Branch 249 of the Royal Canadian Legion here is putting out a call for past members to renew their memberships and for new people to join.
Traditionally most members renew at the social time at the Branch following Remembrance Day services on Nov. 11.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic restricting group gatherings, the social event could not be held last November.
As a result, membership has dropped by a large amount.
“Most of our members come in on Remembrance Day and renew their membership and pay their respects,” Branch 249 executive secretary Joanne Woodbeck said.
“Our membership is approximately 37 right now, normally between 95 to 120.”
Woodbeck also reminds residents that membership has broadened past original requirements of either being a veteran or a family member of a veteran so that the branch operated as a private club.
”Branch 249 has changed their liquor licence to a primary licence, so we could invite the community into our lounge,” she said.
“You do not have to be a member to come in and enjoy our lounge, however, we do encourage everyone to support us by becoming a member.”
The Royal Canadian Legion, Pleasant Valley Branch 249 was formed on Sept. 9, 1954 with the purpose of providing services and support to veterans, serving military, RCMP members and their families, to promote remembrance of those who gave their lives for the country and to serve the broader community.
Remembrance Day ceremonies and the social time and luncheon afterward are prominent examples of the Branch’s presence in the community but through the ladies auxiliary, there are luncheons throughout the year for seniors and catering is available as a part of space rentals at the Branch.
The Branch also supports the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and provides an annual bursary to a Houston Secondary School student who is from a veteran’s family and the Sir Winston Churchill Scholarship to the graduating student who shows excellence in English and who is continuing on with post-secondary education.
On behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion, BC/Yukon Division, the Branch holds a Remembrance Day poster and poem contest at all of the schools for students and there’s a meat draw every Saturday with the money raised going to support community service programs.
And, since 2016, the Branch has operated a free shuttle van service for veterans and seniors. It is also available for events at which a designated driving service is helpful.
Membership is $50 per year, and that money is split between the Branch, the BCYukon Division of the national Legion organization and Dominion Command, which is the national office.
Woodbeck said it is important to note the distinction between purchasing a membership and the annual poppy drive before Remembrance Day.
“During the first 10 days of November, Legion Branches put out trays of poppies throughout the community to encourage the community to wear a poppy and support the veterans who live in their area,” she said.
“All of the money collected in the poppy trays stays in the community to help veterans and their families, RCMP and their families as well.”
This spring the Branch has been an active place with a major project going on to install new flooring.
“The flooring is all done upstairs and part of the stairs. The contractor is working on the down stairs now,” said Woodbeck of the ongoing work which should be wrapped up by April 14.
Lounge and food services are, for the time being, affected by renewed public health orders issued March 29.
Becoming a member means a person can take part in annual general meetings, vote in members of the executive, participate in decisions on Branch operations, participate in decisions on specific events and review requests for support.
“Without members we cannot hold general meetings. Without members we cannot elect an executive body, therefore, without members we cannot exist,” said Woodbeck.
(Memberships can be renewed or purchased in the lounge when the Branch is open, by going online to the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command website, by doing an eTransfer to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mailing a cheque to Branch 249, the Royal Canadian Legion, PO Box 719, Houston, BC V0J 1Z0.)