Part of its mission is to serve veterans, members of the military, the RCMP and their families. But 300,000-plus members of 1,400-plus branches of the Royal Canadian Legion also serve a host of community programs across the country.
The Comox Legion contributes between $40,000 and $60,000 each year to a variety of non-profits in the Comox Valley.
“We’re not just an old man’s drinking club,” said Rod Bell-Irving, second vice-president at the Comox Legion.
Branch 160 is hosting an open house Saturday, June 25, an all ages event intended to bring awareness to the purpose of the Comox Legion. The open house coincides with Legion Week, June 24-30.
“Legions across Canada, to varying degrees, are going through transformations,” Bell-Irving said. “Some of them are closing through lack of support. Financially, they’re not able to survive. Demographically, Legions tend to be older than younger in terms of its members.”
The B.C. command has released a strategic planning document that suggests Legions will no longer exist by 2022 if branches do nothing differently.
“They put that out there to motivate and encourage branches to wake up and smell the coffee, and say ‘What are you going to do about it?’,” Bell-Irving said.
The Comox Legion, one of three Valley branches, is financially sound. Its membership is around 900 people. More than 500 are veterans.
Still, Branch 160 has initiated a strategic planning process that asks: Ten years from now, what do we see ourselves doing, and where do we see ourselves physically?
It’s considering three options: do nothing, renovate the 60-year-old building or undertake a total rebuild.
“We have one of the bigger meeting rooms that we rent out or give away for community members to use,” said Bell-Irving, noting an option might be to add an elevator.
“We own the land that we sit on, and we own the building. We’re looking at possibly tearing down the building and undertaking a development on the site. The Town of Comox has recently developed a strategic plan. Our site has been zoned in a manner that would allow us to build a structure that could be as high as six stories. That gives us some scope and potential for building a significant structure that might incorporate things like seniors subsidized housing, veterans housing, or some other combination.”
Branch 160 has invited 25 non-profits — the Food Bank, Therapeutic Riding and RCMP kids camp, among them — to the open house to advertise what they do. Each will be given time to promote their organization and to discuss what the Legion contribution means to them.
The public will also be asked for input and to consider the question: If we’re not around in five to 10 years from now, what difference would that make to you?
“We’re asking the public and the community to help us shape our strategic plan,” Bell-Irving said.
The open house runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1825 Comox Ave.