Legion supports veterans and youth in serving community

Over the next few weeks, as people start to wear a poppy for Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, the Royal Canadian Legion will become very busy and prominent.

Serving our country - Royal Canadian Legion branch in Stettler serves the community under the leadership of current past-president Rosalind LaRose (left) and president Peter McKechnie.

Serving our country - Royal Canadian Legion branch in Stettler serves the community under the leadership of current past-president Rosalind LaRose (left) and president Peter McKechnie.

Over the next few weeks, as people start to wear a poppy for Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, the Royal Canadian Legion will become very busy and prominent.

However, for branches such as Stettler, the Legion is more than just a Remembrance Day attribute.

“As our mission statement says, our mission is to serve veterans and their dependents, promote remembrance and act in the service of Canada and its communities,” said Peter McKechnie, president of the Settler Legion.

“I feel it’s very important for the community to keep our veterans’ legacy alive for the peace we enjoy every day,” said Rosalind LaRose, past president.

“We should keep their memory alive and what the veterans’ fought for and teach young people about the importance of liberty and freedom veterans fought for,” added McKechnie.

With about 325 members, Stettler is one of the largest Legion branches in rural Alberta.

“A lot of our veterans and spouses reside in local seniors’ complexes, and about half of our funding supports these people,” said LaRose.

“We have to follow Legion guidelines on how we disperse and donate our funding to veterans and the community.”

Although fundraising has fallen off slightly in the past few years, Stettler Legion remains committed to its veterans and community.

“We donate about $25,000 every year,” said McKechnie, noting that about 60 per cent supports seniors and veterans with 40 per cent youth.

Stettler Legion annually donates funding to Stettler Scouts, Junior Forest Wardens, Stettler Hospital and Care Centre, Stettler and District Ambulance Society, Stettler and District Handibus, Seniors’ slo-pitch softball, Stettler Town and Country Museum, Town of Stettler, Stettler and District Minor Hockey Association, bursaries for students and Remembrance Day literary contest.

During the Remembrance Day season, the Legion Poppy Fund fully supports veterans and their spouses.

“We donate a majority of our funds from the poppy fund to the long-term care at Stettler Hospital and Care Centre,” said LaRose.

While membership has declined slightly in the past few years as members pass on or move, Stettler Legion has continued to add new members, many of them in the younger generation.

“We’ve got quite a few younger members in their 40s.” said McKechnie.

With younger generations less committed to long-term community service and people more transient, recruiting and retaining younger members has been challenging for the local Legion, said McKechnie.

Membership in the non-profit society is open to all Canadian citizens and Commonwealth subjects who subscribe to the purposes and objects.

In about two weeks, many members will be out in full force selling poppies for Remembrance Day.

Two weeks prior to Remembrance Day, the poppy campaign raises funds for needy Canadian veterans, ex-service members and their dependants, as well as Commonwealth veterans

Monetary donations from the Poppy Fund assist needy veterans, ex-service members and their families, purchase medical appliances, fund medical research and training, provides bursaries to the children and grandchildren of veterans and ex-service members, and fund accommodation, care facilities, meals-on-wheels, transport and related services for veterans, seniors and disabled persons.

While the Royal Canadian Legion was established in 1926, the Stettler Legion was formed in May 1928.

Since it was formed in 1926, the Royal Canadian Legion has focused its efforts on the fight to secure adequate pensions and other well-earned benefits for veterans and their dependants.

The Royal Canadian Legion has also assumed a major responsibility for perpetuating the tradition of Remembrance in Canada.

Each year the Legion organizes and runs the National Poppy Campaign to remind Canadians of the tremendous debt Canadians owe to the 117,000 men and women who have given their lives in the defence of Canada during two world wars, the Korean War and other military missions around the world. Contributions made during the campaign are used to assist needy veterans, ex-service members and their families.