Poppy Fund pulls plug early on food bank
Service closes more than four months ahead of scheduled January date
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.
A sign is displayed on the front door of the Calgary Poppy Fund in northeast Calgary on Saturday.