Community comes together at Creemore Legion

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With Remembrance Day around the corner, thoughts turn to the Legion. It is the time of year when their work in the community is most visible.
Like all Legions, Creemore Royal Canadian Legion Branch 397’s purpose is to unify and help all who have served, to educate, and perpetuate the memory and traditions for those who serve.
“Legion Branches are the cornerstone of communities across Canada, and provide one of the largest volunteer bases in the country. With 1,400 branches from coast to coast to coast, members provide local services and supports to build a stronger Canada. Whether helping local veterans, supporting seniors, providing youth sports programs, raising funds, volunteering to help those in need, or simply offering a place to gather for fun and celebration, Legionnaires provide essential services in their communities.”
In many communities, including Creemore, it’s where people get married, hold funerals, attend Scouts and Cadets, and participate in public speaking contests.
On Wednesday evenings a group of about a dozen women gather in the Legion lounge for Ladies Darts. There is a lot of laughter and encouragement as the games progress. The television is on in the background and people chat while waiting for their turn. Most of the players are not Legion members. For them it is taking the roll of a community centre. There are twice as many people who come out to mixed darts on Friday nights and there are euchre games a couple times per week.
Legions everywhere are seeing a loss of membership, Creemore included.
“I can remember when we had 160 and we’re lucky to have 40 now,” said
Legion secretary Norma Friest, who has been a member for 48 years and a member of the executive for 40 of those.
“I raised six kids, and used to work as well, and we used to have a wedding every Saturday at the Legion in the summer and we’ve worked at a lot of things,” said Friest.
She said there are a number of reasons why people don’t get involved with the Legion. For one, she said they have a changing attitude toward volunteer work. It is difficult to find young people who are willing to work without pay. Volunteerism is at the core of the Legion, whether it’s helping out at their Canada Day celebrations or preparing meals in their large commercial kitchen.
“We always need volunteers,” said Friest. “We have some seniors that people could go and visit for us, things like that.”
Friest also believes that parents are busier than ever because they are more involved with their children than generations past.
Since 1971 the Legion has opened membership to non-military personnel. There are now various forms of membership, both voting and non-voting, for descendants of military members and those who are not.
The Royal Canadian Legion’s mission is to serve Veterans, including serving military, RCMP members and their families, to promote Remembrance and to serve our communities and our Country.
Dee Hanson, who heads up the ladies auxiliary, recalls a time when the lounge was open everyday but now it’s open at select times for specific activities such as euchre and darts.
The rentals are high and they still do a lot of catering. Hanson said the Legion’s changing role in the community has been a topic of conversation.
Hanson chalks it up to “the times.” She said, “There will come a time when the Legion is needed again.”
The Creemore Legion is located at 27 Wellington St. W. For more information, call 705-466-2202.

Trina Berlo photo: A group gathers at the Legion every Wednesday for Ladies Darts. Pictured from left: Val Nordstrom, Elaine Reed, Barb Cudmore, Nellie Curran, Marie Blohm, Anne Emerton, Emma Noonan, Natasha Trott, Sharon Buchanan and Mary Underhill. 

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