The federal government is helping to support local Legions in northwestern Ontario with over $11,000 in funding each, as they continue to try to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kenora MP Eric Melillo made the announcement, detailing Branch 63 in Dryden, Branch 238 in Ear Falls and Branch 102 in Red Lake have each received $11,406 in emergency funds. However, Branch 12 in Kenora did not receive any funding.
“Legions are important hubs that play an essential role supporting veterans and their families,” said Kenora riding MP Eric Melillo. “It would be a tragedy to see our local Legions, who have served our veterans and our communities for years, close their doors due to this pandemic.”
“This financial assistance is greatly appreciated and will help with our fixed expenses until we can safely reopen,” said Branch 238 President Matt Barrow. “I’d also like to thank our community for their donations and support during the past year.”
“This financial help will allow our Branch 102 to weather the pandemic for longer and continue to work to support our Veterans and community,” added Branch 102 President Gary Gazankas.
Conservative Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs John Brassard wrote to Minister Lawrence MacAulay in September urging him to provide emergency funding to keep Legions open. MP Melillo wrote a similar letter in October on behalf of Legions in the riding.
“The funds needed to keep Legions afloat during this unprecedented time are a small price to pay to honour the sacrifices of our veterans,” Melillo concluded. “I’m glad that the government has listened to veterans advocates and stepped up to keep these institutions alive.”
The Royal Canadian Legion is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization. In typical years, Funding comes from membership dues, renting out the building, fundraising events, the club room which is open to the public year round, as well as public grants.
Kenora branch president Jerry Lava also oversees branches throughout northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, and he said there were other branches with more needs, who took part in the first phase of the application process for grants.
"We knew this was going to be challenging with 1,380 branches. There are now a second set of branches putting their application and financial information in for review," he said, noting the Kenora branch is hoping for good news next month.
(with files from Mike Aiken)