Le­gion on a roll

Spa­niard’s Bay branch builds on sta­ble foun­da­tion

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

At a time when many com­mu­nity ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to main­tain their very ex­is­tence, Branch No. 9 of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion in Spa­niard’s Bay seems to be buck­ing the trend.

The vol­un­teers who run the branch use words such as “ac­tive and vi­brant” to desribe the op­er­a­tion, and say there is a wide range of fundrais­ing and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties in sup­port of vet­er­ans and their de­pen­dents, and many other com­mu­nity and char­i­ta­ble pro­grams.

And mem­ber­ship is con­sid­er­ably higher — on a pro­por­tion­ate ba­sis — than most other Le­gion branches across the prov­ince and the coun­try, says Jack Chipman, the branch’s pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer and sec­re­tary of the 2010 ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

“Of the el­i­gi­ble pop­u­la­tion, age 19 or older, we have a 4.6 per cent par­tic­i­pa­tion rate,” Chipman ex­plains. “ The na­tional av­er­age is a lit­tle over one per cent, while the pro­vin­cial av­er­age is less.

“ We don’t have a prob­lem with mem­ber­ship. We don’t even try,” he says.

In­stead, the branch fo­cuses on re­ten­tion; not re­cruit­ment.

The branch serves an area that in­cludes Spa­niard’s Bay-Tilton and Bishop’s Cove, with a pop­u­la­tion of just un­der 3,000 peo­ple. It em­ploys six staff, which is also higher than what many might ex­pect.

“ We’re in good stand­ing,” Chipman says.

And mem­ber­ship statis­tics can­not fail to im­press. A to­tal of 152 names are cur­rently on the ros­ter; up from 133 three years ago.

“Look­ing at the geo­graphic area, that’s a big mem­ber­ship,” ob­serves Calvin Crane, first vice pres­i­dent and a for­mer pres­i­dent of the pro­vin­cial com­mand. Crane is also a chap­lain and chair­man of the poppy

cam­paign.

Vet­er­ans de­clin­ing

The Spa­niard’s Bay branch is part of District No. 2, which also in­cludes branches in Car­bon­ear, Blake­town ( Dildo), Har­bour Grace, Up­per Is­land Cove, Bay Roberts and Bri­gus.

The strug­gles of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion have been well pub­li­cized in re­cent years. With the num­ber of vet­er­ans from past wars shrink­ing ev­ery year, it’s be­com­ing harder and harder for branches to op­er­ate. Many have closed or op­er­ate at re­duced ca­pac­ity.

The Spa­niard’s Bay branch has faced its share of chal­lenges, but not to the same de­gree, it seems. Why?

Chipman at­tributes it to what he calls “an at­trac­tive branch.”

The 4,000-plus square-foot fa­cil­ity, which is val­ued at $ 1.85 mil­lion in re­place­ment cost, is a ma­jor draw­ing card. Vir­tu­ally debt-free, it boasts a com­plete stain­less steel kitchen, air con­di­tion­ing and an el­e­va­tor.

“ It’s one of the very best in the prov­ince,” Chipman sug­gests.

The fa­cil­ity is bustling ev­ery night of the week with ac­tiv­i­ties such as card games, bingo, dart leagues and cater­ing. There are also a wide range of spe­cial events through­out the year, in­clud­ing dances and ban­quets.

The ded­i­ca­tion of the mem­ber­ship is also a big fac­tor in its suc­cess.

“I’ve been in­volved in many other or­ga­ni­za­tions, both pri­vately and pro­fes­sion­ally, and there’s no bet­ter group of peo­ple than we have here,” Chipman states.

Ladies play a role

One mem­ber, 86-year-old John Pauls, who served in the Mer­chant Navy in the Sec­ond World War, is known as “ Mr. Le­gion.” He’s been a mem­ber of Branch No. 9 for 65 years. Jack Mercer, who served in the Korean Con­flict, is an­other long-time and faith­ful mem­ber.

Both have been re­cip­i­ents of the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal and Palm Leaf, the high­est hon­our that can be be­stowed upon a le­gion­naire.

The ladies aux­il­iary comes in for ful­some praise.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Chipman says, “they’re the heart and soul of this branch.”

Chipman says the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee is also very pro­duc­tive and sup­port­ive.

The an­nual poppy cam­paign is a Le­gion high­light. The red pop­pies worn on lapels serve to rec­og­nize vet­er­ans, sol­diers, peace of­fi­cers and oth­ers who have risked their lives for the free­dom we have to­day.

“ It’s with­out a doubt one of the most im­por­tant func­tions of our branch,” Chipman in­di­cates.

The 2009 poppy cam­paign was the best since the found­ing of the branch in 1921.

For the last three years, Branch No. 9 has been the re­cip­i­ent of the na­tional Hughie Con­nors award, which is based on com­mu­nity per­for­mance. The branch is widely and well-rec­og­nized for its var­ied com­mu­nity ser­vice, both within and with­out its purview.

One such char­i­ta­ble pro­gram is the an­nual cys­tic fi­bro­sis darts tour­na­ment. An es­ti­mated $60,000 has been do­nated by the branch dur­ing the past three decades.

The Le­gion is com­mit­ted to the schol­ar­ship and sup­port pro­gram of Holy Redeemer school. For the past four years, the branch has pre­pared more than 700 cold plates. In 2009 alone, the school took in $4,200 from this pro­gram.

The Le­gion an­nu­ally pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port, in the amount of $200 each, to many com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions, and makes an an­nual do­na­tion to all ma­jor rec­og­nized char­i­ties at both the pro­vin­cial and na­tional lev­els, upon request.

The branch also has a close re­la­tion­ship with cadets and youth sports pro­grams.

In­deed, the Le­gion prides it­self on re­fus­ing no rea­son­able request for as­sis­tance.

In short, the fu­ture of the Spa­niard’s Bay Le­gion ap­pears to be very bright.

Pres­i­dent App Shep­pard ac­knowl­edges the will­ing­ness of mem­bers to “get to­gether on the one thing. We all want to do the best we can.”

Crane adds, “ We’ve had our downs. We’ve had our ups, too. I don’t think we can go any lower and still suc­ceed. So I can only see greater things to come for Branch No. 9.”

Photo by Terry Roberts/The Com­pass

The lead­er­ship at Branch No. 9 of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion in Spa­niard’s Bay have plenty to smile about this Re­mem­brance Week. The branch con­tin­ues to be a sta­ble, vi­brant op­er­a­tion, with grow­ing mem­ber­ship and an im­pres­sive record of sup­port­ing vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, and com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions. Shown here are, from left, Le­gion­naires Calvin Crane, App Shep­pard and Jack Chipman.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.