Despite closures and financial losses due to the pandemic, local legions say they’re stable and will survive. Legions have remained mostly closed since the start of the pandemic.
Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command president Thomas Irvine wrote the prime minister June 3 asking for funding due to legions not qualifying for many existing relief programs. He said some will face permanent closures within the next few months without more help.
But legion officials in Haliburton, Minden, Wilberforce and Kinmount said though they have been hit hard, their respective branches should be able to pull through.
“Our mission is to grow and improve over the next several years and find a way to do that in challenging times,” Haliburton legion first vice-president Don Pitman said. “Certainly, our veterans found a way to get through what they had to go through, so we can do the same.”
Legions rely on hosting events, renting space and fundraising to generate revenue. They do not receive direct federal funding, Pitman said. With stage three of reopening, legions began to hold events again including those in Haliburton County.
Wilberforce legion president John Glassey said members were eager to return.
“We’re basically just going on the bank account,” Glassey said. “Trying to hold on as long as we can.”
The Minden legion president Jim Ross said summer is a busy season to help them get through winter and losing that will be a long-term concern.
“It’s a very long, cold winter up here and we have a lot of expenses,” Ross said.
It has been difficult for members to lose the social gathering place too, he said.
“It’s been very, very hard on the membership,” Ross said. “We’d like to get into some kind of operations, but we have to be very careful because we also know we cater to a very vulnerable group.”
Kinmount legion president MaryLou Ferguson also said her legion can weather through the pandemic, but it has been difficult not holding gatherings, especially for members passing away. “
Not being able to get together as members and comrades to remember the good things, that part is really hard,” she said.
Restrictions may also make holding events difficult financially, Pitman said. There are costs to run them, usually covered by the upwards of 60 people who attend.
The Haliburton Legion will be starting up their meat draw Aug. 14, but other events like Bingo will be stalled as tabletop games are not possible yet.
“We can increase our loss by being open if there are small numbers,” Pitman said. “It really depends on the volumes and the rentals we can get.”
Although the future is uncertain, legion representatives said they are confident about their place as community hubs. “We know we have strong community support,” Ross said. “We know when we get back in operation, that support will be there.”