New Brunswick

Changes in store for legion's poppy campaign because of pandemic

The Royal Canadian Legion's annual poppy campaign won't be quite the same this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More distancing and sanitizing for annual campaign leading up to Remembrance Day

Jack Clayton, the executive director of the legion’s New Brunswick command, said some changes have been made so getting a poppy this year will be safe. (Steve Silva/CBC)

The Royal Canadian Legion's annual poppy campaign won't be quite the same this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Poppies will still be available at retail locations, such as grocery stores, and volunteers will still be around to provide the symbols of remembrance in the weeks leading up to Nov. 11, Remembrance Day.

But Jack Clayton, the executive director of the legion's New Brunswick command, said some changes have been made to make the process safer during the pandemic.

"We have to come up with ways, for example, of sanitizing, safe distancing, the handling of the poppies themselves," Clayton told the CBC's Maritime Noon

"We're trying to encourage the public to do that themselves, instead of the poppy volunteers sitting at the tables standing up and handing them the poppies."

Clayton said this could mean that the presentation of poppies at stores may look different.

For example, a legion branch volunteer may use an old Styrofoam cross, normally used at cenotaphs, to hold poppies for people to remove on their own.

In many cases, the more traditional trays of poppies will still be available but with stricter sanitizing procedures.

"The volunteers have their own tray, so there's not a whole bunch of people handling different trays," said Clayton. 

He said the annual poppy campaign has already seen a drop in sales because many small businesses that would normally buy wreaths and crosses for local cenotaphs can't afford to this year.

He is also expecting that with fewer people coming into stores, the annual campaign won't raise as much.

"Even though people have to wear masks going into public places now, the volume of people going into them is down," he said.

"You can see that yourself as you go through, say, a grocery store. ... You don't see the lineups at the cash registers."

Money from the poppy campaign doesn't go directly to local legion branches but to a larger poppy campaign fund.

This money is used for a variety of programs, such as bursaries for students, repairs to home-care facilities, and disaster relief funding.

Clayton said some local branches are facing hardship because they lost revenue during the pandemic.

Many branches weren't able to rent halls out for weddings or other events during the summer.

While branches can't use poppy campaign money for their operations, they have found other ways to raise money, such as by selling face masks.

With files from Maritime Noon

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