Electronic payment, legion masks: poppy campaign adapts to COVID-19

The lead-up to Remembrance Day will look a little different this year as the Royal Canadian Legion adapts its poppy campaign to the pandemic.

Restrictions due to COVID-19 mean most legion branches won't set up donation tables or have volunteers at store entrances — both familiar sights in the weeks ahead of Nov. 11.

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Instead, the campaign will feature electronic donation boxes that accept tap payments, along with unmanned traditional donation boxes. The legion will also be selling non-medical masks online and through certain branches to support its work.

People are also encouraged to donate to the campaign online.

Nujma Bond, communications manager for the Royal Canadian Legion's national headquarters, said planning the altered campaign began soon after the pandemic set in this spring and it became clear a typical, in-person campaign might be off the table.

Traditional poppy boxes will be set up at approximately 25,000 locations, such as grocery stores and banks, with donors encouraged to pick their own poppy pins.

"We are hopeful and confident that people will still be able to receive a physical poppy if they so choose," Bond said.

Additionally, 250 locations will offer electronic "pay tribute" boxes that accept tap payments when the legion's campaign begins on Oct. 30.

The legion said it typically raises $20 million through its poppy campaign each year, with the donations going towards supporting veterans.

Bond said the organization isn't concerned about falling short of fundraising targets this year.

"We're confident that Canadians will be as generous as they normally are at this time of the year," she said.

Ottawa-based Navy veteran Doug Munroe, 78, said he'll miss the experience of speaking face-to face with Canadians during the legion's poppy campaign.

Munroe, who received a medal from the governor general this year for his decades of volunteer work with the legion, said he enjoyed discussing the meaning of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance with those he interacted with during the campaign.

"I don't think everybody is really aware of the significance of it," Munroe said by phone. He encouraged Canadians to find a way to support this year's fundraising efforts.

"Remember and donate to the poppy campaign," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2020.

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