In February of 1926, the Canadian Legion of The British Empire Service League became incorporated with the hope of helping soldiers who had returned from World War I. The Queen later gave consent to change the name to The Royal Canadian Legion in 1960. Legions exist across the country with a mission to provide support for veterans of all ages. The Ormstown Legion Branch 196 was issued its charter on February 26, 1947, making this year its 75th anniversary.
Nancy Campbell, president of Branch 196 and vice-commander of the district, explains that the Legion provides many vital services for the community. With the number of veterans getting smaller, the Legion has been able to expand into community organizations. “Currently we sponsor the Ormstown Legion Community Meals Outreach program,” she says; this program serves meals in the community twice per week. “We are also in partnership with the Ormstown Lions Club and the MWNC,” she adds.
The Legion also participates in the Poppy Campaign. Campbell emphasizes that the money raised within that campaign are “never used for the operation and maintenance of the Branch,” and are instead donated to the Poppy Trust Fund so they can be “used to aid veterans and their dependents and to honour their sacrifices.”
Over the years, the Ormstown Legion has faced its fair share of challenges. Some years, funding was basically non-existent. But it has still managed to stay around for three-quarters of a century. A lot has changed in that time; for example, before 1951 (when it moved into its current hall), members used to gather at the Oddfellows Hall.
Though much has changed, members are still intent on helping the community in the same way. Something fun to note is that “In 1962 the Branch purchased and installed a shuffleboard. The game was popular for several years, but after a while it was only being used as a serving table for buffets. It was then dismantled and now serves as the bar countertop,” explains Campbell.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary, the Branch will be hosting a Family Day and Open House on September 24. This is an all-ages event; Campbell says, “We have Pat’s Pets coming from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the children, we’re serving grillades, and in the hall we’ll be having a display of memorabilia, pictures, uniforms – that sort of thing.” The legion is always hoping to find new members and hopes to see some younger faces show interest in joining.
Besides the anniversary celebration, the Legion has been able to go back to some of its pre-COVID activities. On October 2 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., it will host a brunch. Then on October 21, it will be hosting a chicken dinner, previously a monthly event. In November there will be the Christmas Craft Fair. The hall is also available to rent for weddings, funerals, baby showers, and other events.
Having spaces like this for people to gather is important to the community, according to Campbell. She says, “It’s very important. People gather, they come in and have a chat, maybe have a couple of beers. It’s a very friendly spot that’s open to people.” Campbell emphasizes that everyone who works at the Legion is a volunteer. It’s important that they find new people to help out: “We’re always looking for people. A lot of us are getting older and it’s harder for us. So, we’re definitely looking for younger members.”
Updates on the Legion can be found on its Facebook page, including details about the history, and upcoming events.