Poppies aren’t just for Memorial Day

Submitted by
Teresa Riehl
We’re all familiar with the little red poppies distributed each spring by members of the American Legion and its Auxiliary, but did you know this tradition got its start in the early 1920s, making it almost a century old? Did you know funds derived from the distribution of poppies can be used for the rehabilitation of veterans honorably discharged from the United States Armed Forces after April 6, 1917, but cannot be used for any general operating expenses of an American Legion and Auxiliary department, unit or post?
These and other Poppy Program facts were shared among members of various Outagamie County American Legion Auxiliary units on Tuesday, March 20 when they gathered at Black Creek Community Center. County Auxiliary units rotate hosting duties for this evening that includes a meal, entertainment, educational program and business meeting. On this night, six members of Black Creek’s Duhm-Masch American Legion Post 332 served a lasagna meal to 57 Auxiliary members and guests before the meeting officially got underway.
Members of Black Creek’s Auxiliary started things on a fun note with an unannounced performance by the Tiny Poppy Dancers and their backup band, The Poppy Brigade Band. The performance received a rousing round of applause as intended. Before the Black Creek Auxiliary turned over the meeting to the Outagamie Auxiliary Council for its quarterly meeting, Loreley Amerson shared an educational presentation on the Poppy Program that included the following points of interest:
• Poppies bloomed in abundance on the battlefields of France in the spring of 1919 despite the devastation of the the first World War; this is what inspired the poem “In Flanders Fields,” which in turn inspired the creation of the Poppy Program in America.
• Memorial poppies are made of red crepe paper by disabled veterans in hospitals and poppy workrooms in 40 states; the workers are paid for each poppy they make, a total of more than $300,000 each year.
• Over 25 million poppies are distributed annually under the guidance of the American Legion Auxiliary.
• Every penny of the Poppy Program’s annual $2 million in proceeds is devoted to veterans affairs and rehabilitation work done by both the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary.
These and other unique aspects of the Poppy Program make it clear those little crepe paper poppies reach far beyond the collection tins that will appear in local businesses next month and the lapels they’re worn on. They not only provide the public a way to pay tribute to all who died in service, but also an opportunity to support the work done by the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary.
National Poppy Day will be observed May 25, 2018. To support your community’s Poppy Program, contact a member of your local American Legion or Auxiliary.
Black Creek American Legion Auxiliary members provided entertainment before the quarterly meeting of the Outagamie County Council on March 20 with a performance by the Tiny Poppy Dancers and The Poppy Brigade Band, including (left to right) Shari Nachtwey, Irene Wulgaert, Marge Doty, Anna Schadrie, Loreley Amerson, Gloria Daelke and Laverna Kitzinger. – Photos courtesy Teresa Riehl