Royal Canadian Legion branches in the Central Okanagan are feeling the pressure of the pandemic. (Victoria Tronina/Unsplash)

Royal Canadian Legion branches in the Central Okanagan are feeling the pressure of the pandemic. (Victoria Tronina/Unsplash)

Central Okanagan Legions feel the pandemic pressure

Kelowna and Peachland Legions are doing their best to keep their doors open

COVID-19 has brought many changes to businesses, charities and non-profit organizations, and Royal Canadian Legion branches are trying their best to keep up with those changes, with varying results.

In the Central Okanagan alone, the Kelowna and Peachland branches have dealt with the pandemic as best they can.

President of the Legion’s Peachland branch Jean Saul said they’ve had to be creative and raise funds in ways they never did before.

“The government came out with programs where organizations could apply… we were one of the luck branches that received the CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account). It could’ve gone the other way, where we applied and got rejected so we’re grateful for that,” she said

“That was a huge help. But we’ve had to think of different ways to raise money because it’s just not coming in the normal way. So in July, we had a bottle drive at the Peachland IGA and we had another one on Sept. 12. We’ve also started designing and selling T-shirts.”

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Saul added she’s grateful that despite the hardship everyone is experiencing, community members have been responsive to them and have helped them any way they can.

The Kelowna branch, on the other hand, tried another way: surviving on their own as much as possible. Branch president John Sokolowski said they wanted to give other organizations a chance to apply for government assistance programs. He added since figures looked manageable in their books, they felt confident they will be able to make it through.

“Our balance sheets have been strong historically, and this year, we’ve not taken any advantage of the government programs they’ve offered, because the balance sheet has been strong so we relied on that,” he said.

“But that said, I don’t know that if COVID lasts another year, whether we can weather the storm. It remains to be seen to what extent the degrees this pandemic has impacted all of us.”

But with traditional ways of fundraising through community events on hold, Sokolowski added the branch is now underwater by $33,000.

Traditionally, Legion branches have also been able to raise money through the Poppy Fund, where community members can buy poppy pins by donation. Sokolowski and Saul said poppy boxes will still be available through their community partners, but as for volunteers and members selling poppies in person, they’re unsure about that.

“The risk is high if we do it in person, so we’re not sure how it will occur and if it will even occur. We still plan to run the various organization placement of the poppies and the fund baskets but in all, we’re hoping to have all of that resolve by early October,” Sokolowski said.

As for Remembrance Day, both branches said they’re on standby and are still trying to plan an event where they can honour veterans’ sacrifice while keeping their communities safe.

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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