Joanne Leibold says its hard to find people to volunteer to help with the Yorkville Legion Auxiliary's annual Poppy Days fundraiser, but by my count she is doing a real good job.
As of last Thursday when we talked on the phone, Leibold estimated the Auxiliary had 50 area residents who have signed up to help collect Poppy Days donations this Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, outside of the Yorkville Jewel store, both of the city's Walgreens stores and at the Sunfield restaurant. The ranks of volunteers include Auxiliary members, middle school students, Scouts and veterans, according to Leibold.
In addition to accepting donations in person, Leibold said several local stores have agreed to place cans for Poppy Days donations on their counters this month.
Leibold has served as the Auxiliary's Poppy Day's chairman for the past three years and she said the organization's goal each year is to have the donations top the previous year's total.
Poppy Days is a nationwide fundraising effort undertaken every May by Legion Auxiliaries across the country to raise funds in support of our nation's veterans in need. It's an event that has also been a long-time tradition here in Kendall County. Anyone who would check the back issues of the Record or Ledger will find photos every spring of Auxiliary members in Oswego, Yorkville and Plano pinning poppies on the mayors of their respective communities, often along with stories of the local city council's passing proclamations in support of the Poppy Days fundraising effort.
Not all those people the volunteers will encounter entering and existing Yorkville stores this Friday and Saturday will be aware that the bright red poppy has served as a symbol of the service and sacrifice of American military personnel since World War I, Leibold said.
"When I first stated helping with Poppy Days I noticed the people who are aware of it very much support it," she said, "The other people who may not know about it often donate when you tell them where the money will go."
Leibold noted the Legion places very strict requirements on how Poppy Days proceeds can be used. She said the funds cannot be used by the local Legion post, but must go to honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. armed forced to assist with their rehabilitation, treatment and hospital services, and to assist active duty personnel and their families where financial and medical need is evident. in the past, Leibold said the Auxiliary's Finance Committee has directed a large portion of the funds to assist veterans at the Hines Veterans Administration hospital in Maywood and the Veterans Home in LaSalle.
Like so many of her Poppy Days volunteers, Leibold's involvement with the event is personal. She explained that it serves as one more reminder of the sacrifice her brother, the late Raymond Collins, made as a Marine in the Vietnam War. Collins, who served a stint as commander of the Yorkville Legion, died in 2009 of diabetes that likely resulted from his exposure to the defoliate Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam.
"When I retired, I decided I to do something thing in memory of his service," Leibold said of her brother. "When you have someone in your family it becomes personal and you want to honor the service and the sacrifices that he and so many others have made."
For those who would like to contribute to this year's Poppy Days fundraising drive in Yorkville, look for the volunteers outside the Jewel on Veterans Parkway (Route 34) in Yorkville from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at the north side Walgreens from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m Saturday and on the South side from 11:45 to 1:45 p.m., also on Saturday. A volunteer will also be at the Sunfield restaurant from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
Wherever you may live in Kendall County, please watch for those volunteers, thank them for giving up part of their day to assist our veterans in need, and make a donation. Let's make certain that all of the county's Legion Auxiliaries surpass their Poppy Days fundraising goal and this community tradition continues.
• John Etheredge is editor of the Record Newspapers.