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Burnaby seniors' home honours veterans with flag campaign

"If you're ever forced to defend what you believe in, do it," says Isabella Godfrey, a 91-year-old resident and veteran at Burnaby's George Derby Centre.
Isabella Godfrey
Isabella Godfrey is one of hundreds of veterans being honoured this Remembrance Day through a campaign spearheaded by Burnaby's George Derby Centre and its volunteer society. The organizers are asking the public to pledge a flag, with a $5 donation, to honour local veterans.

"If you're ever forced to defend what you believe in, do it," says Isabella Godfrey, a 91-year-old resident and veteran at Burnaby's George Derby Centre. 

During the Second World War, Godfrey, now 91, signed up when she was just 19 and served from 1942 to 1946.

"I was a CWAC - Canadian Women's Army Corps," she says with enthusiasm and pride. "We did everything the boys did except fire guns."

Godfrey worked in an office, ordering medical supplies and handling administration work for the medical corps.

"Wartime to me meant if I was able-bodied, get your butt out there where the trouble was," she says. "I never had any use for anyone who was a slacker."



After Godfrey was discharged, she lived in New Westminster for decades until she had a stroke and was transferred to George Derby in Burnaby's Cariboo Heights neighbourhood. Godfrey is one of several veterans featured in a video promoting George Derby's new “Pledge a Flag” campaign to honour the "heroes among us" this Nov. 11 holiday.

George Derby, in partnership with the centre's volunteer society, has purchased 5,000 small, paper Canadian flags, and organizers are inviting the public to pledge a minimum donation of $5 to dedicate a flag to honour veterans like Godfrey.

At press time, more than 1,000 flags had been pledged to veterans, but the centre is hoping to collect donations for all 5,000, which will be displayed on the lawn of the sprawling facility in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.

"It's an awareness campaign to show people we're here," says Mel Elliott, George Derby's acting executive director.  "People drive by daily, and they have no idea George Derby is here, and if they do, they don't know what we do."

George Derby is the largest facility of its kind in the province and the only one in B.C. that gives priority access to veterans. Of the facility's 300 residents, the majority are veterans from the Second World War and the Korean War. The care home runs numerous programs and activities for the residents, and there are areas for seniors to gather and socialize.

For Elliott, the campaign's "heroes among us" slogan is fitting.

"It goes back to Remembrance Day. The reason we have Remembrance Day is we remember what these ladies and gentlemen went through for us, and now in their fragile time, we should honour them," she says.

Godfrey already has several flags pledged in her honour, on behalf of her family.

"I feel there should be some recognition for all the people who went," she says. "I'm proud of my country, and I'm proud of my flag, and I'd fight the devil if they tried to change it."

To dedicate a flag to a veteran, text FLAG to 45678 on your cellphone to donate $5, or mail a cheque payable to George Derby Centre, with a dedication note included, to 7550 Cumberland St. Burnaby, V3N-3X5, or simply drop by the centre and donate in person.

For more information on the campaign, call Linda Bush at 604-527-4465.

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