How federal funding helped the Pemberton Legion

Branch No. 201 to continue serving local veterans

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 201 in Pemberton has not been immune to the impacts of COVID-19, so it’s thankful for a helping hand in the form of federal funding, according to branch president Lesley Clark.

The branch received $11,919.22 through the Veterans Organizations Emergency Support Fund, part of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Clark said the funding came through in December, though local MP Patrick Weiler made the announcement, which saw more than $91,000 in funding spread across the region, on March 2.

“Legions are community pillars for many veterans. Now more than ever, the services they provide are essential to the well-being of veterans but also to the wider community. It is vital that our government responds to the challenges that legions across the country are facing as a result of the pandemic,” Weiler said in a release.

Clark said that the funding will be used for basic, practical everyday costs.

“It was very important. Basically, we were closed for a couple of months at the beginning of the COVID outbreak and we’ve had to reopen with limited hours,” she said. “Getting that funding has been extremely important because it can help pay for our insurance and our property tax and all those sorts of things, which means that we can be there for assisting veterans when they need our help.”

Though the branch can open its doors, operations are scaled down compared to normal, which has taken a bit of its revenue. The lounge is open with restrictions, but community group meetings and events like Friday Night Dinners and Sunday Afternoon Meat Draws—for which the branch is generally a hub—are still off. 

The branch also had to hold its Remembrance Day service virtually last November as well.

“We are staying in touch with our veterans around town via email,” Clark said. “But it’s definitely had an impact on people being aware of [the fact that] we’re still there, we’re still operating, we can still give advice.

“If veterans need assistance, they can contact us and we can put them in touch with relevant departments. We have some funding that is held in the Poppy Trust Fund, which is garnered from the annual poppy campaign, so if we need to help veterans financially, we do have processes that we can follow to give them support that way.”

Clark said the branch’s 12-person executive has conducted countless phone calls to help keep things on track during the pandemic.

“We’ve been able to keep in touch and move forward with projects that we can move forward with and just basically keep us open,” she said. 

If Pemberton residents want to help, Clark said the best way is to join up, as the branch is always looking for new members. From there, they can get further involved by attending meetings and lending a hand in fundraising efforts.

“Membership fees help support all the veterans programs,” she said. “Once things get back to normal, we will be opening our doors and getting our fundraising activities going.”