Legion turns to community for more support and ideas

The Legion is looking for ideas and support from Sooke residents to help bring the branch into a more attractive to meet and play.

The Royal Canadian Legion is looking for ideas and support from Sooke residents to help bring the branch into a more attractive, enticing place to meet and play.

One of the first things on the list is a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the building on Eustace Road, which will be followed by murals by local artists.

Making the legion a more attractive place to come to isn’t going to be easy, which is why it now turns to the local community for support.

“If you support the [Sooke] community, why would you want to fly a tattered Canadian flag?” asked Bruce Corlett, a longtime member and Sooke resident.

Corlett noted that cost to paint the building is more than $15,000, with murals separately at $10,000, unless artists are willing to provide their skills solely as volunteers.

Regardless, a unified community support is needed to bring the building into a more modern time.

“We have to make it look decent to the community, and have some pride, so the community can have pride, not just the legion,” Corlett said, adding that in order to raise the funds for the paint, the Legion will hold a beer and burger night fundraiser on Sunday (Aug. 28).

It would certainly be an opportunity for Sookies to give back a little bit, added Paul McTavish, Sooke Legion branch manager.

“We’ve been giving to the community since 1926,” he said. “We would like the community to give back to us by helping us with this fundraiser.”

For perspective, in 2015, the legion raised $17,993.50 for various local, regional and national organizations, from hospitals, to sports leagues, to community choirs, to medical research foundations.

Recently, work was completed on the building’s upstairs floor, which was made possible by a $25,000 grant.

McTavish said they’ve applied for another grant to enlarge and improve the kitchen, but that’s all still in the planning stages.

Without any support however, these are just dreams.

“We can’t just rely on grants, we also need to rely on the community,” McTavish said, adding that one of the renovations planned is laying out a cement pad on the patio in the rear. “We’re always trying to improve the place, but we need help now.”

Times have certainly changed.

Legions across Canada are struggling to stay in business as they think of ways to attract a younger clientele, and the stigma of what the legion offers still hangs in the public’s minds.

“We’re not a good ol’ boys drinking club anymore … everybody’s got that perception that it’s dark, dingy, smoky place, and it’s just not the case,” McTavish said.

Legion membership is not limited only to military, civilians can join as well.

McTavish hopes for the upcoming fundraiser that Sooke comes out and shows its love for what the legion meant and still means to this country.

“We have to say to people, can you think of Canada without a legion in it. If the legion closes, the community loses,” he said.