Hearty volunteerism is revamping the Tofino Legion with hopes to open its doors to the community for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in 2020.
Fears of losing the town’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #65 brought a wave of passionate enthusiasm in early 2023 and volunteers have breathed new life and significant upgrades into the facility.
The Legion’s poppy chairman Jessica Harris told the Westerly News that the fear of losing the Legion was somewhat overblown, adding the Legion was able to financially navigate through the pandemic largely thanks to its anchor tenants, the Tofino Library and Heritage Museum.
“During that time, as far as income and revenue was concerned, we were fine because we also weren’t spending any money,” she said. “The revenue that was coming in, being generated by our long-term tenants, was paying our bills and things like that, but we weren’t getting any more money. The bank account wasn’t building.”
She added the Legion continued to host the community’s Remembrance Day ceremonies and the downstairs area provided space for Fish and Loaves and the Tofino Girl Guides.
She added though that the Legion entered 2023 with a long list of maintenance and repair needs as well as several departures from the Board of Directors and reached out to the community for support, which was enthusiastically met ten-fold.
“There were so many people that came out in droves and were so passionate saying that ‘We have missed this place. We want this place back. We need this place back in our community,’” Harris said. “It’s nostalgic…People have so many great memories. People were so passionate about ‘We want this place back, how can we do this?’ That vigour and that passion is what really stemmed the turnaround in the community. When everyone got so passionate about, ‘Let’s make this happen,’ that’s when it really took off.”
Harris said the Legion’s leadership met with the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command a number of times over Zoom and were given several possible solutions for moving forward, including replacing the Board of Directors with an Executive of Trustees .
She said the Legion now has two new trustees who came up with a game plan for moving forward and several committees have been struck, including leadership, maintenance and a poppy committee in an effort to divy up the tasks.
She added the list of needed repairs, including upgrading the ramp leading up to the front door, leaks needing to be fixed, kitchen and washroom upgrades, painting and carpet cleaning, continues to be whittled down thanks to Tofino’s volunteer drive.
“This town is full of really great volunteers,” she said. “There’s definitely lots of people who have been eager and very willing, spending long hours doing it.”
She said the Legion currently has 93 members and has a solid reputation of being an important gathering space for the community.
“As a facility here in Tofino, it’s been a hub for the community for so many functions…It’s a place where people can gather and it’s not just a venue. It’s not just a club. It has more value than that. The Legion is important because it stands for something. It stands for a greater good. It’s more than just a place for people to come, hang out and have a good time. It’s a place where you can find safety and there’s resources available,” she said.
“Because we don’t have very many veterans here on the West Coast, we’ve kind of transitioned to a different type of Legion. It’s always been a place where you can gather and access resources. It’s a community facility.”
She added there is no exact date for the reopening, though the Legion will be open for refreshments after Nov. 11’s Remembrance Day ceremony with food being provided by Rhino Coffee House.
Anyone wanting to get involved with the Legion is encouraged to reach out to email@example.com .
Harris said the Legion is hoping to be open by the end of the year and is focused on creating a welcoming, safe space for community gatherings as well as a meeting space for various organizations along with the return of dart leagues, bingo and games nights.
“We want to bring it back as a place where people can come and enjoy,” she said. “It’s going to be a community based space in a place that’s open for all.”
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