Dire times for branches of Royal Canadian Legion

Barry’s Bay Legion will host a Canada Day Barbecue as a fun community fundraiser for the Branch on Wednesday July 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. offering reasonably priced hot dogs, burgers and drinks “To Go” or to eat under the shade in their outdoor patio area – or picnic-style under the trees – appropriately distanced, of course. It’s a chance to celebrate Canada Day in the Valley and at the same time help the Legion remain a vital and active part of the community. Above: Heather Poliquin (left) and Dave Eagles of Branch 406 Executive enjoy the patio at the Barry’s Bay Legion.

Like every other non-profit organization out there, the Royal Canadian Legion has taken a beating thanks to COVID-19. The loss of branch events and club rooms since March has put many legions in peril. It is estimated that 124 of the 1,381 Legion branches across Canada are likely to close permanently, and another 357 are facing serious financial hardship. Small branches have it worst, of course. They hold stag and does, dances for their communities and use the funds raised to pay bills like hydro and insurance.

Yet the small branches, like Barry’s Bay Branch 406, are a vital element in the local community, providing not just a venue for social gatherings but also financial support to other organizations. The Current recently reported on Branch 406’s charitable donations of more than $7,000 this year to local causes.

Branch President Heather Poliquin shared some information she received from the Brockville Branch. The Branch 96 president, Ralph McMullen, is also the Zone G-2 commander, overseeing nine other branches in the district from Gananoque to Westport. McMullen said, “The meeting command say they expect to lose 35 per cent of the branches across the country.”

We asked Poliquin what the impact of COVID-19 had been on the Barry’s Bay Branch. She said, “Early on during the shut down we sent a breakdown of expected losses based on earnings from the same time period last year, and confirmed bookings and events that had to be cancelled due to the close down.  The predicted amount of loss for the three-month period (March to June) is $19,000.  This does not include the fact that we may have had more bookings as March is still early in the year for spring and summer bookings.” Until the province allows for larger gatherings and indoor functions, she said the Legion may not be able to bring in much income. Plus, the distancing required means that bingo may not return – an activity that many people in the community enjoy.

Then Barry’s Bay Legion encountered a hiccup with a $10,000 expense to update the kitchen propane system in early March. “We had to use the funds we were putting aside for a new floor in the front hall,” said Poliquin.

barbecue-grill-foodBranch 406 is putting on a brave face. They recently set up umbrellas, tables, chairs, hand sanitizer, etc. and opened their outdoor patio from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – weather permitting. They will also open on request for events such as horseshoes tournaments. The Canada Day barbecue  fundraiser was meant to happen on Saturday June 27 but that was deferred when the Legion’s biggest canopy was damaged by wind – just a minor hiccup for the Barry’s Bay Legion compared to their other worries.



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