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Taber Legion Branch #20 still holding on

Posted on January 11, 2024 by Taber Times

By Cal Braid
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Royal Canadian Legion is an organization founded by veterans and for veterans. Their website claims “1,350 branches from coast to coast to coast” that provide one of the largest volunteer bases in the nation. The Legion advocates “for the care and benefits for all who served Canada, regardless of when or where they served.” 

It provides representation and assistance to veterans, currently serving Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP, and their families, regardless of membership. It strives to help people make significant positive changes in their lives. But some branches are struggling, or closing their doors altogether. It’s happened recently, most notably in Vauxhall. 

Abe Andres, president of Taber’s Branch #20, told the Times, “It’s closing its doors and their building is up for sale.”

The Vauxhall Legion #193 has kept their charter and remains in existence, but they closed their hall and building in October citing rising costs and dwindling membership. The organization marked 77 years in 2023.

The Taber Legion is doing better than a lot of branches, though. Andres said that in talking to other clubs in the province, many are stressed and strapped financially. 

“It’s a sign of the times I guess. Speaking strictly for the Branch #20 in Taber, we’re in a unique situation. We have funding coming in from our rentals. We look after the youth center in the north of town. We have a contract with the Town of Taber and we look after that with bookings and stuff like that. And the same thing with the Legion Park.” Aside from that, they rely on donations and a small percentage of their membership fees.

The building that Andres refers to (Taber Legion Youth Centre) is one that the Legion built years ago, but was unable to sustain beyond a certain point. The Town purchased it, but the Legion still manages it. Legion Park is also Town property managed by the Legion. He said that’s approximately 60 per cent of their funding.

Branch #20 has only one paid employee and volunteers do the rest to keep the club viable. 

“If it wasn’t for volunteers, it would be closed by now,” Andres said. The Legion Hall that the branch operates out of is owned by Dominion Command, the headquarters in Ottawa. Taber has 368 members who pay an annual fee of $50 per year. “The Legion (in Taber) gets $13.39 and Command gets the other $36.61,” Andres reported.

When asked if one had to be a veteran or a family member of a veteran to qualify for membership with the organization, Andrews said, “No, anybody can be… so long as you haven’t got a criminal record. You’re welcome. We will fill out your membership sheet and get you in here.”

“In the past year, Branch #20 has done tremendously well with new members applying and becoming members,” he said. “But we need the membership to become involved in the daily and weekly operations and become volunteers on our committees, so that we can try to become more active.” He said more committees would mean that the club could host a wider variety of functions. The lounge at the Legion Hall is open two days a week because people don’t “inhabit” it like they used to, he said. Nevertheless, the Branch has “become more of a social club now and run with less rigidity than it used to be.”

He highlighted Friday night meat draw as a staple at the club. 

“You come to the Legion at 6:30 p.m. and you buy dollar tickets, normally as many as you want, and then we have 12 draws for assorted meats. Our supplier is Taber IGA and they have treated us absolutely wonderful.” The IGA also donates snack trays to the Legion’s Remembrance Day function.

The Legion-at-large prides itself on helping veterans, supporting seniors, providing youth sports programs, raising funds, volunteering to help those in need, and offering a place to gather for fun and celebration. Taber’s Legionnaires hope to continue on with that same vision.

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