On the anniversary of D-Day, the Edmonton and Calgary Veterans Association opened its doors to share how it’s helping military and RCMP veterans and is calling for community support.
The association assists more than 1,000 veterans with the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP at its Edmonton and Calgary locations.
It runs the Veterans Association Food Bank, but also helps people fill out Veterans Affairs paperwork and access mental health support.
“As a veteran myself, with 20 years of service and four tours overseas, I was diagnosed with PTSD,” said Veterans Association spokeswoman Melanie Harris.
“It’s so important for me to have a place to come and have a purpose after the service… It could be a simple hello, a cup of coffee or even a food challenge for the day.”
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Harris said the push for veterans to serve can make it difficult to access the general food bank.
“If they stand in line at a regular food bank, they’re going to look and say, ‘Hey! “That person needs it more than me, and they’re going to be out of line,” he said.
The Veterans Food Bank is run by other veterans.
“You can leave shame at the door and we’ll just help you on your way to healing,” Harris said.
Since launching two years ago amid the pandemic, the group needs donations to meet the needs of veterans and their families, particularly non-perishable food, gift cards and monetary donations.
“Our next food delivery will be June 17th and we don’t have enough food to feed our 155 families,” Harris said. “We need your support.”
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Every Tuesday, dozens of Edmonton-based veterans gather for free coffee and fellowship. World War II veteran Willie Atkins is one of them. He was a gunner with the Regina Rifles and served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1944-1947.
“This means the world to me,” the 97-year-old said of the association. “I think I’m one of the biggest donors here. I love this place. They do a great job.
“It is important, very important. Anyone in an orange shirt works here for nothing. It means a lot.”
On June 6, 1944, Allied troops, including 14,000 Canadians, landed or parachuted onto a beach code-named Juno. Canada lost 359 soldiers on that beach.
Atkins was not part of Juno. He arrived in Europe on November 17, 1944, but remembers D-Day well.
“The Germans were so powerful then, but the Canadians were more powerful, that’s all.”
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The Edmonton Veterans Association is gearing up for its biggest food drive ever, hosted by the Edmonton Elks Football Club on opening night June 11. Edmontonians are asked to bring a donation and drop it off at one of the four main entrances before this date. game or use the QR code to donate. Donations can also be dropped off at the West Edmonton Veterans Association.
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