Legion livid as string of poppy-box thefts leaves fundraising drive short
MARC BENCE/FOR METRO EDMONTON
The annual Royal Canadian Legion Poppy Fund campaign is looking at taking a financial hit this year in the wake of a rash of poppy box thefts, organizers said yesterday.
"We’re looking at nine thefts so far during this campaign," said Jacqueline Miller, campaign manager for the Royal Canadian Legion. Last year the campaign had 25 boxes stolen and, although Miller said it’s almost impossible to gauge the amount of money stolen, the number of boxes taken this year from local stores has organizers and supporters of the campaign angry.
"We call these boxes honour boxes," said Miller, "because people who donate do so on their honour — whatever they can do to support their veterans. ... The $350,000 raised last year could have been considerably higher if all the donations were accounted for.
"The thieves are denying veterans access to money that helps support their health and well-being," said Miller, adding that one of the biggest corporate supporters of the annual campaign, Tim Hortons coffee shops, have become a huge target for thieves.
"We’re doing everything we can to protect the boxes," said Rachel Douglas, Tim Hortons director of public affairs.
"The problem is, though, that we want the boxes to be available to anyone who wants to donate; it’s tough," she said.
"We’ve had one owner in the Edmonton area put the box away and put a sign explaining that, due to recent thefts, the box can’t be left out, and that leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth."
Despite the rash of thefts from Edmonton Tim Hortons stores, Douglas said the company will continue to support the campaign and won’t remove any boxes from their stores.
"When people steal from these boxes they’re hurting veterans," said Miller. "But they’re really dishonouring themselves."
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