Elmwood Park Community League is going back to its roots by commemorating veterans in an installation running from 121 Avenue to 125 Avenue and along 76, 77, and 79 Street, as well as the biggest collection of poppies at Elmwood Park on Fort Road and 75 Street.
Morgan Wolf, league president, says that Elmwood Park was originally built to house the returning veterans. For the month of November, poppies are placed on each of the elm trees along the boulevards, the streets, and the avenues.
“The park has changed, the homes have changed, the families have changed, but the elm trees that [were] planted are still a reminder of why this community exists,” Wolf says.
Anybody walking or driving by the community will see the poppies and it will give people a moment to remember and reflect on where we are living.
“If you didn’t know anything about the history of where we’re living, this can be a conversation starter,” says Wolf.
According to Wolf, the name Elmwood Park is derived from the trees that the veterans planted when the community was first created.
“The veterans were the ones who wanted to beautify this neighbourhood that they were given,” Wolf says. “The elm trees are very significant for us because they’re linked to our past.”
This project is special to Wolf and her family on a personal level as well. Wolf’s husband is a veteran from Afghanistan, and while he didn’t grow up in Elmwood Park, he lives there now.
“I enjoy watching [my husband] look at the poppies, I enjoy watching him have his silent moments of whatever is going through his head,” Wolf comments.
Wolf believes the poppies show veterans that they are respected and gives them the ability to work through their inner struggles silently.
“Wartime is not a pleasant time, so not every memory he has is a pleasant one. But I do think watching his community put the work in, put the effort in and be very respectful, I know this is a positive thing for him.”
Wolf hopes the project connects people from all walks of life so they can show gratitude to injured or lost veterans.
“I’m really hoping that [the project] brings a sense of joy, but also a feeling of respect and something that we can come together as a community,” Wolf says. “It doesn’t matter what race you are or where you come from; unfortunately, war is worldwide. So, we can all relate to that in the stories of people who we have lost, people who have [been] injured, the ones that have invisible scars.”
For 2022, Wolf hopes to expand on this initial project by collecting historical stories and facts from veterans’ families that live in the neighbourhood. Organizers either hope to collect stories by reaching out to community members or by contacting the city archives.
“We hope to take this small spark that has been lit and really explode it into a flame,” Wolf says.
If anyone has any stories to share for next year’s project, contact Morgan Wolf at [email protected].