Fort Frances Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 29 has been able to resume darts, pool and cribbage, while observing COVID-19 safety protocols.
Veronica Davis, bookkeeper and office manager, said they had their first general meeting in 20 months yesterday. The last one they had was in January 2020.
“I’m glad this particular branch survived and that there was a good executive in place when the lockdown started,” Davis said. “Our finances were in order. When the lockdown started happening, we were not in a bad spot.”
Davis said they kept an active Facebook page during the continued COVID-19 closures, and managed to have 15 meetings in the 20 months when the office was shut down.
The legion was also eligible for some government grants which helped with their operating costs. This is how they managed to stay afloat, Davis said, adding that they also had a phone number on the door in case someone needed to contact the service officer for assistance.
The Poppy Campaign for Remembrance Day starts next month, Davis said, adding that it was very well-supported during COVID-19 closures.
“We were fairly close to the mark from other years,” Davis said. “I would say we were probably within $2,000 to $2,500 of what we had done in previous years when everything was open. The money that we raise here stays here. We help local vets.”
Although the office was closed and members were not meeting in person, the help they offered the community never stopped. Davis said they usually donate a minimum of $10,000 to the hospital towards equipment and university and college bursaries to students whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents were in the services.
Davis said these donations, along with the ones that go to the food banks, do not come out of the Poppy Fund.
The meat draws have also resumed, starting on Friday, adding that the first draw is $150 and the next two are $50 each, Davis added.
“You don’t have to be here for the first draw, but you do have to be here for the other two because they are prime ribs,” Davis said. “The tickets are $2 a piece or six for $10. It gives people the chance to get together. It’s a social event.”
The halls could also be rented out again, while following capacity limits. Davis said under normal circumstances, the building capacity is 200 people upstairs and 200 downstairs.
Under these circumstances they have been limiting upstairs to between 50 and 60 people. This is because with the new protocols, they can have more people at a table but the tables have to be a minimum of six feet apart, Davis added.
The Legion has 238 members, and Davis said they will postpone bringing bands and live music because the building capacity drops if members get up and dance. However, they are looking forward to resuming this once building capacity increases.
Davis said she has not been formally working, but she would volunteer her time.
“I would come in every couple of weeks and pay the bill,” Davis said. “We stayed on top of everything. We’ve survived it well, and I guess I can brag a little. There’s a lot of legions that some may not even ever reopen again.”