Someone is making off with the white boxes a Vancouver Island Legion branch uses to collect for its Poppy Fund.
Last week, five of the boxes were taken from locations around the community, sometime between Tuesday and Friday. As of Monday, two more had been taken. Locations include Tim Hortons, Quality Foods, the Pharmasave and the recycling depot on Anderton Road.
“They seem to be targeting the higher-volume places,” says Wayne Tedder, co-chair of the Comox Legion Branch #160 Poppy Fund.
He figures the culprits are taking advantage of busy work environments where staff might not notice immediately that collection boxes have gone missing. They do have video of a culprit from one of the locations, and RCMP have also been notified of the incidents.
The legion branch does not know exactly how much money the person or persons responsible took, but they estimate it could be a couple of hundred dollars.
Comox Legion Branch #160 started collecting in late October for the program, placing the familiar white boxes in locations around the community. They have distributed at least 150 boxes throughout Comox.
“All these funds that come through the Poppy Fund go to help veterans,” Tedder says.
The money, explains branch president John Paulin, is important in providing some emergency funding for veterans in need, even if they are not Legion members. All communication is confidential. This might be used to purchase food cards from grocery stores or helps with bills, other expenses, even rent or housing, if a person is in a crisis and cannot wait for funds from a government agency.
“Even in this day and age, there are situations where they get financially distressed,” says Paulin.
The Legion also raises some money for a bursary program and sends a small percentage for Cockrell House in the Victoria area, which provides refuge and services for veterans who are homeless or under-housed. Some funding helps support transitional programming, especially important if a veteran is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In general though, the money from the Poppy Fund stays in the community to help out those veterans most in need. There have even been occasions when the Legion has been contacted by Veterans Affairs to help out veterans with some money to bridge them through a crisis.
“They are very well-received,” Paulin said of the financial donations.
While the Comox Legion has typically lost the odd collection box over the years, Paulin does recall any theft on this scale in recent years.
“This has not happened in my time,” he said.
Tedder concurs, saying, “It’s a pretty rare event.”
The branch hopes they can find the person or persons responsible, but in the meantime, they have taken to checking the collection boxes more frequently to reduce the chance or extent of any further losses.
The Comox Valley Record called other local branches to see if there have been any recent thefts from Poppy Fund collection boxes. Cumberland Legion Branch #28 has not reported any issues. Courtenay Legion Branch #17 was not open on Monday.