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Lack of active members threatens survival of Legion

by Chris Daponte

DRAYTON - Earlier this summer, members of the Drayton Royal Canadian Legion voted to keep Branch 416 alive, but problems remain at the branch that could threaten its survival.

Vice president Phil Moore acknowledged club members considered closing the branch on Elm Street, but he denied rumours the building was going to be condemned.

“There is no problem with the building,” he said.

He explained issues at the Drayton Legion also have nothing to do with size of its overall membership - the club currently has 52 members - but more with the lack of active members.

“We’re getting the same old people doing all the work ... Nobody wants to run it,” Moore said, noting the Legion has had the same executive for four or five years.

He explained monthly events at the Legion such as euchre tournaments and dinners are generally well attended, as are general meetings - but the rest of the time, it’s the same handful of members doing all the work.

“We can’t get anybody to run the bar or anything,” said Moore, who was once in the militia and has been a member at the Drayton Legion for 31 years.

He stressed there is nothing structurally wrong with the building, which once served as a hotel, although he admitted the Legion does need some work, particularly updated washrooms.

“There’s a whole bunch of money to be spent, but there’s no money there,” he said. “A lot of people have just given up.”

From time to time the Drayton Legion struggles financially with everyday costs, Moore said, adding a few members have put their own money into minor repairs or purchases for the branch, never asking for reimbursement.

“You get a little sick of it after a while,” he said solemnly. “It’s an ongoing problem.”

In fact, many Legions across the country are facing similar problems. A dwindling number of veterans, an aging membership and older buildings often result in the bulk of the workload falling on fewer and fewer members.

The problem can be amplified in smaller communities such as Drayton.

“Nobody seems to know what the answer is,” Moore said.

The gravity of the situation in led to a meeting earlier this summer to discuss the fate of the Drayton Legion. Spurred on by vocal support from local service clubs like the Kinsmen and Optimists, 15 members of  the Drayton Legion voted 12-3 to keep Branch 416 open.

“But still, nothing’s happened,” Moore lamented.

Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale, who was informed of this summer’s meeting, is familiar with the problems at the Drayton branch.

“If there’s anything we can do to help them out, we’ll try to do it, but we don’t want it to become a municipal building, either,” Whale said.

The possibility exists of eventually amalgamating with another Legion nearby, but both Moore and Whale would prefer to see the Drayton branch once again thriving on its own.

Whale said the Royal Canadian Legion continues today its proud tradition of providing valuable services and it would be a shame for any branch to close its doors for good. “I think they’re still an important centre in any community,” Whale said.  “They play an important role in reminding us of the role Canadian men and women played in [the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War].”

He noted many from the Mapleton area fought in those conflicts and added, “That part of our history, without the Legion, could become too easy to forget.”

Anyone interested in joining the Drayton Legion should call membership chairman Rod Lambert at 519-338-5174.

 

September 9, 2011

 
 

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