Bradford branch 521 of the Royal Canadian Legion has been successful in attracting new members – younger people in the community who may not have a direct military connection, but who would like to support Canada’s veterans, the men and women of the Armed Forces, and the Legion’s work in the community.
The Legion’s Ladies’ Auxiliary is now hoping for similar success, reaching out to women in the area, to attract new members interested in continuing a tradition of support that dates back to end of the Firt World War.
“We are a non-profit organization that relies on the generosity of the community to volunteer their time to contribute to the support of the Canadian Armed Forces of today and the veterans who have served our community and Canadians,” explains Ann Lavhey, Ladies’ Auxiliary member.
“Our goal is to contribute to the betterment of our veterans as they reintegrate into civilian life, seeking programs for mental, financial and health support,” for themselves and for their families.
The Auxiliary or L.A. is primarily a fundraising arm of the Legion – supporting not only the local Legion Hall with its donations, but also Ontario Command and its programs, the annual Poppy Campaign, veterans’ hospitals like Sunnybrook in Toronto, programs that address homelessness among veterans, provide medical assistive devices or service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD. The L.A. also raises funds for educational bursaries to assist the children and grandchildren of Armed Forces and Legion members.
Most of the fundraising is through the catering of events held at the Bradford Legion Hall, from funeral receptions to anniversary parties, birthdays, wedding receptions, baptisms and reunions, or providing the lunches at Legion sporting events, from bid euchre to darts tournaments.
In the past, the L.A. has organized other fundraisers, including yard sales, craft sales, Sunday brunches and even a Mother’s Day Tea.
But, says Lavhey, “We don’t just work – we have fun!” The L.A. also hosts its own events for members, strictly for fun - including darts, bid euchre and cribbage matches, that offer inter-branch competition for trophies and bragging rights.
In the past two years, many of the activities have been put on hold, and not just because of COVID. Part of the challenge has been the membership itself.
Although there are 47 names on the roll of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, a growing number of members are now in their 80s and 90s, and no longer active.
“Some of them can’t drive any more,” says 1st Vice President and Treasurer, Sharon Summerville. “We haven’t been able to do all that because we don’t have the women.”
The L.A. is now inviting new and old members of the Bradford Community to join the organization, and contribute their expertise, ideas and talents – at whatever level of engagement they would like to commit. Membership is only $20 per year.
It should be noted that the L.A. is a regimented branch of the Legion. It has its own guidelines, expectations and regulations, a uniform, and a structure of command that starts with the local executive and includes Zone, District and Provincial levels, with opportunities for advancement through the ranks.
As Lavhey says, “Challenges of membership are as big or as little as you wish!”
But at every level, the focus is still on supporting Canada’s veterans. “We continue to serve in both times of peace and when at war, honoring those who serve.”
L.A. members need to be flexible, Lahvey says – adaptable, inventive, and willing to respond to community needs.
“As well as being a team player, you need to be someone who can work well with others and make changes on short notice,” she notes – but adds, “If you enjoy the rewards of volunteering and helping others, if you wish to participate in your community, to contribute to the lives of those who are in need, if you are looking for an environment that offers a variety of activities and opportunities to participate in leadership roles as well as social activities, then becoming a Ladies Auxiliary member is a great option.”
Not only that, joining is a great way to make lifelong friends.
“I have made so many friendships, being part of club,” Lavhey says. “It’s a great way to get to know your community.”
Bradford’s Orville Hand Branch of the Legion was launched in 1952. The Ladies’ Auxiliary was established eight years later, in 1960, with 22 Charter members. It has continued to provide service and support to veterans and the local community in the more than 6 decades since it was founded. New members are needed to continue that tradition of dedicated service.
For more information, contact Sharon Summerville at 905-252-2852 or Ann Lavhey, 905-836-5817.