Napanee’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 137 welcomed members back for the first time on Sept. 2 after a nearly six-month hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols.
The executive decided to take its time with the re-opening, giving extra care to ensure everything was sanitized and safety measures were put in place before opening the doors.
“We had a pretty good turnout of members that came out, so that was encouraging,” said branch president Kathy Gardiner. “It worked out well, everyone social distanced, they wore their face coverings (and followed) all the rules.”
Similar to a restaurant, the Legion requires all visitors to wear a face covering when walking about the building, but they can be removed when enjoying a snack or beverage.
While safety of its members was always the biggest priority, being closed for that length of time took its toll on the Legion’s finances.
“Since we closed on March 17 it’s been somewhat difficult because our sources of revenue basically stopped,” said Gardiner. “Our hall rentals, any bookings we had for weddings, social events, they were cancelled. The hall rentals, sports events and Friday lunches, they help to pay our operational costs, our utility bills. It has been a couple of tough months for us.”
Finally being able to open for business was a good start, but they aren’t out of the woods yet.
“There are some branches that probably won’t re-open and there are a lot of branches that are in financial distress,” said the president. “Our Dominion Command helped all the branches out at the beginning of this but there are still branches that just can’t afford to stay open. It’s one of those wait and see. With all the rules in place we’ll have to wait and see how it works out. We’re hopeful that we’ll make it.”
Provincial funding was made available for some branches, but only geared towards funding for programs, not for actual operational costs. That meant the Napanee branch didn’t qualify for any of that relief.
On the bright side, the re-opening of the Napanee Legion means the return of their Friday lunches, which kick off Sept. 11. Running from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., they’ll offer hamburger, sausage or hot dog, plus dessert and coffee for $10. Take-out is also available from their 26 Mill St. E location.
Along with re-opening the branch, the executive has also begun plans for Nov. 11 Remembrance Day ceremonies. Like just about everything else this year, those too will look a lot different.
This year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies will look a lot different than previous years. File photo.
“We received direction from Dominion Command (for Remembrance Day ceremonies), but right now we’re just in planning stages,” said Gardiner. “It’s still really important for us to honour our veterans and the sacrifices they made. Especially being the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The ceremony itself will be much smaller with the participant level being at 100. There will be limited space with the physical distancing. I think the number of people participating will be much smaller and limited.”
Always a well attended event across the L&A County region, this year’s observance will be closed to the public. Members of the public will instead be asked to observe the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa from home, while locally a small ceremony will take place featuring members of the Legion. There will be no veteran’s parade, no Canadian Armed Forces parade, a reduced colour party, all wreathes will be pre-positioned in front of the cenotaph and there will be no Cadets included in the ceremony.
“We’ll still have a ceremony with the piper and the official ceremony taking place, but it’s going to be a lot different this year,” added Gardiner.