Most people know about the Royal Canadian Legion and its many branches around the country. But have you heard of the Ladies’ Auxiliary?
The Ladies’ Auxiliary originated during the First World War when women were asked to help wounded veterans returning home, and to provide supports for their families.
When The Royal Canadian Legion was established in 1926, these women were a "welcomed addition at Legion branches as they continued the tradition of volunteering to support needy ex-service personnel, and to enrich the programs and activities of the branch," notes the Legion's website.
Since 1960, the Ladies’ Auxiliary (LA) of Bradford has been supporting the Royal Canadian Legion in Bradford, Orville Hand Branch 521. The LA and the Legion are separate and distinct organizations, but they work closely together to support veterans and other community programs.
Carol-Anne Haxton, who serves as president of the Bradford group, said the LA is a "great place for ladies to become part of a community, serve the community, and support the community of veterans."
She said the club works hard to support the Legion.
“Our purpose is to raise funds for the Legion, which then helps our veterans in the community and their families,” said Haxton.
The LA meets twice a month, the second Tuesday is an executive meeting and the fourth Tuesday is a general meeting. In between the meetings there is preparation and planning for events. Special events include craft sales and dances.
The LA regularly chooses a local charity to support. Recently they chose to raise funds for the local service organization, Out of the Cold Cafe.
The Out of the Cold Cafe is a drop-in location providing healthy food, a warm safe place and access to personal support. Recently, LA officials presented a cheque for $500 to Out of the Cold representative Jodi Greenstreet.
“This is huge, super helpful. This goes a long way for us as we don’t have any government funding. We really, really appreciate it,” said Greenstreet.
Among other services, the LA provides for homeless veteranss living at the Open Door facility in Newmarket. They also contribute to Wounded Warriors Canada (WWC) to help continue its work to pair more veterans with life-changing service dogs.
Bradford LA treasurer, Sharon Summerville, explains another program the LA provides, called the Wish List program.
“They make up packages for vets entering a new apartment which include a month’s supply of food, a pot and pan, a rug, or whatever they might need,” said Summerville.
The main source of income for the LA, according to Haxton, is the Poppy Fund.
“A big part of our help is the Poppy Fund. Each October to the Saturday before Remembrance Day, we’re out selling poppies. That money goes to the Legion, which then goes directly to the veterans,” said Haxton.
One of the main community services that the LA provides is support for the "celebration of life" ceremonies at the Legion.
The Bradford Legion has a well equipped banquet room which can welcome up to 120 people; it also can be rented for weddings, birthday parties and dinners for various organizations within the town.
The LA volunteers make sandwiches, provide refreshments, and serve the patrons for these events. It is a team effort, said Haxton.
Currently, the Bradford LA has 27 members registered and among them there are eight active members who help provide those services at the banquet hall.
There are perks to being a member of the LA. There is an education bursary program for members' children and grandchildren which can provide up to $1,000/year to help pay for educational expenses.
The LA also helps support a competitive social sports network for fun.
Every year, members from different branches compete in darts, cribbage, and euchre competitions. The darts competitions are the most popular events, and this is separated into individual and four-player team competitions.
Competitors challenge each other at the local level, and winners move on to compete at the district level and then, if successful, to the provincial level.
Bradford’s longest serving councillor, Peter Dykie, said he appreciates the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
“The women of the Legion have done so many events over the years and helped out so many organizations. We, as a community, can’t thank them enough," said Dykie.
There is a need for new volunteers at the LA, said Haxton.
“Our members are dwindling, our members are getting older. We receive support from high school students requiring service hours. They help serve and prep food, cleaning tables, and running the dishwasher. They also help with the Poppy Fund,” said Haxton
Anyone can join the LA; you don’t have to be a veteran or a family member of veteran. There is, however, a vetting process, though nothing too extensive, Haxton explained.
If you are looking to join a community of ladies who serve veterans and the community, you can email [email protected] or call the Legion: 905-775-5025.