From left, Fonthill Legion president Toni McKelvie, Leah Anne Culliford of Grey Forest Homes, Legion vice-president and poppy fund chair Jim Garner, Mayor Marv Junkin, Legion veteran Lou Gautier. DON RICKERS

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 Talbot Trail in Fonthill kicked off its annual poppy campaign last Friday with a brief ceremony, which included the pinning of a poppy on the lapel of Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin.

“We’ve had about ten members at Thursday morning meetings for the last month and a half, putting the plan together,” said Legion member Bernie Law. “Poppy boxes will be dropped off at 140 Pelham locations, and the hope is to eclipse last year’s record of just over $20,000.”

Toni McKelvie has served as president of the local branch for almost six years, and will continue in the role until at least 2023. She said that funds raised through the poppy campaign sustain a variety of programs and initiatives to assist veterans and their families, as well as cadet and youth programs, and bursaries for the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of veterans. The Fonthill branch also makes financial donations to entities like Camp Maple Leaf, a not-for-profit sleepover camp for children of military families, the Niagara Health Foundation, and the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton.

Rick Hatt, vice chair of the poppy campaign, thanked Leah Anne Culliford of Grey Forest Homes, the event’s corporate sponsor.

“The poppy was adopted as a symbol of the Legion in 1921,” said Hatt. “By wearing a poppy, we demonstrate our gratitude to those who gave their lives for the freedom that we enjoy today.”

Jim Garner, chair of the 2021 Poppy campaign, told the Voice that the Fonthill branch has 200 active members, and has been a chartered Legion since the early 1950s.

“We’re seeing lots of new folks coming into the community, showing a willingness to become Legion members,” said Garner. “Hopefully that will translate into more memberships and a bigger pool of volunteers, which will allow some people who have been on the poppy campaign for a number of years to pass the baton on to others.”

Membership in the Legion is not restricted to those who have a military background, and is open to all who believe in the organization’s mission, and is prepared to pitch in with volunteer work.

There will be only one Remembrance Day service in Pelham this year, which will take place on November 11 beginning at 10:45 AM, in Veterans Park on the Legion grounds at 141 Highway 20 East. In previous years, services were also held in Fenwick at Centennial Park, in Ridgeville at the Cenotaph, and in Peace Park behind the Pelham municipal offices.

Pandemic safeguard measures in place at the service will include social distancing and the wearing of face masks. The march on/march off parade, and the pre-laying of wreaths prior to the commencement of the service, have been eliminated.

The service will be live-streamed, courtesy of Niagara College students and staff from the Broadcast Radio, Television, and Film (BRTF) Program.

Weather permitting, there will be a fly-by during the service of the Avro Lancaster bomber from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope.

Those who wish to support the campaign without accessing the poppy collection boxes in person can mail in a cheque, payable to the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 613. Donations by cash, credit card, and debit card are gratefully accepted at the branch during operating hours, and e-transfers can be made to [email protected], designated “poppy fund.”