially adopted as a symbol of remembrance in 1921.
In Elmira, Legion member Bill Strauss runs the Poppy Campaign — a task that keeps him quite busy from the last Friday in October until Nov. 11, the period in which poppies are available.
On Oct. 26, the start of the campaign, Strauss was busy organizing driving routes for volunteer drivers who would be distributing poppies to local businesses, along with getting trays ready for the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts who would be canvassing at local stores.
The mail-out campaign has already taken place, with 16,000 poppies sent out to township residents.
In addition to the poppies, the campaign is supported by the donation of money for wreaths that are laid at the Elmira cenotaph during remembrance ceremonies — this year, set for this Sunday, Nov. 4.
“We get very good support from everyone,” said Strauss. “I can’t complain at all.”
Last year, the Elmira Legion was able to distribute $20,425 in money raised through the poppy campaign, in addition to money used to help restore the Elmira cenotaph soldier, now on display at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Strauss must follow a strict set of rules when distributing the poppy funds, with the distribution ultimately approved by the Provincial Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Charities that have benefitted in the past include Community Care Concepts, which provides Meals on Wheels and other supports to seniors in the community, the Royal Canadian Legion Bursary, St. Marys Hospital, Army Cadets, and the Commonwealth Ex-Servicemen League, among others.
Ultimately, the Poppy Campaign is designed to do two things — remind Canadians of the sacrifices that have been made by Canadian soldiers, and to raise money to benefit those soldiers, who are now nearing the end of their lives.
For Strauss, it is an honour to be involved in something that is such an important symbol for our veterans.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Strauss. “I went down with the (poppy) boxes to the Farmers’ Market, and people actually thanked me for doing it. People really feel that the veterans have done so much for us.”
ABOUT THE POPPY
• During the Napoleonic Wars, the poppy drew attention as the mysterious flower that bloomed over the graves of fallen soldiers.
• This phenomenon was immortalized by Guelph native Dr. John McCrae, in his famous poem, In Flanders Fields.
• Two days before the Armistice, Moina Michael, an American, read the poem, and was inspired to wear a poppy year-round, in remembrance.
• Madame E Guérin, after meeting Michael, began selling hand-made poppies to raise money for poor children in war-torn areas of Europe.
• Guérin then managed to convince both Britain and Canada to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, in 1921.
• Today, the Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programs, raising money for veterans.
• The Legion advises that the poppy should be worn on the left lapel of a garment, as close to the heart as possible.