Laval legion fundraising in jeopardy after poppy donation box thefts: ‘It has repercussions’

WATCH: More poppies have been stolen from Tim Hortons in Laval. The local legion is hoping a police investigation will help track down the culprits. Phil Carpenter reports.

Donations for poppies might be lower this year for Chomedy Legion Branch 251 in Laval, Que., after donation cans were stolen from Tim Hortons locations — twice.

“It’s depressing,” branch house manager Gary Brown told Global News. “It has repercussions for the entire community.”

READ MORE: Chomedey legion looking for donation cans missing from four Tim Hortons locations

The first theft happened the weekend of Oct. 26, when the poppy campaign was launched, when four cans from four locations went missing.  It happened again the first weekend of November.

“Two were stolen from two of the same locations from which the four that were previously stolen,” explained branch second vice-president and Poppy Committee chair Shannon Westlake.

Legion branch officials estimate the losses could exceed $400 per can.  They say they’ve had cans stolen before, but not like this.

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“Never four at a time,” Westlake claims.  “Never two weeks in a row have we lost like this at our branch.”

Poppy under pressure: The ultimate poppy box theft
Poppy under pressure: The ultimate poppy box theft

They don’t blame Tim Hortons but the branch authorities have taken steps to prevent further losses.

“Now we’ve removed our stuff from those four locations,” Westlake said. “Unfortunately we can’t trust that nobody will steal them.”

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Tim Hortons said the restaurants are fully cooperating with the authorities as they investigate the thefts. “We are saddened by the actions of select people during this year’s poppy campaign in support of The Royal Canadian Legion,” the statement read.

“In addition to restaurants cooperating, to help offset the loss, Tim Hortons will be making a donation to The Royal Canadian Legion.”

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The loss, however, means the legion might not make reach its fundraising target, according to Westlake.

“We’d like to raise above $40,000,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to make it to there.”

Westlake added that any potential loss will impact veterans primarily.

“The funds are in case they need adaptation in their homes, if they need a wheelchair, if they need a walker, or a cane or even hearing aids,” she stressed.

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READ MORE: Man charged in theft of poppy cash, children’s hospital donation box in Quinte West

Brown wants the public to know that others could be affected, too.

“Some of the money goes back to the community in general,” he said.  “A lot goes to the different hospitals and to the cadets.”

But there could be hope.  Since word of the stolen donations went public, Brown said said the community has stepped up

“We’re getting a lot of calls from people that want to put a poppy box in their place of business,” he smiled.

“It’s the silver lining.”