Wilma McEwen coordinates the poppy campaign for the Royal Canadian Legion Langley Branch 21

UPDATE: Langley steps up to save legion’s poppy campaign

Earlier this week there was a severe lack of volunteers in Langley to help with the poppy drive, now after some press they're overrun.

UPDATE:

It’s either feast or famine, but not usually both in one week, said Heather Eriksen, the secretary/manager of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #21 in Langley.

She’s referring to volunteers for the annual poppy drive.

Earlier this week, the legion was scrambling to get volunteers (see story below), noting they had almost no one offering to stand out in front of Langley stores handing out poppies in exchange for donations.

Every year, two weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, the legion runs a tagging campaign or poppy drive that raises about $70,000 for the legion. Earlier this week, that program was in jeopardy.

But once the Langley Advance ran a story online on Tuesday and in the print newspaper on Thursday, the flood gates literally opened, Eriksen said.

“Our phone hasn’t stopped ringing. We’re doing really well, and it’s all thanks to the media,” she said, noting that once the Advance hit the streets, radio stations began sharing the story, too.

“The response has been tremendous,” she said. “Langley has always been just a generous community, which is why we normally sell the most poppies.”

Volunteers are coming in “in droves,” Eriksen said, “and I’m so incredibly grateful. I’d like to thank everyone who is making this happen.”

She has been particularly impressed with the number of young children who have come forward to help, noting just about every two-hour spot on their calendar (that earlier this week was blank) is now full.

“That’s pretty amazing.”

STORY PUBLISHED Nov. 1:

A lack of volunteers translates to a lack of financial aid for veterans in Langley – bottom line.

There is such a desperate shortage of volunteers to help with this year’s Remembrance Day poppy campaign, that it means veterans in need – young and old – will suffer, said poppy coordinator Wilma McEwen.

A frantic plea has gone out to high school students in the community, asking for their help in delivering poppy donation boxes to stores.

The Royal Canadian Legion’s Branch #21 in Langley typically distributes more than 700 boxes to stores in the community before the last Friday of October, when the annual fundraising campaign officially begins.

She’s fielding inquiries from merchants who have always received boxes in past, and wondering what’s happened this year.

But this time around, due to the massive shortage of volunteers, less than half the boxes are out – and the campaign is supposed to be in full swing.

That will, without question, hurt the fundraising bottom line, McEwen said.

“We’re doing the best we can, but we’re sure short on people,” she told the Langley Advance Tuesday.

Likewise, there’s also a shortage of people willing to spare a few hours between now and Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, to collect donations and hand out poppies at local grocery, department, and liquor stores.

The sign up sheet is virtually blank, McEwen said, emphasizing the desperate need for anyone available to help with this year’s drive – who can offer two hours or more.

In the ranks of veterans who have canvassed during past poppy drives, many are just too old and frail to be out there anymore, she explained.

“They’re all too old and the young ones still have jobs and need to work, and it seems there’s very few in between,” McEwen added.

That means the legion is desperate.

While the cadets help out, even their numbers are down for the 2016 drive.

Last year’s poppy drive raised almost $89,000 in Langley, much of that going to help local veterans – young and old – who are in need.

In the past year alone, McEwen said, they’ve offered aid to a surprising number of veterans or spouses who were diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t afford the cancer drugs necessary to battle the disease.

“That’s where we stepped in, and helped,” McEwen said.

There was also a case recently where a 94-year-old veteran had his stove blow up on him. He couldn’t afford to buy another, and the Legion stepped up to help.

In other cases, they’re helping buy or repair medical equipment, buy needed groceries, or help out in other emergencies.

Anyone interested in volunteering with this year’s poppy campaign is  asked to call the Langley legion at 604-534-3619 or 604-534-3615, as soon as possible, McEwen pleaded.

“We need as many people as we possibly can get. We could easily use 50 or more, immediately,” she said.

“It’s not a huge time commitment, and our veterans could sure use your help,” McEwen said.

“We need help,” bottom line.

Volunteers can also drop by the legion at 20681 56th Ave.

Aldergrove fairing well

In the meantime, across town in Aldergrove, the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #265 is having “a very good response from the public” to its poppy drive this year, said secretary/manager Madeline Roach.

Starting two weekends ahead of Remembrance Day, the legion set up tagging stations set up at Otter Co-op, the liquor store, Save-On-Foods, and Safeway.

While Roach said “we’re holding our own, nicely,” she added that the legion can always use more people to help collect donation.

Aldergrove’s legion is “incredibly fortunate” to have members of the scouts, as well as army, navy, and sea cadets helping out.

As well, about 250 Aldergrove stores and offices (located between 240th Street and Mt. Lehman Road – from the Fraser River to the border) have accepted counter trays in their businesses.

Each year, the poppy drive in Aldergrove raises about $20,000 to $23,000 for the legion.

Those interested in volunteering in Aldergrove are asked to call the Aldergrove legion at 604-856-8814.

 

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