Mission’s Legion branch – like most local Legions – has been hit hard by COVID-19. Their typical fundraising efforts have been cut in half, along with much of their other community activity and socials.
But even still, the organization is soldiering through Remembrance Day to honour Canada’s fallen veterans, and get back to some sort of normalcy to yearly events.
Bruce Smith, 78, just got his 10-year membership pin with the Legion, and still goes down to the branch everyday for his coffee.
“It’s really a shame you know. It’s really been hard on the Legion – all of the Legions,” Smith said. “It’s a real downer sometimes, I guess I wish this thing would just suddenly stop. But I guess that’s a dream.”
The 475 members at the branch serve many roles, Smith said, and their fundraising efforts get shared into many corners of the community.
Smith for instance, is the liaison person between the Legion and the Mission Air Cadets, which the branch sponsors. He said many other members visit hospitals and long-term care homes – all which can no longer continue as it used to.
“Basically everything has been shut down where there’s been a lot of people gathering in close contact,” Smith said.”We do a lot of work for the community, we try and help the community with finances and socials … It’s tough.”
Fundraisers such as the once-a-month $5 Sunday breakfasts are no longer taking place; the poppy drive has been cancelled and general meetings with members have been postponed.
But the legion also offers a sense of community among seniors, veterans and their families, Smith said, and much of that has not been possible for members that are in hospital or care homes.
“I’ve not been able to see those members. It’s all through the phone,” Smith said. “I phone their relatives or their sons or daughters to try and keep them informed on what’s happening – they’re still there.”
In normal times, the branch will take in around $35,000 in yearly donations, but this year, they are nowhere close to that number, according to Pauline Mann, the president of Mission’s branch.
“We are sending trays and wreathes out to the stores, we just can’t have anybody standing there selling poppies,” Mann said. “So our fundraising has been cut basically in half.”
On Oct. 17, in an effort to help fundraise, Bear Country Bakery held a doughnut-selling fundraiser which raised over $1,100 in doughnut sales, as well as bringing in individual donations directly to Legion Branch 57. They are holding another fundraiser on Nov. 7 to do the same.
Mission’s MP, Brad Vis, gave a shout out to the bakery in parliament for their efforts on Oct. 23.
“We’ll stand on the corner, wave the legion sign and people come into the parking lot and the buy donuts,” Smith said. “The Legion members will be out there and encouraging them.”
The Remembrance Day service for this year will be held at the Legion Cenotaph at 10:40 a.m. There will not be a parade or a wreath laying, but wreaths can be placed around the cenotaph after the ceremony is finished.
After the ceremony there will be a small gathering inside the legion with strict capacity limitations. There will be beef dip and potato salad served for $10, which can also be ordered for pickup for those who want to support the organization.
“We have to observe the rules that have been given to us at this time,” Mann said. “Hopefully all will be able to return to normal next year.”
Anyone with questions can call the Legion at 604 826 2331.