For almost as long as it has been a symbol of resilience, the red poppy has been a fundraiser to assist veterans.
Last Saturday, the ladies auxiliary of Metropolis’ American Legion Post 306 were able to continue their their tradition of the poppy roadblock.
For many years, auxiliary members have stood for three to five hours at two intersections of 12th Street on the Saturday the week prior to Memorial Day asking for donations in exchange for a fabric poppy.
“It’s astronomical,” Donna Libby said of the amount raised during the roadblock. “Standing out there on the street corner, you see a dollar or a quarter going in (the bucket). But at the end, I’m always blown away when we have our totals come in. The generosity of our community is awesome.”
The roadblock is one of three collections held during the Memorial Day period. Libby, who is the auxiliary’s treasurer/membership chair, has been involved with it for 14 years. She said it begins at the legion hall, where a bucket of poppies sits next to a collection tin. Auxiliary members also ask for donations during the annual Memorial Day services, which will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Metropolis’ Veterans Memorial Park.
In total, the group usually raises over $500. Those funds are used “for things we do during the year” for veterans, Libby explained.
One of the larger activities include gifts, and the bags to present them in, for the veterans at Christmastime.
Libby said that prior to COVID, the auxiliary would go to the Marion VA Medical Center’s Vet Center and play Bingo with the residents, providing cash prizes to the winners.
It was after World War I that the poppy flourished in Europe — its growth in France and Belgium was attributed to the soil being enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. Those flowers, and the loss of a friend, inspired Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., to write the poem “In Flanders Fields” while serving on the front lines..
A handful of years later, the red poppy — memorializing the soldiers who fought and died during World War I — became the official flower of the American Legion family on Sept. 27, 1920. The distribution of poppies became a national program of the Legion in 1924.
Background information was taken from www.legion.org.