Last resort if other ways to generate revenue fail
Chief Staff Writer
Barely a year after moving into their modern new building, Royal Canadian Legion members need to find a new way to make money or they will have to sell their home.
Voting members of the Legion gathered for a special meeting on Tuesday (May 18) to consider two motions. The Legion members voted to sell the Legion's building and land at Garibaldi Village if other efforts to generate new revenue don't succeed. The membership also voted to give the president of the local branch the ability to call special meetings and handle any future negotiations.
Branch 277 of the Royal Canadian Legion endured more than 23 months without a permanent home when the old building at Hwy. 99 and Mamquam Road was dismantled in 2001. The Legion sold its land to developers, who built the new Canadian Tire store and are now building the Garibaldi Village Mall, and bought back a half-acre for its new Legion, which opened in February 2003.
Branch president Louise Bennett reported at a Legion general meeting on Feb. 23, 2004 that branch finances are "very, very critical.
"Looking forward if we can keep this momentum to ensure a strong positive year, I know we can make it," Bennett wrote. "Due diligence on our finances and strong support from our members as volunteers will see us through."
Almost three months later, Bennett is still optimistic.
"There will be a Legion in Squamish," she said.
Like many other groups in Squamish and other Legion branches across the country, the Legion is struggling.
"Our membership is not supporting the Legion like it used to," Bennett said. "We have our core group that works really hard to support things like the bingo, meat draws and our poppy drive."
Like other Legion branches across the nation, Branch 277 needs new revenue. At the meeting on Tuesday, Bennett said there was talk of thinking outside the box with the future of the bottom floor. The suggestions ranged from leasing or renting out the ground floor or even creating a strata title situation for the bottom.
If nothing pans out, Bennett said, the final option is to sell.
"Our problem is that the people that volunteer and are on the executive, we all work so it is very hard to market things in the day when everyone is working at their outside jobs," said Bennett.
One of the current challenges with marketing the Legion hall is the fact that the building is in the middle of a major construction zone and getting to the site is a challenge right now. Before the construction picked up, the parking lot was rough and a massive dirt pile separated the Legion from the dramatic views of the Tantalus Range to the west.
While times are tough, Bennett pointed out that it isn't all bad news for the local Legion.
"From 1999 to 2003, between bingo and meat draws the local branch donated $71,785 back to Squamish youth, the Squamish community and other Squamish causes," she said. The money was donated from organizations that ranged from the army and air cadets to restorative justice to sports teams and school groups to groups dedicated to helping the ill.
Even in the 23 months when the group didn't have a home, the membership raised more than $10,000 each year for worthy causes in the community.
Bennett said the membership knows they have to do something.
"The Legion is a vital part of the community," she said.
Meanwhile, another local service club has already sold its downtown building and land after more than 50 years.
Peter Harris, president of the Squamish Elks Club, is reluctant to talk about the details of his club's situation, but he did confirm that the club, which owned its building and the land its sits on, is looking for a new home.
He also confirmed that the club currently has 38 members. That number is down from historic membership numbers that topped 100.
According to Harris, the building was put on the lot in 1953. The building was moved from a different location. The Squamish club was created in 1926.