CALGARY – It’s another sign of the tough economic times in Calgary. Donations are down at the Calgary poppy fund by around ten per cent this year.
The annual campaign got underway at Chinook Centre on Saturday, with a colour parade.
Money raised from the poppy fund campaign goes towards buying food for food hampers and assisting veterans with purchasing things like hearing aids and eyeglasses.
Joey Bleviss, the head of the poppy fund campaign, is concerned with the drop-in donations at a time when demand is up.
“With the downturn in the economy, a lot of the veterans are coming out because they lost their jobs or their suffering from other illnesses, particularly PTSD,” said Bleviss.
“We are finding that the rising cost of living, especially with aids to daily living such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and rents are escalating. As well as some of the utility costs and in addition to that, we’re finding food costs are escalating too.“
Councillor Shane Keating attended the start of the campaign to lay a wreath representing the City of Calgary.
His nephew was killed serving in Afghanistan in 2006.
“Even though everything as they say diminishes overtime, you have this rude awakening every November that brings it all back.”
“Every family has a death in their family but it’s not so prominent. You do it internally and you do it with your family. When they’re killed in action then it becomes a public event as well,” said Keating. “Makes it more prominent in your mind.”
“It does make it a little more difficult because now you’re forced to talk about those memories and that member with others on a regular basis where it’s not just a private moment. With you and your family member it’s private many times but it’s also becomes slightly public and that makes it a little more poignant.”
Each veteran who marches in the colour parade through Chinook Centre has made a sacrifice for our country.
Steve Wicks served in Bosnia in 1994. He witnessed the misery of the war–torn area and missed out on the birth of his daughter.
“An amazing experience, it gave you a real appreciation of what Canada is all about. It was a tough situation for a lot of people being over there, but I think we made an impact,” said Wicks. “The challenge, my daughter was born in Calgary while I was over there. I didn’t see her until she was about two and a half weeks old. I came home for a couple of weeks and then went back for another three months.”
The veterans food program is part of the Calgary poppy fund. They or their spouse are entitled to a food hamper and gift cards every two months to a value of $700.
“A lot of our veterans and some of the seniors don’t have pensions. So they rely on CPP or whatever it is but it’s a very minimal amount. It was anticipated there would be somewhat of a downturn because of the economy and some of the donors, some of the corporations are struck financially as well, so we understand that,” said Bleviss.
“Hopefully we will get those donors back again.”
“On average last year alone, we gave out over 1200 food hampers and it one time we were averaging about 75 food hampers a month now we are ready to close to 90 food hampers a month, in addition to all the other funding we support.”
The Calgary poppy fund provides around 90 food hampers a month.
Organizers are hopeful that donations will pick-up in the next 10 to 12 days.
With files from Lisa MacGregor