The Ucluelet Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club continues to thrive since its resurgence in 2014.
The local Unit 293 received a President’s Membership Award from Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada’s Dominion President Jerome Burke during its Annual General Meeting on Friday, Nov. 4.
“In grateful recognition of the work you have done to increase membership in our association. By being strong we have a greater influence on the support provided to our Veterans, those who helped make Canada the great country that it is,” the award reads.
“Thank you from all of Canada, for the great work that you are doing for these fine people.”
First Vice President of BC Command Ed Emerick presented the award to the club’s President John McDiarmid and Vice President Bronwyn Kelleher during the AGM.
“I’ve been involved with this unit for a number of years and I’m very proud of the way it’s picked up. I’m just very, very proud of this unit,” Emerick told the Westerly News after the meeting. “It’s a great club and they all work very hard to make it that way. I just can’t believe what they’ve done over the years…Hopefully, they can keep it up and keep growing and growing and growing.”
READ MORE: Ucluelet’s ANAF back in business
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic forced some ANAF Clubhouses to close and was thrilled to see Unit 293 successfully navigate the waves.
“They did a fantastic job during the pandemic in order to stay open. I was very happy to give them this award,” he said.
The AGM also saw a new board elected that will be led by Bronwyn Kelleher who stepped into the President role. Dave Brown was elected Vice President, Blair Tyne the Sergeant-at-Arms, and Raylene Tyne, Marnie MacLeod and Kailamarie Mack as members of the executive.
Kelleher told the Westerly she was “honoured” to be become the President of Unit 293.
“I really enjoy volunteering for the club and am proud of the transformation that it has taken in the last seven years. I want to thank everybody that has helped with that along the way,” she said. “I am really looking forward to everything that the club can do in the future and I’m extremely happy to be leading that charge.”
Kelleher was a key cog in the wheels that carted Unit 293 back from imminent closure in 2014 to help it become a popular community hub.
READ MORE: Ucluelet ANAF executive shuts down clubhouse
READ MORE: ANAF clubhouse up for sale
“It is absolutely important to maintain our roots as a veteran’s club. It is why we are principally here and in any way shape or form that we can support veterans in Ucluelet, we will strive to do that at all times, but the fact of the matter is that we need to have civilian memberships to keep the club running,” she said.
She said she had fought hard to keep the club alive because the venue offers a paramount and locally-rare space for community connection.
“It’s really gratifying to see so many things able to be brought into the community for locals to enjoy. Be it live music acts or the venue being available for people’s birthday parties, or just having it as an interactive space for locals to be able to gather in is amazing,” she said.
“We are a transient tourist town that is constantly inundated by outsiders trying to come in and take a piece of what is us. It’s nice, after having given almost all of yourself through your job or just trying to navigate physically through your community and your grocery store, to be able to go somewhere and relax with the people that you know and that are your familiar friends, neighbours and community members without having to put on ‘game face’ and serve the tourists that are coming here. It’s nice to just let down your guard and hang out with your friends sometimes.”
She said the club was able to survive through the pandemic largely because of a rental agreement with a food truck in the ANAF’s parking lot, adding that the ANAF recently secured zoning from Ucluelet’s municipal council during an Oct. 6 regular meeting that now allows three food truck spots in the parking lot.
Along with supporting community connections, the club is also giving back, offering the space for free birthday parties for kids and adults as well as supporting youth programs, including a youth night held at the Clubhouse every second Thursday from 6-8 p.m.
Unit 293 also makes donations to local organizations, which this year included $1,200 to Cops for Cancer, $500 to the Ucluelet BMX Track, sponsoring Pacific Rim Scholarship winner Pani Ayoubizadeh to go to a summer camp and covering the gas money for a designated driver service on Halloween. The club also donates its empties to the Red Cross.
READ MORE: New ‘Girls of the ANAF’ calendar launched
Kelleher said a kitchen renovation will soon get underway that will provide a food safe facility that can be used by people wanting to sell food at markets or other venues.
“It will be a kitchen available to be rented out in a communally cooperative way,” she said.
She added that the venue also serves as a key community contributor to local musicians as the venue’s relatively large capacity and stage big enough to fit a full band gives artists an opportunity to collaborate with each other and showcase their music.
“It’s really important for local musicians to be able to have a place to get together, not only to be able to see each other play but be able to have a stage to interactively play on,” she said. “We offer it free to anyone and they can take the entire door cover, so it is a great opportunity with no financial risk to a demographic that does not traditionally have a lot of finances to invest in things like that.”
She added bringing in bands from out of town helps connect the local musicians who open for them to a broader music community and network of touring artists.
“We definitely have a strong music scene on the West Coast. There are countless amazing artists in Ucluelet and Tofino and in between,” she said.
“There are so many bands that just practice in private jam spots and often don’t really get out to play for the public. The more spots there are, the more opportunities there are for people to get their music out there.”
The ANAF is a private veteran’s club and patrons must either be a member or a guest of one. Memberships cost $40 annually and anyone interested in joining can apply at the bar.
“We encourage and welcome all members of the community to apply for membership. That makes the club stronger which just helps the place that everybody loves to come to and enjoy all the better,” Kelleher said.