CONSTANCE BAY – Hundreds of Royal Canadian Legion branches have received some federal support as of Dec. 21, 2020, but West Carleton’s Branch 616 isn’t one of them. Yet.

Last December the Legion’s national headquarters announced more than half of The Royal Canadian Legion’s 1,380 branches received close to half the support dollars available for transfer from a federal aid package.

In total, just more than $7.2 million dollars was distributed by the Legion’s national headquarters going to 701 branches that had applied for financial assistance provided through Veterans Affairs Canada.

Branch 616 did not receive funding, because they didn’t apply.

Branch 616 is part of Zone G6 which includes eight branches from Constance Bay to Kanata and Stittsville to Smith Falls and Perth.

West Carleton Online spoke with Royal Canadian Legion District G Commander Joel Van Snick earlier today (Jan. 6) who confirmed seven of eight branches in the zone applied for the funding. He said he would be reaching out to Branch 616 President George Dolan today to check in and encourage the small branch to apply.

“I will double check to make sure they get their fair share of the pie,” Van Snick said. “My goal is to get everyone to apply and make sure all branches get some help.”

Of the seven branches that did apply only the Arnprior branch was not approved although Van Snick said it was due to an issue with their application and he plans on working with them to ensure they are successful during the next intake. The deadline to apply for Legion funding is Jan. 15.

Van Snick is also well aware of the small successes Branch 616 has had during the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdowns. The branch, thanks to community support, has had a lot of success with its Meals to Wheels drive-thru weekly dinners. Each week a member cooks an incredible meal for the community which orders in advance and then drives through, usually on a Friday, to pick up. The program replaced the branch’s popular TGIF Friday night dinners during the pandemic.

“(Branch 616) is one of the success stories,” Van Snick said. “The ones who have been thinking outside of the box have been doing well.”

Nationally, more funds will be disbursed in the coming weeks. Many branches have been struggling to keep up with operational costs in the aftermath of closures and cancelled events.

“I’m literally ecstatic to know that our branches have now received desperately needed help,” Dominion President Thomas D. Irvine said. “It’s a relief to know they will be able to continue with their amazing work, without the burden of financial stress looming in the background.”

The Legion received $14 million dollars out of a $20 million dollar package earmarked for Veteran Organizations as part of Bill C-4, approved earlier last fall.

“The Legion’s branches are some of our most important partners in supporting our veterans, and in making sure that Canadians remember the sacrifices they’ve made,” The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence said. “I’m proud the Government of Canada is able to provide them with the funding they need to make it through the pandemic as we continue to work together on behalf of our Veterans and their families.”

Branches are happy to turn a new corner with this welcome help.

With restrictions on gatherings, La Ronge Branch 371 in Saskatchewan had barely any income and was dipping into savings to operate. They trimmed costs by cancelling their Wi-Fi and phone, lowered the heat and unplugged appliances.

“The Legion is important in our community and I was envisioning an end to what has been in town for 55 years or more,” Branch President Shaune Lapworth said.

With close to $9,000 dollars in new funding, their outlook has changed.

“This support will enable us to keep our doors open and keep doing what our Branch tries to do. This will help us keep operating until the COVID dilemma settles,” he said.

Further south at Yorkton Branch 77, the worry has dissipated for now, with the receipt of more than $15,000 dollars.

“I’m excited and pleased,” branch President Ken Gordon said. “The biggest thing is it will help keep the Legion a viable presence in our community.”

He says the support funds will help cover things like insurance and utilities and ultimately allow them to continue with their work.

The Legion’s headquarters will offer a second application opportunity in January to branches that could not make the initial December deadline. If available, additional funds will be distributed in a third round.

“This funding will not only ensure many branches can make it through the pandemic, others will not have to close,” Irvine said. “This is the outcome we envisioned, and we once again thank Veterans Affairs Canada and our government for the aid package and for recognizing the crucial role of our branches in supporting our veterans, their families and communities.”