When Fairhope resident Gaye Lindsey conceived the Poppies for Veterans project some eight months ago, she had no idea that it would have such far-reaching implications and touch so many lives in the community. The culmination of the highly successful project came on Friday, December 11, when the Eastern Shore Art Center presented a check in the amount of $40,000 to the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort Foundation, representing 100% of the net proceeds to date from the sale of the poppies. Future proceeds from the sale of the remaining poppies will be passed on to the veterans’ groups at a later date.
Lindsey, a longtime hobbyist potter and a member of the board of the Eastern Shore Art Center, was inspired by the 2014 London project that honored those who lost their lives in WWI with an installation of over 888,000 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. Under the auspices of ESAC and with cooperation from the City of Fairhope and local veterans’ groups, she was able to craft a program to work with community volunteers to produce over 3,000 ceramic poppies. The poppies were installed at the Veterans Memorial at Henry George Park on the bluff overlooking the bay on November 11. The Veterans Day event featured remarks by Mayor Tim Kant, a flag-folding ceremony and narrative by members of the VFW, and a reading of the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields” that forever defined the poppy as a symbol of those who went to war.
Funds from the Poppies for Veterans project will be held by the Community Foundation of South Alabama for the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Foundation and will be dispersed by the board of said foundation, whose charter authorizes them to make grants on behalf of any veteran in need of direct assistance, as well as to groups providing services to veterans living in Baldwin and Mobile Counties.
The creation of over 3,000 stemmed ceramic poppies, plus more without stems, was a monumental undertaking that required 1,200 pounds of clay, over 120 hours of studio time plus on- and off-site storage space donated by ESAC and B&B Storage, in addition to the efforts of over 300 volunteers including school children, veterans from the Green Home, special needs adults and teens, family groups, and others. Lindsey estimates that volunteers contributed well over 1500 hours of time to the poppy project. “This was truly a community effort,” she said. “We reached groups and individuals who had never been to the art center or gotten involved in volunteering.”
ESAC also featured knitted, crocheted, and paper poppies created by volunteers and displayed on a dramatic mural depicting the setting of “In Flanders Fields.” Photographs of veterans collected and provided by the Mobile Veterans Center, along with letters and art by Baldwin and Mobile County school children were also displayed in the Woolley Gallery of ESAC through November.
-Editorial by Eusebia Fink
Since December, the Art Center has raised an additional $5,000 through poppy and postcard sales. The final tally for the project is a total donation of $45,000.