If things don’t change, in two years the Sechelt Legion will fold. That’s the news Paul Lith, chair of the finance committee for Sechelt Legion Branch No. 140, released this week.
“As far as the numbers are concerned, it doesn’t look good, so we are expecting a deficit by the end of the year of approximately $60,000,” Lith said. “We’ve been running a deficit basically for the last six years. It’s increasing because the revenue is declining even more than we had earlier anticipated.”
In 2010, Lith and the five-year planning committee presented a report to the Legion membership that projected if things remained the same the Legion would have to close its doors within five years maximum.
Despite the shocking news, nothing was done.
“Now the sort of deadline for money running out is more like two years, no more than that,” Lith said.
Reasons for the declining revenues are multiple. Members leaving the group without new ones to take their place is an issue, but Lith said membership dues don’t pay the bills. He pointed to fewer people eating and drinking at the establishment since the liquor laws changed and volunteer burnout as the top two reasons.
He noted fewer people are volunteering at the Legion, stretching thin those who do give their time.
“Needless to say that creates burnout with people. And from a numbers perspective, we’re not able to run certain things that have brought in revenue before, whether that is a Friday night steak dinner or other things that might bring in money. Because of a lack of volunteers, we’ve had to scrap that,” Lith said.
When the five-year planning committee first predicted the Legion’s impending demise in 2010, they also presented a few options to change their fate. One such option was to look at creating seniors’ housing at the Legion site in an effort to fill a need and generate some profit.
A change in leadership at the Legion reignited the idea late last year when president Irma Mahar took her post.
She created a property development committee and tasked them with investigating the option.
“If we want to secure a future, we need to find different sources of funding, not just from bar and food sales. We do need other sources, and housing is a good fit,” she said.
Along with the housing, Mahar would like to see a revamped look for the Legion to entice younger generations to come and enjoy all they have to offer — including darts, pool tables, a restaurant and bar, and a large hall available for rent.
“We need to break down the barriers and find a way to get people in here because anyone can come in and eat or have a drink and anyone can join the Legion. You don’t have to be a veteran or a member of the military. People still think that, but it hasn‘t been that way for years,” Mahar said.
Options will be presented to Legion members next month and they will vote on how to move forward.
Once the membership’s wishes are known, there will be a public meeting “down the road,” Mahar said.
The Sechelt Legion has given more than $1 million to Sunshine Coast charities through their fundraising efforts over the years. That money has helped fund things like high school bursaries, local cadet corps, kids’ camps and the food bank, to name a few.
If you would like to get involved, drop by the Legion at 5591 Wharf Rd. in Sechelt or give them a call at 604-885-2526. Local developers or builders who might be able to offer some expertise or want to partner with the organization are asked to contact Bill Gravelle, chair of the property development committee, at 604-740-5667.