Ladies Auxiliary has fun while supporting veterans

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Try not to blush.

That’s the advice received from Creemore Legion president Jim Henderson upon entering the kitchen, already occupied by members of the Ladies Auxiliary who are preparing to man their stations.

Apparently things can get a little spicy when this group of ladies gets together.

By the end of the day this team will have made about 500 meat pies, which are sold as a fundraiser for the various programs and initiatives that the Ladies Auxiliary supports.

President Dee Hanson has been in the kitchen since 8 a.m. with Laura Earles and Mark Madill – an honorary member of the Ladies Auxiliary, since men are not technically allowed in – along with her husband Bob, and Henderson.

In order to be a member, you have to sit down to pee, is how Hanson puts it.

Remember, no blushing.

They’re lucky to have Madill, says Hanson. Not only is he a chef who trained at the Four Season hotel in Yorkville, among other places, before he joined the military where he cooked for hundreds of people at a time depending on the mess hall, with 1,500 being the biggest crowd of his career, he also provides some muscle.

Hanson is cranking out several batches of pastry from the Hobart mixer. Twelve cups of flour, three pounds of lard and some water… repeat.

The meat pie assembly line starts with those who are tasked with rolling out the base and pressing them into the foil pie plates. Another group fills them from the huge bin of filling in the centre of the work table, before adding the tops, which are rolled out at another station. The edges are then pressed with a fork and each pie is stabbed a couple of times with a butter knife.

“We just keep going until we run out,” said Hanson, referring to ingredients, not energy.

It’s hard to believe this group of ladies, many of whom are in their 70s, would ever run out of steam. Their record is 1,500 meat pies in one day.

The Ladies Auxiliary cooks to raise funds for several causes. The veterans are their first priority, and they support the Creemore branch of the Legion, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 397.

The 16-member crew, not all of whom live in Creemore, raises about $30,000 per year. In the past 18 months they have gifted $29,000 to the Legion branch for specific projects.

“I feel good knowing that we are helping the veterans and the community,” says Hanson, who has been a member for 23 years and has served as president for 16.

The Legion hall is occupied four nights of each week with community groups who have free use of the facility – Cadets, Scouts, Cubs and Beavers. The auxiliary also donates to the churches, food banks, hospitals, and supports others’ fundraising. The money they raise also supports homeless veterans, youth sports and organizations, a student bursary program for members’ families, and the list goes on.

In 2025, the Ladies Auxiliary will celebrate its 75th anniversary. It started out as the Noisy River branch of the British Empire Service Ladies which has a history dating back to the First World War when women were called upon to support soldiers, welcoming them home, distributing cigarettes to veterans in hospital and manning Legion canteens.

Hanson joined the Legion branch before becoming a member of the Ladies Auxiliary. Her father and two brothers were veterans.

At lunch, members take a break from the assembly line to share birthday cake with Laura Earles, a 20-year member. She joined because she saw the good work that was being done and saw that help was needed.

Also at the table is Betty Belfry, whose mother Marg Ransier was a life member, having joined the Noisy River Ladies Auxiliary in its first year. Her wool uniform is on display in the Legion’s quiet room.

Carol Percy joined the Ladies Auxiliary in 1964, when she turned 18. Her mother helped start the New Lowell branch more than 70 years ago.

She loves the comradeship, and knowing she is supporting veterans.

That is the consensus around the table. The members love cooking with their friends, chatting about life and supporting their community.

At 49, Monique Van Severen is the youngest member of the group. Her grandmother was a war bride and a member of the Ladies Auxiliary, as was her mother.

“I’ve been in and out of Legions all my life,” she says. “I love volunteering and it’s my social time.”

Members share fond memories of going to dart and euchre tournaments, and getting each other into trouble at conventions – “What happens at convention stays at convention,” they chorus.

“We have fun,” says Hanson, adding that she loves everything about it.

They are in need of new members, to keep the Auxiliary going and support the branch.

“We’ll find something for them to do, even if it’s buttering bread,” said Hanson.

Membership costs $15. Call Laura Earles at 705-466-2462 to inquire.

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