By Sam Laskaris
There’s no denying there’s been plenty of changes locally in the past 80 years. But one constant during all these decades has been the fact the Royal Canadian Legion’s local branch has been providing countless valuable services to the community.
The Brechin/Mara Legion is known as Branch 488. Located at 2146 Concession Road 4, the original building for the branch was built in 1949. The two-storey, 7,000-square foot facility, was then rebuilt in 1972.
The local branch currently has about 280 members. That’s slightly down from its record 340 members it had registered 10 years ago.
Leonard Shier, who has served as the president of the Brechin/Mara branch for 20 years, said branches across the country have had dwindling numbers in recent years.
But officials have made a significant change to try and boost membership numbers.
“Membership is now open to any Canadian citizen,” Shier said, adding that change was implemented about five years ago. “Before you had to be the child or the grandchild of a veteran.”
It costs $70 to join the local branch for a year. Annual renewals are then $60 each.
“We also have a strong women’s auxiliary of about 30 members,” Shier said.
Not all members of the local branch live year-round in Ramara.
“A lot of our membership is summer people (cottagers),” Shier said. “But then they can use that membership at any branch.”
Shier said many of those snowbirds who do have local memberships also take advantage by travelling to branches in the United States, primarily in Florida or Arizona.
“They can go to the different branches in the U.S.,” he said. “They always run very good dinner meals and shows.”
The local branch provides plenty of local support, including to war veterans who require financial assistance. Branch 488 also assists students at the four area schools through various programs. It also sponsors the Ramara youth soccer and baseball leagues as well as minor hockey and figure skating programs in Beaverton.
Local Legion members also stage three summer barbecues for members of the community, in June, July and August.
“Usually we get anywhere from 200-250 people for those,” Shier said.
The local branch also operates various athletic/recreational pursuits. It runs competitions for darts, shuffleboard, snooker, horseshoes, bid euchre and washer toss.
Those who fare well locally can advance to zone, district and provincial tournaments.
Those who have questions or are seeking more information on the local branch can call (705) 484-5393.