Veterans attending the Vimy Ridge celebration this year are Stan Hermiston (back row left)

Veterans attending the Vimy Ridge celebration this year are Stan Hermiston (back row left)

Legion helps the community in many ways

This week is Legion Week in B.C. and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 is inviting the community to come to the legion.

This week is Legion Week in B.C. and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 is inviting the community to come to the legion and learn more about their programs.

“The three key things we want to get out this year are join, donate and remember,” says second vice-president Bonnie O’Neill.

Branch 139 currently has 350 members but more members are always welcome and needed.

Taking out a $50 a year membership will help veterans and their dependents but also provide other benefits even if a member doesn’t have time for volunteering or recreation at the legion.

Members are eligible for discounts or extra benefits provided by various supporting sponsors such as hotels, medical travel insurance, travel packages, retirement communities, and products such as hearing aids.

People can also now donate $5 to the legion by texting the Legion to 20222, O’Neill notes.

The Branch 139 executive includes president Joyce Norberg, first vice-president Jan Hermiston, second vice-president Bonnie O’Neill, treasurer Elaine Winslow, and directors Vivian MacNeil, Al Giddens, Al Tranq, Jack Stickney, and Debbie Gogolin, plus many volunteers.

Except for five paid employees, O’Neill  says all of the legion fundraisers, activities and kitchen are run by volunteers.

“We try to do one big event a month, plus monthly steak nights, and weekly pasta nights to keep the building going and the bills paid,” O’Neill says.

She says the twice-yearly ladies night dinner, fashion show and entertainment nights have proved to be quite popular.

She says they have a very active group of volunteers who keep the kitchen humming with low cost lunches and dinners.

“These ladies we have in our kitchen right now are just wonderful,” O’Neill says.

Income from the downstairs hall rentals, special events, lunches, dinners, and the bar lounge pay for the upkeep on the building.

The legion provides monthly luncheons for seniors upstairs and the Legion Ladies Auxiliary also puts on lunches for seniors downstairs.

“These are feel good days of the month,” O’Neill says. “I love to come and visit with the seniors.”

For $4 she says any senior can come and enjoy the lunch and hear the Old Time Fiddlers play.

As part of their community service the downstairs hall is also home to the local Army Cadets. The community’s two pipe-bands also practice in the hall, volunteers teach various dances on Wednesday evenings, and September to May the dart and pool leagues meet at the legion.

“It’s part of our community service that we make our building available to the community sometimes as in-kind donations,” O’Neill says.

The legion also has a campsite on Felker Lake which is rented out for parties and weddings and is available to members and guests for camping.

“Our meat draws on Friday and Saturdays are fundraisers for the community,” O’Neill says. “We have been a branch since 1934 and in that time have put well over $500,000 into the community just through the meat draws.”

Meat for the draws is purchased at Margett’s Meats. “It’s wonderful meat,” O’Neill says. “He has a very good product and is very community minded.”

During the past year alone the meat draws have raised more than $10,000 which has been distributed to Little Britches Rodeo, Dry Grad, Hough Memorial Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, Army and Sea Cadets, Williams Lake and New Caledonia pipe bands, Canadian Diabetes, Juvenile Diabetes Research, Parkinsons society, Maureen Saunders School of Dance, Red Cross, CHILD Foundation, Easter Seals, Salvation Army Food Kitchen, Alzheimer’s Society, two bursaries, MFRC, Denny House, Minor Hockey, and Youth Soccer.

The legion members organize the annual Poppy Campaign in the fall and Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11, and wear red on Fridays to support those serving Canada.

“The legion is here for all veterans, not just legion members,” O’Neill stresses. “Our service officer is here for all veterans and their dependents.”

Vivian MacNeil is the service officer and can be reached at 250-392-7311.

The Poppy Campaign in B.C./Yukon raises approximately $3.6 million a year which supports a variety of programs and authorized expenditures for veterans and their dependents such as provision of medical equipment, funding for research and furnishing for seniors care facilities.

Poppy Funds support a veteran’s transition program at the University of British Columbia for relief and recovery for trauma-related stress; assistance for veterans to attend B.C. Institute of Technology to transition to new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The B.C./Yukon Command is also the largest non-profit provider of veterans’ and seniors’ housing with more than 3,000 units and developments presently underway, including housing for homeless veterans such as Cockrell House in Victoria.

The BC/Yukon Command has 75,000 members serving from 156 legion branches and 100 accompanying Legion Ladies Auxiliaries, which collectively contribute in excess of $3 million in support of community health, social and educational programs for all citizens.

Members contribute more than 600,000 volunteer hours each year; support more than 400 youth groups; donate $7 million a year to community, health education and sports programs; raise more than $21 million through gaming for academic and youth programs including being the largest contributor to Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and Cadets; sponsor the Spinoza Bear Program comforting sick children; provide bursaries and scholarships in excess of $250,000 a year; contribute more than $405,000 funds to medical research and for specialized medical equipment; and is a longstanding and significant contributor to the B.C. Senior’s Games.

In partnership with other provincial Commands, B.C. Athletics and Athletics Canada the Legion is the sole sponsor of the National Track and Field Championships and Training Camp for 12 to 17 year olds, a grooming program for Canada’s national teams.

For more than 25 years the legion has also endowed the chair of the Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, creating innovative opportunities for family practice in rural and under serviced communities.

 

More information is available on the legion website at www.legionbcyukon.ca.

 

 

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