By Tristan Marks
West Niagara’s 62 Phantom Squadron Air Cadets are pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.
Thanks to quick planning, the organization has turned to the community to help maintain altitude through an ongoing bottle drive, scrap metal donation and more.
Among these fundraiser will be an upcoming weekly flea market, starting the weekend of June 27 and 28, which will continue 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday in July.
“The officers and volunteers have worked very hard to help mitigate this pandemic and help make it as though COVID-19 never happened for us,” said former commanding officer and current Sponsoring Committee chairperson David Leonard, who also thanked the community for its generosity.
Summer, as Leonard explained, is the “prime time” for cadet training and fundraising. The Ministry of Defense suspended in-person meetings of the cadet program Canada-wide until Sept. 1 at the earliest back in April. Not only was summer field training cancelled, but also important fundraisers such as the ‘Tag Day’ campaign.
The squadron would have been $50,000 in the red after April alone, due to the loss of revenue from cancelled fundraisers, the lack of facility rentals and other programs.
“We’ve really thought outside of the box to come up with unique ways to raise money,” said Leonard.
The organization started off with a bottle drive during the month of May, which collected just over $3,000.
Due to the initiative’s success, the squadron will continue the drive into June, accepting donations at its 105 Mountain Rd. facility from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday.
The 62 Phantoms were also accepting clothing and household items in hopes of raising funds while providing a community service normally filled by groups like the Grimsby Benevolent Fund while the latter remains closed.
“We’ve got a literal mountain of stuff from what people have donated to us,” said Leonard.
Much of the donated clothing will go to Kidney Clothes Canada once it re-opens, with the rest earmarked for the flea market fundraiser.
“We’re taking every health guideline and precaution for this event,” said Leonard.
“We have one-way aisles set up like you’d see at a supermarket, there will be a limit to the number of customers admitted at a time and we’ll even be selling face masks at $1 each for anyone coming in.”
The squadron has also set up a bin for scrap metal donations in their north-most parking lot.
He added that donors who cannot partake in the other fundraisers, but still want to contribute are free to give monetary donations directly to the 62 Phantom Air Cadets. Such donations are accepted via e-transfer to email@example.com.