Past, present and fu­ture

New pres­i­dent work­ing for the Le­gion in Port aux Basques to be­come vi­able part of com­mu­nity and im­por­tant as­set to vet­er­ans

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROSALYN ROY Rosalyn.roy@gulfnews.ca Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

Port aux Basques Le­gion in­creases ef­forts to at­tract new mem­bers to help ser­vice vet­er­ans

This is Pam Os­mond’s first year as the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion pres­i­dent, and al­ready un­der her guid­ance the Port aux Basques Branch 11 has grown.

Some of that growth can be at­trib­uted to new ini­tia­tives that may be con­sid­ered lit­tle ges­tures but do sig­nify a change.

This year, which marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War, Os­mond trekked up to the War Memo­rial and made a list of all who had served in ev­ery war, in­clud­ing Afghanistan. Then she con­tacted a Face­book group she had spot­ted called NL Rock and asked them to paint a Re­mem­brance Day rock for each fallen sol­dier.

“I thought ‘Oh my God. This is awe­some,’” says Os­mond, who is find­ing that lit­tle touches can make a huge im­pact. “I asked them if they would mind do­ing 158 rocks with Afghanistan (for) the ones that served over in Afghanistan.”

This will also be the first year in a while that the lo­cal le­gion will be host­ing a sit-down sup­per for its mem­bers, a tra­di­tion Os­mond is keen on re­viv­ing.

Vol­un­teer­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions is some­thing Os­mond does reg­u­larly. She was drawn to the Le­gion in part be­cause her hus­band, Kevin, is a re­tired vet­eran. But while she may have been keen to join, Kevin was ini­tially more re­luc­tant.

“I’m not usu­ally part of the Le­gion. This is my first year do­ing it, all be­cause of my trip in Afghanistan. I stays away from it as much as I can,” ad­mits Kevin. “I guess it’s just a re­minder of what hap­pened in cer­tain places.

“It’s like when we came back from Afghanistan. We came back Nov. 4, Nov. 5 and we were at Re­mem­brance Day in Ed­mon­ton Nov. 11.”

But that was be­fore, and now that he’s been go­ing to the Le­gion for the past year Kevin has found his at­ti­tude has shifted. He’s now the reg­u­lar bingo caller and says there’s noth­ing he wouldn’t do for the Le­gion or its mem­bers.

“Oh, I love it. You get to meet peo­ple, you know?,” he said. “Cause, like I said, I’ve been locked up more or less. I kept my­self away from peo­ple.”

Pam agreed, “That’s the thing with the vet­er­ans. For some rea­son they look at this Le­gion with stigma when they come out of serv­ing. It took my hus­band 10 years to come in here.”

Pam be­lieves it’s the mil­i­tary as­pect that is off putting for for­mer vet­er­ans.

“Men­tally they can’t. They can’t walk in that door,” she said. “They’ve lost all their trust. They lose a lot when they’re over­seas.”

Pam has been reach­ing out to other vet­er­ans, and they are slowly com­ing around. One has be­gun vol­un­teer­ing as a bar­tender, and there’s a new sergeant-at-arms com­ing into the Le­gion as well.

“He didn’t want any­thing to do with the ex­ec­u­tive un­til we came on board, and me reach­ing out to them one-on-one I think really helped,” Pam said.

She’s also been work­ing to en­tice younger mem­bers to join the ex­ec­u­tive and pitch in to vol­un­teer. To that end the branch has been host­ing weekly dances fea­tur­ing live mu­sic, and fundrais­ing through the still-pop­u­lar Chase The Ace, bingo and even raf­fles for meat prod­ucts. Nat­u­rally, mem­bers are hard at work sell­ing pop­pies at the mall.

“We need peo­ple to come and get on mem­ber­ship, be­cause all this money goes back to com­mand, which helps back the vet­er­ans,” Pam ex­plained. “So, say some­one had a flood. They need money for a washer and dryer. This is where the money comes from.”

When Pam took over as pres­i­dent in April, there were 66 mem­bers. That has since climbed to 80, with an­other 10 set to sign on, and she is con­fi­dent she will ex­ceed her orig­i­nal goal of 100 mem­bers be­fore the end of the year.

More mem­bers will mean the Port aux Basques branch can of­fer much more sup­port for lo­cal vet­er­ans, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to men­tal health re­lated is­sues such as post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

“I’m in the process of get­ting peer sup­port train­ing here,” says Pam, who has also worked out a spon­sor­ship with a busi­ness part­ner for such things as well­ness train­ing work­shops. “We’re hop­ing to get a lot of men­tal stuff here on the go for the vet­er­ans, and some train­ing.”

In the mean­time, Pam is help­ing out wher­ever she can, be it bar­tend­ing or just call­ing up a for­mer mem­ber for a chat and hope­fully en­tic­ing that per­son to re­join. Talk­ing to peo­ple is one of the things she en­joys the most.

Classie Mar­shall, 86, has been a mem­ber for 20 years and cur­rently serves as the branch sec­re­tary. She joined the Le­gion be­cause she en­joys line danc­ing.

“Dave Elms was there, and he was try­ing to get a pin for bring­ing in mem­ber­ship,” she re­calls with a laugh. “He told us if we didn’t join the Le­gion we wouldn’t be able to line dance there. So we all joined the Le­gion so we could do the line danc­ing, and af­ter we joined they drove us down in the base­ment so we all quit, ex­cept for me.”

Classie still goes line danc­ing when she can.

“This job is very re­ward­ing here. I love it,” says Pam. “There’s a lot of po­ten­tial here.”

PHO­TOS BY J. R. ROY — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

A procla­ma­tion rec­og­niz­ing the Bells of Peace was signed by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Port aux Basques Le­gion and the town on Fri­day, Oct. 26. From left, Kevin Os­mond, Le­gion Branch 11 pres­i­dent Pam Os­mond, Mayor John Spencer and Classie Mar­shall.

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