Legion in trouble

UPDATE 3:23 p.m.

Things are not looking good for the Vernon Legion.

On Tuesday evening, the executive announced they were stepping down en masse and President Bill Balcaen said so far, there is little interest from anyone wanting to step up and take over.

“It wasn't a huge surprise to most,” said Balcaen, adding the writing had been on the wall for some time.

“We put the word out to our membership that if we do not get replacements for the five members of the executive, we'll notify our command in the Lower Mainland and they will probably come up and take over,” said Balcaen who has been volunteering on the executive for the past six years.

“They will take the charter and dispose of any assets we may have.”

Once the local legion loses its charter, it will officially cease to exist.

Despite a membership of 150, only 14 people attended the general meeting at the legion office Tuesday evening.

“A lot of them are not able to take part in physical stuff anymore. It's not for lack of wanting to for a lot of people, they just can't do it,” said Balcaen, who admitted it is not looking good for Branch 25.

“Even our Sargent at Arms is 86 and he hates to see it go down. He's at every meeting and every function, but we don't have many like that.”

There is no hard and fast date when the 91-year-old legion may close its doors and Balcaen said he will keep Legion Command updated on the situation.

Balcaen said people know the local legion needs help, but “everyone has got their own commitments.”

However, he hopes the impending closure of the local legion will motivate enough people to step up and fill the leadership roles.

“Hopefully, somebody will come out of the crowd and step up,” he said.

It's been a fixture in the community for almost a century, but after 91 years of service, there is a chance the Vernon Legion could close its doors.

At a general meeting Tuesday evening, the Branch 25 executive announced its group resignation.

Five volunteer leaders, including President Bill Balcaen, have stepped down.

Blacaen said while the local legion has 150 members, not enough are willing to volunteer for the executive.

“We have been doing this for six years, and we're all very tired,” said Balcaen.

Balcaen said the local legion is doing fine financially, but without someone willing to step up and take over the leadership responsibilities, the legion may not carry on past the end of April when tenure of the current executive ends.

Balcaen said it was a hard decision for all of the executive to make.

“As president, I would just as soon not be delivering this message,” said Balcaen. “If the legion closes, our zone command will take over. If we don't have an executive, they will take over our charter.”

Without the charter, legion programs like the annual poppy campaign will likely come to an end.

“There would just be no one to take care of it.”

Balcaen said there is a chance another legion could take over the local poppy campaign, but that would increase their workload and he doesn't know how realistic that would be.

Groups like A.N.A.F. Vets could also take over the campaign, if they choose to do so.

Balcaen said over the years, the local legion has put $600,000 into the community through bursaries and other programs.

“We will disperse all of the monies raised in the community before we close the doors, if it comes to that,” said Balcaen.

“To keep the doors open, we need more members to become involved. We need working members. It's tough, a lot of people have different commitments. It's a different era I guess, but this is what we are faced with.”

The Vernon Legion is not alone in its plight.

“A lot of legions are suffering for lack of members. I don't know if it's served its time, if it's a different era we're drawing from, a different generation. I don't know,” he said.

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