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Lac La Biche Legion hoping to grow membership

Legion Week is September 17-23. Lac La Biche Royal Canadian Legion McGrane Branch 28 is hoping to increase the current number of local members

LAC LA BICHE - The Lac La Biche branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is on a mission to grow its ranks.

Danny Stevens, the president of McGrane Branch #28, said the membership of the local division of the Royal Canadian Legion currently sits at 91, adding that numbers have remained relatively stable over the years, with a high of around 120 branch members prior to the COVID pandemic. 

“We are always working to attract new members locally through word of mouth along with the national ad campaign,” Stevens told Lakeland This Week.

According to Stevens, there are misconceptions surrounding membership in the Royal Canadian Legion, the most common being that having one must be a veteran as a prerequisite for joining, or have a relative who has served in the Canadian military.

“Legion membership is open to everyone over the age of 18. We have in our membership about 20 who have served in various capacities in the armed forces or reserves in one form or another,” he explained. “We also include RCMP, and any law enforcement as having served.”

During National Legion Week, which runs from Sept. 17-23, the McGrane Branch will be hosting a BBQ as well as offering tours to local schools and inviting the public to stop by and see what the Legion is all about.

The fee for joining the Royal Canadian Legion is $50.00, with an early bird price of $45.00 for those who sign up before Nov. 12. In addition to supporting veterans, there are many discounts available for members offered by various companies and organizations that have partnered with the Royal Canadian Legion.

“The Legion through its service officer program has access to a wide range of supports and program' through Veterans Affairs Canada. No other organization can offer that,” Stevens stated.

Remaining open

While the McGrane Branch has been fortunate enough to stay open, despite funding and membership challenges, many branches across Canada have been forced to close their doors due to a lack of support. As Stevens explains, many of those branches are smaller, with the community around them also declining to the point where remaining in operation is no longer feasible.

Stevens says the Legion receives no financial support from either the federal or provincial governments, adding that the McGrane Branch #28 raises funds through Friday steak nights, 50/50 draws, small raffles, as well as special events held throughout the year. Funds from large-scale national campaigns do not come directly to the local site.

“The poppy drive conducted each year on Remembrance Week goes directly into the Poppy Fund for help our veterans and their families in need,” he said. “No Poppy Fund money is used in the branch operations. We depend on the support of the community to keep us operational.”

Stevens said it is important for people to join the legion to keep the memory alive of all those who sacrificed so much in defense of Canada and its laws and values, and to support those who continue to do so today. In what is soon to be 100 years of service in the Lac La Biche community, the support has been strong.

“The support by the people of Lac La Biche and surrounding areas has been second to none,” he said, explaining that recent hurtful comments by a local elected official, likening the organization as little more than a local bar, are not shared by the vast amount of the community.  “It is truly heartwarming to see that people still do support our beliefs and goals, even when certain public figures do not.”

Nationally, the Royal Canadian Legion began in Winnipeg in 1925 as an organization to assist veterans of the First World War. Initially called the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League, the organization was incorporated by a special Act of Parliament in 1926, with the name changing to the Royal Canadian Legion after Queen Elizabeth II granted it royal patronage in 1960.

The national headquarters of the Royal Canadian Legion, Dominion Command, is in Ottawa. The Grand Patron of the Royal Canadian Legion is the Governor General of Canada. As of 2022, membership in the organization worldwide is approximately 232,359.

Chris McGarry

About the Author: Chris McGarry

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