Oxford American Legion Auxilliary

The Poppy Program

American Legion Auxiliary poppy graphicALA Unit 376 Poppy Program Chairman: Terrill Sutton

The Poppy Program has been a cornerstone of the American Legion Auxiliary for close to a century and has continually evolved since its inception.

Each year, American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute millions of poppies, most handmade, in exchange for contributions to assist active-duty military, veterans, and their families. Many of these veterans are in VA Medical Centers, and in some cases, the therapeutic benefits derived are most helpful to them. See the Fundraisers page to read more about our crepe paper poppy distribution..

Auxiliary members promote the memorial poppy flower in other ways as well, such as having a Miss Poppy, as seen in the Village of Oxford's Memorial Day parade, and having a Poppy Poster Contest.
Some poppies are used in craft projects too such as corsages.

Fort Hill American Legion Auxiliary member, Terrill Sutton (Oxford, NY), is the Unit 376 Poppy Program Chairman. She was eligible for ALA membership through her late mother, Emily E. Brashaw, a 20-year US Navy firefighter. As Poppy Chairman, Terrill is in charge of distributing the red crepe paper Memorial Poppies for donations, choosing a Poppy Princess for the Memorial Day parade, and organizing the annual Unit 376 Poppy Poster Contest - with assistance by the Oxford Academy Art Department. Unit 376 sponsored it's first Poppy Poster Contest in May 2018.
Allison Beckwith, 2013, our first Miss Poppy.

Unit 376 Miss Poppy: Participant must be between six and eighteen years of age, be a Junior member in good standing in the ALA unit, and promote the poppy. Selection of Miss Poppy is at the discretion of the Unit. There is no specific dress code for Miss Poppy. The unit will provide a poppy garland and sash to wear during public events such as in the Memorial Day parade. (To see our past Miss Poppys, visit the Miss Poppy page.)

2018 Poppy Poster by Jillian Finch.Poppy Poster Contest: Promoting public awareness, poppy history and the purpose of the Poppy is part of this program. Contacting schools to enter the contest and displaying Poppy posters enhances public awareness. (To see our Poppy Poster winners, visit our Poppy Poster page.)

The Poppy Program Guide (PDF) offers answers to questions about the poppy program and its intricacies.

In order to effectively implement the Poppy Program, it is important to understand the history behind the program. At the end of World War I, The American Legion adopted the poppy as a symbol of freedom and the blood sacrificed by troops in wartimes. The use of the poppy symbolically comes from the poem "In Flanders Fields", which movingly begins, “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row,” referring to the poppies that sprang up in the churned-up earth of newly dug soldiers’ graves over parts of Belgium and France. The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier.Moina Michael, the "Poppy Lady" portrait.

Shortly after "In Flanders Fields" was written, an American professor and humanitarian from Georgia, by the name of Moina Belle Michael (August 15, 1869 – May 10, 1944) read the famous poem published in a Ladies’ Home Journal while attending the annual YMCA Overseas Conference. Moina was struck by the last stanza. On the back of an envelope, Moina quickly penned her response to McCrae’s verse, with her own poem titled, "We Shall Keep the Faith". The last stanza captures her idea to wear a poppy in honor of the war dead:

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

After jotting down her poem, Moina excitedly declared, “I shall buy red poppies... I shall always wear red poppies — poppies of Flanders Fields!”

She showed her "We Shall Keep the Faith" poem to gentlemen at the conference and shared her idea with them. The gentlemen were so excited about the idea that they gave her $10 (a lot of money back then!) and asked for poppies to wear. Moina rushed out to the Wanamaker’s department store that sold silk poppies and bought 25 to distribute to conference attendees.
Moina wore a poppy on her collar until she returned home to Georgia in 1919. She became known as the "Poppy Lady.” She continued her teaching career by instructing a group of disabled veterans. She noted their need for The American Legion to have veterans assemble poppies for the American Legion Auxiliary in 1921. The ALA Poppy Program became one of our national programs in 1924.

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