The Bella Coola Legion has been an essential part of local Remembrance Day observations for the entire community (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The Bella Coola Legion has been an essential part of local Remembrance Day observations for the entire community (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Bella Coola Legion receives federal funding

The Bella Coola Branch received $4,946 after requesting it through its Provincial Command

The Bella Coola Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is pleased to announce it has received some welcome financial assistance from the federal government to help cope with pandemic challenges.

COVID-19 has been hard on non-profits and grassroots initiatives across the country – and Royal Canadian Legions are no exception.

Established in 1925, the non-profit organization supports veterans all over Canada, ensuring their efforts have not been forgotten, but remembered and honoured.

But in recent years, as Second World War veterans age and pass on, many Legions have struggled to maintain membership as the organization strives to participate in local communities and raise funds for youth groups and other initiatives.

“How has COVID overall hurt the legions for support to the community? Huge,” Norm Scott, president of the Greater Victoria-area Langford Legion branch, told Black Press Media in a recent phone interview.“We can’t open our doors and have social events.”

In early October, the federal government announced Bill C-4 as part of its COVID-19 aid package, which will earmark $20 million to veterans’ organizations, including Legion branches. The funds were expected to reach branches by the end of the year.

“This is very valuable help at a time when many Legion branches were forced to close temporarily and are struggling to survive,” said Carl Harestad, Branch President. “The Bella Coola Branch is resilient, and this will enable us to re-open (by spring, we hope) without the burden of much of the 2020 deficit.”

“Legions across Northwest BC play important community roles,” said Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach. “I’m pleased to see the Bella Coola branch among those receiving much-needed federal support, which will help sustain the organization through these difficult times.”

The Bella Coola Branch received $4,946 after requesting it through an application process involving its Provincial Command. The funds will be used to offset some of the fixed costs incurred during the necessary closure of the Branch after March 15. On Nov. 10, the federal government announced a $20 million aid package to help Veterans’ Organizations get through the pandemic. The Legion received $14 million. The funds can cover a range of operational items such as insurance, utilities, rent or mortgage, property tax, administration costs and wages, among other needs.

“The Legion Branch is a crucial part of our community,” added President Harestad. “It is much more than just a veterans’ organization; it’s a social centre for the Valley. I’m sure that many residents will be encouraged to know that the Bella Coola Legion is alive and well and was deserving of government support.”

Other Northwest BC branches receiving funding are Branch 50 (Burns Lake), Branch 63 (Bulkley Valley), Branch 249 (Pleasant Valley), Branch 250 (Kitimat), and Branch 274 (Fraser Lake).

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