Ron Heuman (left), Vernon Royal Canadian Legion president, Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund and poppy chairperson Jenny Negraiff kick off the 2017 poppy campaign. (Morning Star file photo)

Legion seeks community support to keep doors open

It is one of the Vernon’s oldest social enterprises, and on April 30, it may be forced to shut down

  • Feb. 21, 2018 2:40 p.m.

Vernon’s Royal Canadian Legion could close its doors for good if things don’t change.

After 91 years as the community’s “keepers of remembrance,” branch 25 president, Bill Balcaen said five members of the executive, including himself, made the “difficult” decision to step down at a recent meeting.

“We have reached a point where our dedicated souls and weary bodies can no longer keep pace with the needs of the branch and our community,” he said Tuesday.

“I’ve been doing this for six years, and so have most of our board members, and we’re all very tired.”

There are still 150 members in total, but Balcaen said, unless a younger generation steps in to take over some of the lead roles in the organization by April 30, there won’t be enough people to keep it going. If the Legion closes, Balcaen said the zone command would take over and begin the process of dissolving branch 25.

While the one-two punch of mounting costs and gradually dwindling memberships and volunteer base across the country, have forced dozens of branches across Canada to close their doors or declare bankruptcy, Balcaen says the Vernon Legion is financially viable — but the future of the branch comes down to manpower.

Over the years, the Legion has contributed thousands of dollars back to the community.

“Over the past 10 years, the branch has donated $34,890 to veterans and their families, $212,080 in bursaries to young students, and $357,749 to community organizations,” Balcaen said.

“What will our youth do without opportunities afforded by our sporting activities, youth programs and bursaries we give each year?”

Balcaen also fears there will be no one to host the local Remembrance Day service, but hopes, should the “worst thing” happen, that another organization would take it over.

The Vernon branch was founded on Jan.11, 1927 to serve the needs of Canadian soldiers and their families. They celebrated 91 years in Vernon last month.

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Erin Christie


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