This week, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 in Quesnel held its first general meeting of the year in which recently voted-in members of the board and executive were sworn in by Bonnie O’Neill, Service Officer and Zone Commander for the Cariboo.
This year’s executive is made up of President Jim Spencer, First Vice-President Doug Carey, Second Vice-President Helene Boudreau and Past President Ken Lewington, as well as two-year directors Ian Campbell, Cameron Farquhar, Robert Howard Sr; one-year directors Darcey Horn, Dave Beaumont, Doreen Howard and Sergeant-at-Arms Ken Lewington.
While the ceremony was casual and lighthearted, all in attendance were respectful and proud do be a part of the tradition.
After the newly-elected officers of Branch 94 had been installed, two special presentations were made.
Firstly, members of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets 768 Jet Ranger Squadron were on hand to receive a donation of $5,000 from the Legion. The donated money came from the Legion’s poppy drive and is meant to help with costs associated with cadet training.
Capt. Mike Forster of the Quesnel Air Cadets says the money will go a long way in growing the local program.
“Whenever we get a donation like this, we try to put it towards purchasing things that aren’t normally covered, like most of our training is, by the Department of National Defence,” said Forster. “So money coming in like this, we try to put towards extra trips or buying supplies, tangible things that we will be able to use long term.”
The second presentation was a special one and the result of many man hours from Branch 94 Service Officer Ian Campbell. Campbell presented Legion member and Leading Aircraftman William M. Crutchley (retired) with a Special Service Medal with NATO Bar in recognition of his service with the Canadian Armed Forces during the Cold War in Germany.
Crutchley had approached the Legion asking for help in procuring his military record from the capital, as he was unable to get through the paperwork. Campbell took on Crutchley’s request and after a year and a half of work was not only able to secure the requested records, but also uncovered that Crutchley was entitled to a medal for his service.
“When we got his paperwork, we realized that he was entitled to a medal for his service in Germany, a Special Service Medal with the NATO Bar, and so we acquired the proper paperwork and we did all that up for him, sent it away and got a positive reply back, and as of tonight, we will present him with his medal,” said Campbell.
Crutchley received the medal proudly, and after taking his seat and a few moments to collect himself, he stood and requested that a round of applause be given in recognition of Campbell’s hard work. The hall echoed with vigorous applause.
Campbell was instituted as a Service Officer in 2019 by Legion President Jim Spencer, a decision Spencer regards as one of his best.
“I instituted a new Service Officer [Campbell] this year, and that was probably one of our best successes,” said Spencer. “The gentleman is so well organized. Just recently, he spent a lot of time doing paperwork, getting a medal for one of our members [Crutchley], and he’s done that for a lot of veterans here over the last year. That’s exactly why we are here, for the veterans.”
Spencer also lauded the efforts of Quesnel Coun. Ron Paull. Paull was instrumental in getting the 200 block of Kinchant Street designated as Veterans’ Way, as well as having Remembrance Day banners created, which flew proudly above the street for the month of November. Spencer believes these initiatives played a part in the success of the 2019 Remembrance Day ceremony.
“The [banner] initiative by alderman Paull, he put that together, came and talked to us for quite a bit, and we gave him a bunch of ideas and then he ran with it, and they turned out so nice,” said Spencer. “Of course, Veterans’ Way, that was a big one from last year too, and again, that was Ron Paull. He got that up and running for us. It made for a very nice Remembrance Day. We had the biggest crowd ever this year; it was just fabulous.”
Financially, 2019 was a strong year for the Quesnel Legion, as they were able to make necessary improvements and repairs to their building while continuing to bring their mortgage down, having decreased it by $20,000 over the past three years.
“We have successfully made money this year instead of losing it. We were in a financial position the last couple of years where we were not making good at the end of the year, and we had to get donations to make us break even,” said Spencer, who felt that tough decisions had to be made in order to get Branch 94 where it needed to be financially. “We are not supposed to make money, but at the same time, we need to make enough to cover expenses. We made some changes. We got rid of some paid staff — we had to in order to meet that requirement — and actually, I’m quite glad that we did what we did because this year, we had almost $9,000 of repair costs, and we are going to have more of that coming because of the age of our building.”
The Quesnel Legion will be adding a “coffee area” to its building in hopes of providing another unique space for veterans who need a quiet space to meet or work out of. The concept is one that has been implemented successfully in other cities.
“Some Legion members have certain triggers that do happen, so they need a space where they can come and feel safe so that they can visit with one another,” said O’Neill. “Having a coffee place downstairs is a wonderful plan.”
The Legion will also be expanding its restaurant’s food menu and hopes to add a few volunteers to the kitchen staff. While membership numbers were up in 2019, volunteer hours did not necessarily reflect the growth.
“The biggest problem we have is we get these members and the membership requirement is that you give part of your time to support veterans, and it’s difficult to get them to come out and do the actual volunteering,” said Spencer.