Poppy Fund pulls plug early on food bank

Ser­vice closes more than four months ahead of sched­uled Jan­uary date

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - RYAN RUM­BOLT RRum­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/RCRum­bolt

Vet­er­ans sup­port groups are “scram­bling ” to fill the void left by the Cal­gary Vet­er­ans Food Bank, closed more than four months ahead of sched­ule by the Le­gion’s Poppy Fund.

Vet­er­ans who use the ser­vice are now greeted by a sign read­ing: “Closed go to your near­est le­gion.”

Le­gion Com­mand, which ran the char­ity through its Poppy Fund, an­nounced in July the food bank would close at the end of Jan­uary.

Me­lanie Mi­tra, CEO of the Cana­dian Le­gacy Project, heard ru­mours the food bank was go­ing to close ahead of sched­ule, but said stake­hold­ers were work­ing to find an al­ter­na­tive for vet­er­ans need­ing as­sis­tance as the weather turns sour and the hol­i­day sea­son ap­proaches.

“It means we have to go to Plan B, and we’ve got to do that fast,” Mi­tra said. “Peo­ple are go­ing to have to pivot fast and do some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Mi­tra said two food bank staffers have been laid off, leav­ing only one em­ployee and one vol­un­teer to main­tain the char­ity on 6th Street N.E. un­til the end of Jan­uary.

Peo­ple are go­ing to have to pivot fast anddo some­thing dif­fer­ent.

The Cana­dian Le­gacy Project — which is sep­a­rate from the le­gion and the Poppy Fund — ap­proached food bank or­ga­niz­ers in July and of­fered to take over the char­ity once it closed.

The of­fer was ac­cepted by Cal­gary Poppy Fund board mem­bers, but Mi­tra said le­gion com­mand de­nied the Le­gacy Project’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Once it was clear that we weren’t go­ing to man­age the food bank, the next step for us is to make sure the right so­lu­tion is pro­vided by the right provider,” she said.

Mi­tra said one of those po­ten­tial providers is a group of vet­er­ans in­ter­ested in tak­ing over the food bank, adding that the Le­gacy Project will work along­side stake­hold­ers to make sure vet­er­ans aren’t left want­ing un­til a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion is reached.

“That will hap­pen one way or an­other, and there are enough providers here that are be­hind our vet­eran pop­u­la­tion and, most of all, the com­mu­nity in Cal­gary is in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive,” Mi­tra said.

“Some­thing will get put in place so that vet­er­ans aren’t at risk and the com­mu­nity will con­tinue to sup­port those ser­vices. That I’m not wor­ried about.”

Just a bit more than a kilo­me­tre south of the food bank is the Chapel­how Branch of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion.

Janette Hen­der­son, who has been a le­gion mem­ber for more than 40 years, said she’s hope­ful a new group will keep the food bank run­ning, even though she has some doubts about fund­ing and lo­gis­tics.

“Where are they go­ing to get a build­ing ? Where are they go­ing to get startup funds? There’s some­thing with the le­gions right now that is sad,” she said. “Look at all the le­gions in Cal­gary, they’re all suf­fer­ing. But what do you do? That’s the big ques­tion.”

But Mi­tra said vet­er­ans need sup­port, not sym­pa­thy, as they ad­just to “join­ing a civil­ian life they spent their mil­i­tary ca­reers de­fend­ing.”

“Vet­er­ans aren’t go­ing to want peo­ple to feel sorry for them … there may be some real chal­lenges, for sure, but they’re not a help­less group,” Mi­tra said.

“They ’re very proud and they ’re very pro­fes­sional.”

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse to nter­view re­quests to the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion’s Al­ber­taNorth­west Ter­ri­to­ries Com­mand.

JIM WELLS

A sign is dis­played on the front door of the Cal­gary Poppy Fund in north­east Cal­gary on Sat­ur­day.

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