JULIE BERTRAND/Independent reporter
Stettler resident Ken Cherewko is so passionate about the Royal Canadian Legion Stettler Branch #59 that this past spring, he decided to seek a second term as president of the branch.
“I became the president on May 6. I’ve been on the board of directors here for 22 years. My first term was in 2005,” said Cherewko.
“I can’t work that much anymore, so I thought I might as well keep myself busy at the Legion. I figure I’ll spend more time here, help the gentlemen out and try to promote the Legion a little bit more than what we did before.”
He’s been fascinated with veterans and the Legion ever since he was a kid.
“I was a kid in Ottawa and we used to go to Remembrance Day parades. I used to run up and down the parade, chasing after the veterans,” said Cherewko.
“For my 25th wedding anniversary, we went back to Ottawa with the Legion and we marched in the parade. That was an honour to march with the vets. I dreamed about it all my life and I did it.”
While he was in the army reserve, he never went to war.
“I had a chance to go to Vietnam but I backed out and got married instead,” said Cherewko.
The Royal Canadian Legion Stettler Branch #59 has been there since the beginning of the Second World War. It’s open six days a week and offers a lot of Legion sport options.
“We love our legion here,” said Cherewko.
Cherewko and other board members are trying very hard to keep the branch up and running. While it currently has 300 members, it could use another hundred members easily.
“It’s costly to stay open all day. That’s why we’re trying to get more people in here, younger people and younger families, to promote this place a little bit better, because really we don’t have too many vets left,” said Cherewko.
“It’s very important to keep the standards up. I believe in our vets 110 per cent. They went out and fought for us.”
Cherewko’s plan to attract new members is to hold more events in the lounge.
“Every Tuesday during winter and spring, we have turkey dinners. We have meals here all the time, mostly at noon. Depending on who’s the night shift, we can have sandwiches and soup for supper,” said Cherewko.
“We have crib on Tuesdays, shuffleboard on Mondays, darts and pool on Wednesdays. We have a bowling league that plays Thursday nights at the bowling alley. We go all over Alberta for Legion sports.”
The Royal Canadian Legion has also changed its membership policy. Membership was originally restricted to those who had served in Canada’s Armed Forces and Merchant Navy. However, over the years, categories of membership have evolved to include other members of the community.
“We’re also trying to get more people to realize that the Legion is open to the public, not just to Legion members, “ said Cherewko.
Cherewko’s work at the branch is all volunteer. He can count on the help of board members and past presidents.
“We all help each other out as much as possible,” said Kevin Milner, who was president in 2010.
The Legion is always ready to send members to volunteer in Stettler events.
“We’re active in the community when we’re approached to be,” said Kevin Milner.
However, the board wishes some of the members would take a more active role.
“Last month, we were at the little park by the high school, where the cenotaph is. Only six Legion members showed up to clean the whole park,” said Cherewko.
“I really believe we can keep this going but we need everybody to help out, not just our members, we need the whole town to help more or less.”
It is clear that for Cherewko, the Legion is a second home as well as a second family. He would like the younger generations to enjoy it as much as he does.
“We have to work just a little bit harder, promote the Legion a little bit stronger,” concluded Cherewko.