Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 has been given until January 31 to submit a business plan to Ontario Command on how it plans to run in a new location.
Jim Thompson, past president of Branch 23 and current executive member, says it’s difficult to arrange a business plan during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of our membership and executive are seniors. We’re not into the high-tech stuff and this world of computers is pretty intimidating. We’ve had a few trained up, but it’s difficult,” Thompson explained.
Branch 23 has been without a home since February of last year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America.
“COVID hit as we were leaving, so it accelerated to the point where it was extremely difficult to go and see a property or discuss it with anybody,” Thompson noted.
Branch 23’s executive team has submitted two business plans to Ontario Command over the past year, both of which have been rejected.
The issue, Thompson says, is there is little direction provided by Ontario Command on how to arrange a business plan.
“They don’t have any business plan to measure that against,” Thompson said.
Thompson says Branch 23 is still financially responsible, carrying little monthly expenses without a location, and having a nest egg of investments made from the sale of its previous building.
If Branch 23 does not submit a sufficient business plan by the end of January, Thompson says the branch risks losing its charter.
“That would be an absolute shame,” he said. “It’s a critical organization certainly for veterans and their families.”
Thompson also takes issue with the deadline, saying it’s not the right time to open a new branch location.
“All we need is some more time. Let’s wait until COVID subsides and people can get out and about. To open up a branch today would be foolhardy; nobody would come,” he explained. “It would be disrespectful to our membership if we wasted funds like that.”
Garry Pond, Ontario Command president, has said he is just trying to offer a hand in keeping the branch open.
“I’m trying to help them and I’m trying to keep them going as best we can,” Pond stated. “We don’t want them to fail so we’re trying to guide them right now.”
Thompson is hopeful that Pond and Ontario Command are considerate of the times when making their decision.
“We’re hopeful they’ll use some common sense and realize during this COVID situation, we can’t even meet today,” Thompson said. “Of course, winter has set upon us as well, so that certainly doesn’t help matters.”
Thompson is confident once he and the executive team are able to meet in-person, perhaps when the COVID-19 vaccine is available, they will be able to secure a new location.
Branch 23 has been in the city for over 90 years, financially supporting veterans and other community organizations while also serving as a place of camaraderie for those who served.