The Maple Ridge branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has grown to be the largest legion in Canada.
Established by Charter in 1927, the branch has grown to more than 2,100 members, with two apartment buildings that give veterans priority move-in, and assets worth more than $50 million dollars.
“The Maple Ridge Legion also has an incredible Ladies Auxiliary Service club that was actually established before the Legion in May of 1927,” explained Lesley Nantel, with Branch 88.
Nantel said they were lucky to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic with minimal loss, when other branches throughout the country suffered financial blows and were forced to close.
Part of moving forward successfully is trying to attract younger members.
This is done through their Cadet programs, youth bursaries for post-secondary school, as well as their annual Remembrance Poster Literary Contest, explained Nantel.
“(These) are all geared towards supporting youth but at the same time teaching them to understand and continue the importance of Remembrance,” she said.
The annual Remembrance Day poppy campaign is the biggest fundraiser for Branch 88.
Last year $84,529.73 was raised locally, a little more than in 2020, when about $82,000 was raised, which was $4,000 more than in 2019.
And, of the donations collected during last year’s poppy campaign, the local legion gave $45,300 to the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation.
This years, funds from poppy sales will be donated to the Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation and the Ridge Meadows Hospice Society. These cheques will be presented on Friday, Nov. 11, in the Branch 88 lounge following the ceremony.
Earlier this year Branch 88 donated almost $600,000 to the new Legion Veterans Village Research Foundation, to create the Legion Veterans Village, LVV, Centre of Clinical Excellence within the national clinical research networks that will oversee the initiation of ongoing mental health, PTSD, technologies and rehabilitation research for veterans and first responders – in Surrey.
And, through meat draws, 50/50, donations, and the poppy fund, Legion 88 and the Ladies Auxiliary are able to donate tens of thousands of dollars to support veterans and other organizations in the community, every year.
The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 88, officially opened their new building in April, 1960, at the corner of Dewdney Trunk Road and 224 Street and moved to the current building at 224 Street and Brown Avenue in 1989.
Now they have a huge dance floor under a massive skylight – the hub for karaoke every Thursday night and live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. There are regular meat draws and 50/50’s and a sports lounge with multiple TV’s. There is also a fireside lounge with books and magazines and an Archive Alley containing historic memorabilia.
Nantel noted that they continue to offer low cost, life-lease apartments, with priority access given to veterans and their widows. They are also proud to be a progressive employer and community partner by doing things like offering fair wages to their staff and being involved with state of the art initiatives, like the veterans village in Surrey.
“We want to continue to be successful and thrive in our neighbourhood,” added Nantel.
“There are many new residents moving into our area and we hope to see them coming in our doors for veterans services, perhaps to volunteer with any of our campaigns, or to socialize in our lounge,” she said.
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