Turning Poppies into Education

When you dropped some money into a poppy donation box this month, did you stop to wonder where that money goes? Did you know that, if you are the child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of a veteran, and are in financial need, some of that money could end up in your own pocket?

In Canada, poppies are distributed by individual branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Donations collected are held by each Legion branch in a Poppy Fund Trust. Poppy funds are strictly controlled, and never mingle with the Legion’s operating funds.

The purpose of the Poppy Fund Trust is to provide financial support to veterans, including Canadian Armed forces and RCMP veterans, and their families, based on need. Direct assistance is provided in the form of grants for such items as food, heating costs, home repairs, medical equipment, and prescription drugs. The fund also provides transportation costs and vehicle modifications for veterans. A full list of uses for the Poppy Fund Trust can be found on the Legion’s national website.

Students can also benefit from the Poppy Trust Fund. Any student who is the child, grandchild, or great-grandchild of a veteran?or is a veteran themselves?may qualify for a Poppy Fund bursary to help with their education.

Poppy Fund bursaries are administered by local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. Eligibility requirements vary by branch, as do application deadlines and funds available. Contact your local legion branch to find out bursary details; an overview of the Poppy Fund bursaries can be found on the Legion’s national website. In general, applicants may be in any stage of their college or university program and must demonstrate financial need.

There are over 1400 branches of the Royal Canadian Legion across Canada. You can find a full listing of branches at http://www.legion.ca/who-we-are/branch-locator/.

In addition to Poppy Fund bursaries, some legion branches offer other bursaries, funded through Legion activities including branch events, ticket sales, and Ladies? Auxiliary activities. Be sure to ask about these bursaries, too, which have different eligibility requirements.

The Legion was initially formed in 1925 to advocate for, and provide support to, WWI veterans. Services expanded after WWII, and today the Legion continues its efforts to “improve the lives of Veterans, ex-service members, and their families.”

Nowadays, anyone can join their local legion. Membership was originally restricted to veterans?later opened to include veterans? family members. Today, anyone who cares “deeply about supporting the men and women who serve this country and want to make a difference in the lives of Veterans, contribute to our communities, and Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country”, is welcome to join. Members must be 18 years of age or older, and a citizen of Canada or a Commonwealth or NATO/wartime Allied country. Full details on membership can be found at http://www.legion.ca/members/become-a-member/.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.

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