Get involved at your local legion

WELLINGTON COUNTY – You don’t have to be a member of the Royal Canadian Legion to be a supporter, or get involved as a volunteer in Legion community activities.

Branch 442 in Erin at 12 Dundas Street is recruiting volunteers to assist with a variety of activities.

“We have openings in the kitchen, hall, lounge and outside – opportunities to interact with all ages,” says a branch poster, encouraging community members, including high school students, to call 519-833-7467 or 519-833-2212 to get more information.

“Our building is there to support the community. We can’t do it without your help.”

During Legion Week, starting Sept. 15, it’s worth remembering the many ways that the legion branches not only support veterans and their families, but are a strong part of the wider community fabric.

Legions support activities for young people, such as the air cadets, scouts and guides, and have events such as the seniors dinner in Erin.

The Erin legion provides receptions in its hall for local funerals at no charge to the families (donations are accepted).

Erin service officer Doug Kirkwood said the women who have provided this service for many years need some relief.

The legions are active in educating young people about the sacrifices made by veterans and the importance of Remembrance Day, with essay and poster contests.

Legions are social hubs, with activities such as dances jamborees, euchre, cribbage, darts, bingo and the zoomers program. 

The halls are also rented by families and organizations for a wide range of events.

Of course, a legion’s highest profile event of the year is the Remembrance Day service on Nov. 11, along with the poppy campaign that provides essential fundraising for the organization, but there are many other events that can be attended by non-members.

These include the Fergus branch 275 chicken BBQ (drive-through or eat-in) on Sept. 21, 5-7pm, the Erin branch 442 pig roast Sept. 20, 6-8pm, with entertainment until 9pm, the Drayton branch roast beef supper Sept. 22 at 5:30pm and the Mount Forest branch trivia night Sept. 28 at 7pm.

Some legions run Catch the Ace lotteries, which provide some fun and a chance at substantial prizes.

The legion’s Ontario Command sponsors a military service recognition book, where families can submit a photo and story of a veteran.

Kirkwood coordinates  this project for Erin, submitting 20 veterans for the next volume and taking application for the next one.

Assistance is provided in preparing the application.

“All they have to do is provide a photo and details of the veteran’s service,” said Kirkwood.

Legion fundraising also supports the work of other organizations such as service clubs that contribute to community well-being, and enables direct contributions to community projects.

For example, the Mount Forest Legion Ladies Auxiliary recently made a donation of $500 towards construction of a splash pad.

Legion members make visits to veterans who are in hospital, and provide assistance to veterans, their families or caregivers in accessing the benefits available from Veterans Affairs Canada.

“Locally we sponsor a veteran at the Parkwood Hospital in London, and provide entertainment and donations to the hospital for the benefit of the veterans,which we visit semi-annually,” said Kirkwood.

“You don’t have to be a legion  member to participate in these visits, which the veterans and staff always welcome.”

Membership in the Royal Canadian Legion was once restricted to veterans and their families.

But for some time now membership has been open to any Canadian citizen or citizen of an allied nation who is 18 years of age or older, who supports the aims and objectives of the organization.

In Canada there are more than 260,000 members at some 1,400 branches. 

An online membership is $49.99 per year, which includes a legion pin, a subscription to Legion Magazine and a package of benefits and discounts.