Fernie Legion President Jeannie Watson says the local branch is keeping its head above water, but hopes they can open up sooner rather than later. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie Legion President Jeannie Watson says the local branch is keeping its head above water, but hopes they can open up sooner rather than later. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Fernie Legion does it tough through health orders

Branch 36 is closed until at least May 25

The ongoing COVID-19 public health orders are putting a huge amount of pressure on the Fernie Legion, with the local branch headed into the red by $4,300 in the last two months.

“That’ll be really hard to recoup,” said Branch 36 president Jeannie Watson, who explained that the Fernie Legion had been ordered to close when the new orders came in as they didn’t serve food.

The various orders over the last 15 months have taken a toll on what the Fernie Legion would normally do – from fundraising for community causes to keeping the lights on in their own building.

Various fundraisers and events run by the Fernie Legion to raise funds are on ice, while the money raised by being open to serve drinks which would go to expenses is also cut off.

“The only benefit we have is we outright own the building. If we had to pay rent for the space we’d be done,” said Watson.

Branch 36 in Fernie is closed at least until May 25, when the current provincial health orders lapse, but Watson said they wouldn’t know if they could open again until Dr. Bonnie Henry said so – meaning they could be waiting all the way until the end of the orders.

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, there are 21 branches across Canada that have close permanently or are closing as a result of the pandemic.

For Fernie, Watson said that while the local branch itself could keep its head above water for the time being, the loss in funds raised through events was deep.

“We lost about $8,000 on the poppy campaign because we couldn’t put out poppy trays,” she said.

The poppy campaign, together with the meat trays and 50-50 raffles raise funds for good causes locally – causes that the Fernie Legion hasn’t been able to back with the same vigor as years past – though it has been donating money through the year anyway.

READ MORE: Fernie Legion digs deep for local causes

The Royal Canadian Legion is not eligible for many supports being offered by the provincial and federal governments as they are a not-for-profit organisation, meaning local branches don’t have access to the same supports many other groups have. There are grant funds coming through however, with the Fernie Legion’s share of federal emergency funds earmarked for repairs to the front of the building. In total, some $14 million has been allocated for the Royal Canadian Legion by Veterans Affairs Canada, dividing between the 1,380 branches in the organization.

Until the local branch can open again, it is a waiting game, and Watson said they had their fingers crossed they’d be permitted to safely open sooner rather than later.

Besides welcoming donations direction from the community, the branch will be selling gift certificates in coming weeks to help with their operations, and as always, when things do open up again, drop in.

“When we’re open, come in and enjoy your beverage.”



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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