Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland receives the first poppy of the 2020 campaign from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 211 president Todd Rorke. JEFF GAYE

Legion branches across the Lakeland are finding ways to observe Remembrance Day during the Covid-19 pandemic. In most cases, that means there won’t be public ceremonies.

Cold Lake and St. Paul branches will hold small ceremonies with approximately a dozen people to lay wreaths and formally remember the sacrifices made by generations of Canadian military personnel. The Bonnyville Legion will host a ceremony at its branch followed by a reception, with limited attendance.

Cold Lake Branch 211 president Todd Rorke said the Legion’s annual Poppy Campaign, which launched last Friday, is more important than ever. Many older veterans, he said, are facing social isolation because of the pandemic and the Legion is doing more to support them.

“They’re turning into more of a recluse, and our support to them while they’re sitting at home means even that much more,” Rorke said. “We have to keep checking on them, making sure they’re getting what they need, and then get it to them at home because they don’t want to go out. 

“And I can’t say as I blame them,” he said. “But it does tend to make people into hermits, and that can be a dangerous thing when you’re more senior in years.” 

Proceeds of the Poppy Fund are earmarked for veterans’ services—they are not allowed to be used to pay Legion operating expenses. Poppy trays have been distributed to businesses in all local communities as in past years.

Rorke said Cold Lake poppies have been sanitized by UVC light before leaving the branch.

The Legion also runs annual literary and poster contests for Grade 1 to Grade 12 students. Entries are due at your local branch by December 1.

The Poster Contest is divided into two categories: colour, and black-and-white. The Literary Contest is also divided into two categories: essay and poem. 

Entries are submitted at the Branch level and winning entries proceed to the provincial and then national level. Awards are presented at all levels. 

“Even though we don’t have big ceremonies this year, at least the kids can still do their part and get involved,” Rorke said.

Members of Royal Canadian Legion St. Paul Branch 100 hoisted the Poppy Campaign flag Friday. Donations to the Poppy Fund are designated specifically to provide services to veterans. SUBMITTED