Veterans from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 ride a float in the 2018 Canada Day Parade on Third Avenue in Port Alberni. The Legion accepts members from all walks of life, regardless of if they are veterans. SUSAN QUINN/Alberni Valley News

Port Alberni’s Legion in danger of closing

Branch 293 executive hope volunteers step up to fill vacant roles

Elections are coming up at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 in Port Alberni, and a number of vacant seats need to be filled, says past president Tim Murphy.

If a full slate of six table officers cannot be elected, the Legion is in danger of closing.

“We want people to step up and fill the positions,” Murphy said. “We’re going to have a couple of vacancies because people are burned out. It’s the same as any organization like this; it’s a core group (about 30–35 people) that does about 80 percent of the work.”

Many members are older and have been volunteering with the Legion for a long time, and are wanting to retire, he said. If the positions aren’t all filled during the local election, assistance will come from the Legion’s zone office. If they aren’t successful in recruiting people to fill the executive “then closure starts.”

Even though membership has decreased in recent years, Legion members are optimistic about the future.

The Royal Canadian Legion has been active in the Alberni Valley for more than 70 years, serving veterans and their families, as well as the larger community. Although it was formed by war veterans, membership is open to everyone. Branch 293, located at Victoria Quay, is an amalgamation of Legion branches 55 and 169 that was formed in 2011.

READ MORE: New Alberni legion branch chooses building headquarters

The Legion is still relevant to younger generations, Murphy said. “It’s a remembrance of what happened in the past so it doesn’t get repeated.”

Veterans aren’t just the dwindling number of people who fought in the First and Second World Wars and other older campaigns. Our community has veterans from more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and peacekeepers who have served in countries around the world, Murphy said.

Another aspect of the Legion’s continued relevance is its involvement as a community organization.

“For example, in the last two months we’ve given out more than $34,000 back to the community. We support the cadets corps in town, which is more youth.

“The Legion has more youth activities, sports, etc. that people participate in,” he said.

Members can gather for a drink in the lounge and play a game of pool, darts or cards. The legion also hosts special events for members and guests, including monthly steak nights, weekly Bingo games and a fishing derby.

READ MORE: New gazebo for Alberni’s Heritage Place

Branch 293 reported last month that its membership has shrunk from about 700 in 2011 to little more than 400 members today.

However, the active, participating membership totals around 100, and volunteers are facing “burn out” from organizing events.

The branch is also facing a poor financial situation. Current cash balances are very low, and revenue from the lounge and events have declined.

But things are on an upswing. As a result of several fall special events and increased lounge sales, the cash balance for the last quarter of 2019 is expected to improve, and the branch has applied for a liquor license that will enable the hall to offer more services and events.

The Legion (4680 Victoria Quay) will be open to the public following Remembrance Day ceremonies on Nov. 11. Members will be available to answer questions. For more information, call the Legion at 250-723-5042.

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Members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 gather for a veterans’ dinner in June 2019. SONJA DRINKWATER/ Alberni Valley News

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