For more than 40 years, as Remembrance Day approaches, they have occupied street corners and grocery store entry ways, standing in quiet dignity as they offer poppies by donation.
Locally, and across the nation, members of the Royal Canadian Legion have become a beloved part of the Remembrance Day memorial rituals that allow us to stay connected to the sacrifice made by veterans in wars past.
While it may seem to some that after Nov. 11, these volunteers recede back to the comforts of their retirement, for many, their volunteer efforts continue all year round.
Beyond its annual poppy campaign, in Kelowna the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 plays a vital role in the community, according to the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation.
“It’s members are are passionate stewards for the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable populations on each end of the generational spectrum: the aged and children,” said the foundation.
Every month the Legion features a busy entertainment calendar for seniors, everything from special lunches and the popular Saturday meat draw to dances and parties that allow folks to get out and ‘twist’, ‘jive’ and ‘waltz’ to their favourite music.
For many, the Legion has become a social hub—a place to connect with friends, share stories and have fun.
“I felt lost until I found the Legion,” said member and volunteer, Ila Hicklin, whose husband of 40 years passed away two years ago. “But then I started volunteering, and I met my friends and now we just have so many good times together.”
The poppy campaign in Kelowna raises about $175,000 every year. The social events offer additional opportunities for the Legion to raise money and for many years it has donated to the KGH Foundation to advance patient care for the elderly and for children.
In 2008, it completed a two-year pledge of $50,000 for the local Hospice House.
Earlier this fall, the Kelowna branch presented the foundation with its largest gift ever—$100,000 for JoeAnna’s House, a home away from home for the families of patients who must travel to KGH for advanced medical care. JoeAnna’s House is currently under construction at KGH.
“We were very moved when we heard about the need for JoeAnna’s House,” said Jim White, president of the Kelowna Royal Canadian Legion branch. “This project represents the values that we hold very dear – that as a community, it is our duty to take care of one another in the darkest times.”
Chandel Schmidt, the KGH Foundation’s director of annual programs said it was an honour to receive the donation.
“(The legion’s) kindness, generosity and earnest care for this community knows no bounds. This gift will have a huge impact for generations to come,” said Schmidt.
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