Don’t call it a comeback, it’s been here for years, but new energy has breathed new life into Ucluelet’s Army Navy and Air Force Veterans club.
It’s been a whirlwind month for the local ANAF as BC Head Command arrived in town on Oct. 21 ready to permanently shut the hall down but reversed this decision on Oct. 23 after hearing a presentation from the hall’s interim management.
The ANAF was nearly shut down last year but a surge of local opposition, steered by a team of young locals, stopped this move in its tracks.
Since then, the club has been run by an interim management committee but this committee was blindsided when head command arrived in Ucluelet ready to close the club’s doors.
“They painted a rather dire picture of the situation for Unit 293. A dire situation that I feel was exaggerated,” said the committee’s co-interim manager Bronwyn Kelleher.
“They stated that they had come here to shut down the unit. They had already made that decision before coming to town.”
She said head command’s motives for closing the unit were strictly financial and their minds were changed once the local membership was able to explain how culturally important the venue is.
“They were coming at it from a purely financial position. Their feeling was that the club is not making enough revenue each month to justify staying open,” she said.
“We were able to present the board with some things that they weren’t aware of that made them review the situation.”
Based on this new information, head command decided to not only let the ANAF’s doors stay open, but also hand over its management to a locally elected committee.
This means the current interim committee will be replaced by an official one and co-interim manager Kasia Kromka was stoked on the news.
“What’s really exciting is that we are now going to have control of the ANAF back to Ucluelet and the membership, which is how it’s supposed to be,” Kromka said.
“Now the hall is coming back to Ukee ownership and Ukee management.”
Nominations for the new committee will begin Nov. 16 and the election will be held on Dec. 6.
Kromka said the hall has a vital role to play within Ucluelet.
“It’s important because it keeps community members invested in their community especially nowadays with everybody sitting inside on the internet and on TV, we really need events and venues to get people out of their homes,” she said.
“That way people socialize and we come together as a community more.”
Kelleher was equally thrilled with head command’s decision to allow the local ANAF to forge ahead under local management.
“I was very relieved that BC Command was able to see things from a small town perspective and realize that this unit is not going to be a large revenue maker but it is a large supporter of the community and that’s more of what this unit’s about,” she said.
“We’re very pleased with the results that we’ve had over the past year I think that the club has had a lot of new light shine on it.”
Kelleher, 31, and Kromka, 28, don’t fit the stereotype of a veterans clubs’ membership but Kelleher noted the face of the ANAF is changing as young energy takes hold.
“It’s not just youthful energy but different groups coming together so that you can have a broader spectrum of things happening in one venue because in a small town you have to have your finger in a lot of pies,” she said.
Staying open isn’t the only thing the ANAF is celebrating as its new fundraising calendar has landed.
“We have 12 local ladies, all ANAF members, dressed up in 1950’s military outfits and we’ve got them in different scenes all around Ukee,” Kromka said.
“It’s amazing. It supports a local cause, it’s got local ladies and it’s got fun facts about Ukee’s military heyday. Basically there is something for everyone in this calendar.”