All across southern Ontario more and more Royal Canadian legion branches are being forced to close their doors. Tough economic times and a decline in membership are to blame for putting these once proud social clubs on the brink of extinction. Some legions though are stronger than ever thanks to good leadership and modernization of their facilities. One legion which is still very healthy is resides in Hespeler, Royal Canadian legion branch #272.
The club, known as the “f++++++++++++++,” has managed to have consistent numbers in membership, despite an declining veteran population. While other legions in cambridge have dealt with declining membership rates, the Hespeler branch has found a way to recruit new people and has actually seen a slight increase in membership in the past nine years. While number of new members may not be large, the legion is proud that they have been able to stay strong at a time when legions across Ontario are closing down.
The new members may be children of former or present members, or they may just be ordinary people who want to join a social club. Ross Campbell is a member of the executive board, in charge of membership at the #272, and says that very few people are ever turned away who want to become members. “It has a certain code to be followed that you go through when you are initiated,” Campbell said. “ Aside from the discovery that you have a plan to overthrow the government, you won’t be disqualified from joining.”
Campbell also says the prosperity of the Hespeler branch is a committed executive board and a strong base of volunteer support. “It’s all dependent on the people who volunteer and come forward to do things,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t matter which social group it is it all depends on the volunteers who work for it.”
The legion is constantly looking to improve and upgrade its facilities and recently refurbished its pool table room. The welcoming and friendly atmosphere also helps to attract people from the community who may have never had any association with the Canadian military.
As time marches on, many veterans may worry that legions will simply turn into a social club and lose its connection to military remembrance. This is not true of the local #272. The legion is still very involved in remembering veterans throughout the year, not just in November. They help veterans make trips to schools in Cambridge to talk to the students about the sacrifice of those who would not return from the war. Raising money through the local poppy fund, the Hespeler branch still gives back to hospitals, local schools, veterans programs and has a strong relationship with veterans affairs.
Campbell says that the current executive board still holds honoring and preserving the memory of our veterans above all else. “As long as we can maintain and keep that idea alive of remembering, that’s what it’s all about.”Tags: cambridge, children, new, Ross Campbell, Royal Canadian, work