Nov 10, 2020

Poppy sales suffer as volunteers unable to hit the streets

The annual poppy appeal has been brought to a grinding halt as coronavirus restrictions made it difficult for RSL volunteers to hit the streets. 

Across regional Victoria, the usual fundraising events that RSLs rely on have been severely restricted, with the cancellation of annual public events usually held to commemorate both ANZAC day and Remembrance Day. 

President of the Kangaroo Flat RSL sub-branch, Craig Chilver, said that this year’s fund raising efforts have replaced volunteer veterans with honesty boxes. 

“Across Bendigo, you will be able to spot an honesty box and, in some places, volunteers will be outside shops selling for short shifts, wearing masks, adhering to social distancing and sanitising,” Mr Chilver said, speaking to the ABC. 

To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, President of Shepparton RSL, Bob Wilkie said that the usual Remembrance Day commemorations have been vastly downsized, and closed to the public this year. 

“We will be having a very brief wreath-laying ceremony followed by a last post ceremony,” Mr Wilkie said.

The money which would have usually been raised at these events is used to help returning service men and women who are struggling to reenter the community. 

“The younger guys that are coming home are needing more and more help all the time,” Mr Chilver said.

As the threat of coronavirus ripped through these communities, the number of volunteers has also drastically dropped due to age and vulnerability, leaving the 2020 fundraising efforts and the number of donations low. 

“Unfortunately, we were in lockdown for the ANZAC Day appeal and we got very little apart from a few donations,” Mr Wilkie said.

“Normally on ANZAC Day, we raise about $50,000 in the Shepparton area for the Shepparton RSL and more than $30,000 for the poppy appeal.

“And given that we didn’t get much funding for the ANZAC appeal, this is very important for us to raise money to assist our veterans.”

The situation in Bendigo follows in the same vein. 

“In 2019 at ANZAC Day we made nearly $30,000. At ANZAC Day this year, we made $6,000,” Mr Chilver said. 

“If anyone, ever needs help and is a returned serviceman we will help them and do as much as we can to get them looked after.

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