Legions in Pender Harbour, Sechelt, Roberts Creek and Gibsons have received a $46,000 share of federal funding to support legions during the pandemic.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP Patrick Weiler provided the figure as part of a wider announcement that $91,715 would be going to legions in the riding, through the Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund, which is part of the government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.
When the fund was launched in November 2020, the Royal Legion Dominion Command received a $14-million portion to allocate to its branches.
Weiler said in the March 2 announcement that it “took us some time to organize this event” with most legion representatives as part of the rationale for why the announcement, which he made on behalf of Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, was made after funds had been distributed.
The money is intended to “assist legions with their operational costs so they can continue providing important support for veterans” and to replace charitable and other forms of revenue lost because of COVID-19, according to the announcement.
Representatives from each of the Sunshine Coast legions described the impact the funding had on their organizations, as well as the work they’ve been doing since the pandemic forced a dramatic change in their operations.
John Davis, president of the Roberts Creek Legion Branch 219, said his legion received help from all levels of government and through the Liquor Distribution Branch was authorized to establish an outdoor area, “which quite frankly saved us last year.”
He said the federal funding has been spent on building maintenance.
Branch 109 in Gibsons has been cutting costs by relying on volunteer labour, and the federal funds have been used to cover operating expenses. The Legion is also fundraising to purchase security cameras.
For Sechelt Legion Branch 140 president Bill McLean, “last year’s been tough to say the least.”
The legion reopened in July and has recently expanded to a six-day schedule with full food service. The federal funds, used to cover property taxes, insurance and utilities, paired with other government supports, have allowed the branch to rebound, said McLean.
The branch is also in the midst of establishing a new facility on Inlet Avenue in Sechelt.
McLean hopes the organization will have its rezoning application approved by council and a building permit by June. A membership vote is also needed.
In Pender Harbour, Branch 112 remains closed, said vice president Ted Taylor. Because of its smaller size, “we rely on events and unfortunately we haven’t been able to host any.”
He said the funds were well received and were immediately used to pay bills and other overhead – covering about three and a half months.