Barrington veterans cancel poppy sale, blame supermarket
A group of local veterans said that future scholarships to Barrington and East Providence students are in doubt after a local supermarket informed the veterans that they could not stay in the store’s foyer during a Memorial Day weekend fund-raising effort.
Bill Groves, the commander for the local VFW post, said management at the Barrington and Riverside Shaw’s Supermarkets had always allowed the members of the Thomas H. Mellow Jr. VFW Post 9742 to sell ‘Buddy Poppies’ from inside the stores’ foyers.
But that changed this year, said Mr. Groves.
He said the local veterans were told they would have to stay outside the exterior doors. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the stormy weather forecast, said Mr. Groves.
“I made a decision as post commander and a few other members agreed,” that the veterans would not sell the poppies outside the store, said Mr. Groves. A veteran in his mid-80s was scheduled to take the first shift at the Barrington Shaw’s, said Mr. Groves, and “I could not see him doing this for very long.
“Well, yes, I’m personally disappointed. I know other members of the post are too.”
One of the managers for the Barrington Shaw’s Supermarket said the VFW was more than welcome to hold its poppy sale at the market, but a company policy restricts opening the foyers for outside groups.
The manager — he asked that his name not be used — said the veterans were allowed to stand under an overhang near the entrance to the store. (Mr. Groves said much of the space under the overhang was filled with some of the store’s products.)
The store manager also said he felt it was unfair for the market to be criticized in this case — there was no decision to ban the veterans from the store and had the weather been nice, this discussion would not be taking place.
“We do so many things for this community,” he said, noting the numerous donations the store makes to local food banks. “We support charities all the time, the schools, local groups.”
Barrington and Riverside Shaw’s Supermarkets have recently given out free food at events including the Barrington Little League opening day ceremony and at a Barrington Public Safety event.
“So long as it’s in our budget, we try to help,” he said, adding that there was no effort to ban the veterans from the property, only to relocate them to a different spot.
Mike Tripp, a member of the local VFW post, recently wrote a letter to the editor criticizing the decision to move the veterans group outside the foyer.
He said that the 2012 poppy sale raised $3,535.65, and that $2,000 goes to graduating senior students of Barrington High School and East Providence Senior High School. He added that the VFW post also gives awards to the winners of the Post’s Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests and pays for the dinner costs for their parents which amounted to $332.
“A donation to the local troop of Boy Scouts was $100 and Christmas gifts to the residents and patients of the Veterans’ Home and Veterans’ Hospital amounted to over $600,” he wrote. “Oh yeah, and the post spent $220 on 2,000 “Buddy Poppies” which will be gathering dust somewhere!
“Sadly, none of these donations will occur over the course the next year.”