By Mark Squibb
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 50 President Eileen Kavanagh says the future of the Kelligrews-based Legion is entirely within the hands of people in the community.
“This is a community organization, and if people want it to stay open, we’re definitely going to need some help,” said Kavanagh.
The funds to maintain the building and pay its monthly bills come almost entirely from membership fundraising and building rentals.
Kavanagh said many people think that the funds raised through the annual Poppy Campaign are used to help fund Legions. But that isn’t so.
“People think that the poppy fund is for the Legion, but it isn’t,” said Kavanagh. “The poppy fund is very strictly guarded, and any money that we make from the Poppy Campaign is purely for veterans and their families. So, if we have a veteran who needs their hydro bill paid, we’ve done that. We’ve bought wheelchairs and walkers and bed lifts for veterans.”
Some of the funds raised from the campaign also goes toward monuments, education programs, and scholarships. But when it comes to paying the building’s light bills and the insurance company, Kavanagh said the monies come directly from hall rentals and fundraiser events.
Normally, between fundraisers, ticket sales, and hall rentals, it’s not too hard a task to raise the necessary funds, but COVID put a damper on all of that.
Kavanagh said that before the pandemic, expenses ran about $5,200 a month. Even during lockdown, when the building, like so many others, sat forlorn and empty, the bills cost an average of about $3,100 a month. Insurance alone on the building is over $900 a month.
The group was granted a $60,000 loan from the federal government, but $40,000 has to be paid back by next December.
Kavanagh said the Legion has deposited the $40,000 and gotten by on the $20,000, so as to not have to pay back the whole lump sum — plus interest.
Aside from money, Kavanagh said there is also a great need for volunteers — particularly younger folk.
“Young people are not volunteering like the older ones did,” she said. “A lot of young people are working, their kids are in activities, and they just don’t have a lot of time. But I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to keep going, if we don’t get some young people.”
She said volunteering with the Legion doesn’t have to be a major time commitment. Folks can sign up to sell tickets, collect money at the door, or – starting October 22 — scan vaccine passports QR codes at large gatherings.
“Even a little bit of help helps,” said Kavangah.
There are 117 members in Branch 50, but Kavanagh said few volunteer their time regularly — and that many of them are getting up in age.
“Most of us are 70 to 80 plus,” said Kavanagh.
In recent months, three of the branches’ faithful volunteers passed away. Others have had to step aside due to health reasons.
The only paid staff are the cleaner, office manager, and accountant. Everyone else, from the president to the bartender, is a volunteer.
Kavanagh said that of the $45 annual membership fund, only about $7 stays at the local Legion. The rest goes towards Provincial Command and Dominion Command.
“So, really our fundraising is all we have,” Kavanagh said. “And we do need help, we need younger people, and just a little time commitment.”
This Saturday, October 23, the Legion is hosting a Kitchen Party, featuring Killin’ Time, Shamrock & Cable Guys, all of whom are volunteering their time and talents. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
It’s the first major dance that Branch 50 has hosted since the pandemic.