• Nick Zacharias

A Poppy Drive to remember


Chairman of the Poppy Committee John Delgarno, left, and Hudson Legion President Rod Hodgson appeared in full uniform (masks included) at the newly commissioned, one-of-a-kind commemorative bench at Place Vimy on Beach road in Hudson October 27 to share the message of the importance of donations for this year’s poppy drive.

As November fast approaches, the volunteers from the Hudson branch of the Royal Canadian Legion have been hard at work preparing trays of Remembrance Day Poppies as they dutifully do every year to support veterans, but this year it will play out a little differently due to the challenges of COVID-19.

“We won’t be able to be there in person like we normally are, but we will still be distributing poppies to raise money for the veterans,” said Chairman of the Poppy Committee John Delgarno.

Social Distancing

Usually the Poppy Drive involves a large gathering of volunteers at the Legion Branch #115 hall to do the work of assembling mountains of trays of poppies to offer to the public. Said Delgarno, “This year the volunteers worked separately or earlier in very small groups, wearing masks and distancing to get the job done safely.”

The poppies will be available in public locations starting this Friday, October 30, through to Remembrance Day on November 11. Said Hudson Legion President Rod Hodgson, “They’ll be distributed in grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants that have takeout pickup options, any place where they’ll allow us to put them in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Saint-Lazare, and Hudson.”

Since so many of the volunteers fall into the ‘higher risk’ category for COVID-19, they won’t be able to attend in person and the rules wouldn’t allow them to gather anyway. But that doesn’t mean the important fundraiser won’t go on.

Funds critical

Last year they were able to raise $40,000 to support veterans and they hope to be able to reach somewhere near the same amount this year in spite of everything. The realities of public gatherings have changed, but the need has not.

“100 per cent of the money goes to support veterans,” said Delgarno. “People often think of veterans as soldiers who fought in the Second World War, which is true, but we’re also supporting active peacekeepers and more recently retired veterans, as well as those who serve in the RCMP.” All of the funds raised go to support the Veterans Hospital and other services that help veterans and their families. “It’s important to know that none of the money goes to the actual Legion – it’s kept separate. The Poppy Committee money all goes directly into providing services for veterans and it’s greatly needed.”

Any help appreciated

There’s another distinction that Delgarno feels is important to make.

“We’re not in the business of selling poppies,” he said. “We offer them freely for people to have as a token to remember our veterans and their sacrifices, and we are happy to take donations in return.” Whether it’s a Toonie or a 20 or any other amount, any money given to the cause is gratefully accepted to support those who’ve given service to the country for the good of all. In this challenging year, perhaps more than ever, it will be important for people to remember to put money into the donation box, even if a volunteer can’t be there in person to say thank-you.

Lest we forget.