LISTOWEL – Despite the rising cost of operations and challenges around new legislation, there are no plans to close either building operated by the Royal Canadian Legion in Listowel, according to president Brad Matheson.
Matheson said rumours began circulating after a meeting was held last month to discuss the future viability of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 259 and Parkview Gardens.
“A lot of people there had the idea that we were going to close the Legion,” Matheson said. “We never said that. The consensus was that we were going to keep things going.”
Matheson said the challenge in keeping both buildings open comes from declining rental rates and increased costs of operation.
“The income doesn’t match the expenses, to be perfectly blunt,” Matheson said. “We have to run the Legion as a business, and sometimes that’s hard for some people to realize.”
Matheson said the income from the Legion hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of insurance and hydro, and the requirement under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) for all public spaces to be accessible adds another hurdle for the Legion to overcome. Matheson said the Legion has been working with the Municipality of North Perth to apply for AODA grants, but there needs to be some existing capital funds to qualify.
“They won’t give you 100 per cent grant money, you have to have some building funds,” he said. “It’s tough to keep a building fund when your general account goes down and you’re running in the red.”
The Legion is a not-for-profit organization, which is funded by membership fees, and operates without government grants or financial assistance from the government.
Initially, the Legion was formed to provide a strong voice for First World War Veterans and to advise the government on Veterans’ issues. The Second World War, however, brought a series of new demands and the Legion began to change to accommodate these Veterans as well as those serving abroad.
At one time the Legion was a private organization, restricted to either Veterans or those who were directly related to Veterans. The Legion has changed as the years have passed, now welcoming members that have no military affiliation but wish to join to help their community and to enjoy the comradeship of the Legion.
“It’s not the same as it was 30 years ago when there was lots of veterans around,” Matheson said. “It’s still a community organization and money raised goes back into the community.”
The Legion also raises money through the annual Poppy Fund, but monies from this campaign are strictly monitored and held in trust. The Poppy Fund may only be used for support and comfort of veterans in need, accessibility modifications, educational bursaries, meals on wheels, community medical appliances, community youth remembrance programs as well as promotion of Remembrance activities to ensure Canadians never forget the sacrifices of Canada’s veterans. Since 2007, the Poppy monies collected in North Perth have resulted in donations of over $67,000 to the Listowel Memorial Hospital.
To add some new life to the Legion, Matheson said a committee has been formed to add some new community events, such as a Catch the Ace lottery in March, and a fish fry dinner in April with monthly dinner events expected to be hosted at the Legion. Matheson hopes that people realize the need expressed by the Legion, and take the opportunity to show some support rather than take it for granted.
“We want to get the awareness out that the Legion does need a little help from the community,” Matheson said. “We’re hoping more people will show up.”