The fat binders beside the bar hold years of documented deeds and countless hours poured into Squamish’s residents and community projects.
The pages are stuffed with newspaper clippings, photographs and thank you cards. There are images of baseball teams, Boy Scouts and elementary students, all smiling with cheques, new books or sporting equipment in hand.
Every year, the Royal Canadian Legion Diamond Head Branch 277 donates more than $15,000 to various Squamish organizations. The list of last year’s recipients includes the names of 24 groups, ranging from Brackendale Elementary School to Squamish Helping Hands.
But while the Legion dishes out cash to community causes, the branch itself is losing money.
“We give [out] money, but we are broke,” branch member Betty Adamson said.
With the exception of dollars collected at the bar, money the Legion raises — through raffles and gaming revenue — goes straight back into the community.
Although the branch owns its home in the Garibaldi Village Shopping Centre, the Legion has to covers electricity, staffing and other expenses that go along with running a business. Adding to the mounting financial difficulties is waning membership, branch president Ed Robertson said.
It’s a trend that Legions across Canada are combating. This summer actually brought a bit of good news when nationwide, the organization’s total membership jumped from 283,638 in April to 302,763 in June. Diamond Head has approximately 200 members.
“It would be nice if it was double that,” Robertson said.
Of those members, only 30 are actively involved, he added, noting the same people volunteer all the time. With an branch election around the corner, Robertson said it’s difficult to find candidates to run.
That makes the governing the organization tricky, Adamson said, noting that any capital expenditures have to be approved by the board.
“If the members don’t show up at a meeting, you can’t run a business,” she said. “There are lots of meetings with no quorum.”
At this rate, Adamson predicts the branch will cease to exist within a decade if membership and participation don’t improve.
The Legion has to shed its stereotype that it’s a place where people go to sit around and talk about war, she said, adding that the Legion’s work and activities reach far beyond that.
Nationwide the Legion is creating a new interactive multimedia teachers’ guide aimed at getting Canadian military history into classrooms. This year, the organization pumped $500,000 in start-up funding for a national homeless veterans’ program.
Through the local branch’s many programs, including the poppy campaign, students in elementary schools have a better understanding of what the Legion is about, Adamson noted.
“But these kids aren’t going to be 19 for a long time,” she said.
Everyone is invited to visit the Legion Diamond Lounge, which plays host to regular darts, poker and cribbage nights, Adamson said. The room is available for special events, Adamson noted.
“After a few times there, you know people,” she said, adding as a member she gets satisfaction from helping people out.
For more information visit www.squamishlegion.ca or call the Legion’s office at (604) 898-9368.