Dolls and teddy bears helping community heal

Flood 2013: Local groups trying to lift spirits of residents

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014 06:00 am

Sarah Anderson shows the two versions of the Alberta Strong Dolls she designed for children in High River. She is hoping to distribute 1,800 of the dolls this spring.
Sarah Anderson shows the two versions of the Alberta Strong Dolls she designed for children in High River. She is hoping to distribute 1,800 of the dolls this spring.
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Charitable programs in the Diamond Valley area will be the benefactors of what was a record-breaking year for the Turner Valley Legion’s annual poppy campaign.

Earlier this month the Turner Valley Legion Branch 38 announced it raised more than $58,000 in its annual fundraising drive surpassing last year’s total of about $49,000.

Linda Macaulay, first vice-president of the Turner Valley Legion and chair of the poppy committee, said they were pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this year’s campaign.

“The flood really worried us because of how it affected our area,” she said. “But within two days we were refilling trays and the money people were donating was just phenomenal. People were putting $50 and $100 bills into the trays.

“We just stood there speechless. We did not expect that kind of generousity because of the floods.”

However, residents throughout the foothills were extremely giving to the poppy campaign despite the floods and Michel Jackson, a Black Diamond town councillor and member of the Legion, said there are a number of reasons why people were willing to support the campaign.

First, he said people saw how hard Legion members worked to help the communities recover during and after the flood. The Legion hall in Turner Valley was a safe haven where people who were evacuated from their homes could find shelter and a hot meal.

Second, Jackson said the trend with the poppy campaign started to change significantly three years ago when there was a large media push to cover the conflict in Afghanistan.

Third, residents in the Diamond Valley area know how critical the funds from the poppy campaign to local programs. Funding from the poppy campaign are earmarked to not only assist veterans in need, but to also augment programs which veterans can access. As a result, the Turner Valley Legion poppy campaign has aided a number of foothills programs including purchasing equipment for the Sheep River Health Trust, Okotoks Health and Wellness Centre and Oilfields General Hospital.

“The poppy fund does not help the branch because we cannot use the money for operations,” explained Jackson. “It helps veterans, their dependents and their families.

“The money we raise in our poppy campaign stays with this branch and it is spent in this region.”

Legion changing

Although the Legion’s poppy fund continues to break records, there is a concern with the dwindling number of active members at the Turner Valley branch.

Turner Valley’s Legion boasts more than 400 members, but only a handful of them are active in the branch on a regular basis. Jackson said they are looking to change the perception of the Legion in the area to ensure it remains viable.

“We want to continue to be involved in the community, we want to be more of a community hub,” he said.

To do so, Jackson said they are trying to make the Legion more of a gathering place for families. For example, children are allowed at the hall until 8 p.m. and the branch has hosted a number of successful family events including the annual Halloween Spook House and Christmas Party. The Valentine’s Day Jelly Bean Dance will be held on Feb. 15 and the St. Patrick’s Day Festival is March 15.

The Legion has also relaxed its requirements for membership. Now anyone in the community can join the Legion. There are various levels of membership from those who served in the military or RCMP to anyone in the community wanting to get involved.

The goal is to promote the fact the Legion is open to anyone with the hope it will encourage more people in the community to join one of Turner Valley’s most important service groups.

Although there have been some changes, Jackson admitted there are still some traditional rules in place such has no hats and no profanity allowed.


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