Members of the Aldergrove Royal Canadian Legion branch were taken aback by the surprise closure of the Legion lounge and hall here Thursday night.
Shortly before 9 p.m. officers from the B.C. and Yukon (BC&Y) Command turned up with documentation enabling them to order everyone out of the building, to change the locks and to take over as trustees of the Legion branch.
The trustees cited “irregularities” in the financial records as the reason behind the move by Legion headquarters to take over the Aldergrove Legion’s operations.
“I was among about 70 people in total shock last night,” when the members were evicted from the building, said Aldergrove Legion past president Doug Hadley.
“Command came and said (financial) reporting had not been done right. Jim Diack, treasurer from BC&Y Command is going through the books and a letter is being sent to all members, advising them of the closure.”
Hadley said that the Legion’s smorgasbord tonight (Friday, Feb. 17, 5-7 p.m.) will be permitted to carry on as planned “because we already had taken the meat out to thaw,” said Hadley.
He added that a funeral service planned for Saturday, Feb. 18 will also be permitted, but after that all other planned activities are temporarily suspended, pending the review of the Legion and the decision of BC&Y Command.
Shelley Coburn, manager of branch advisory operations for the Legion’s BC&Y Command, told Black Press that their goal in the review is to “cause as little disturbance to the branch, impact them for as short a time as possible. We want to offer support and give back the branch to its own executive as soon as possible.”
Coburn said she couldn’t go into specifics about the issues or problems at the Aldergrove branch but said they were not strictly about finances. She also noted that it would not be fair to discuss those issues with the press before the review was completed and before the issues and solutions were discussed at an information meeting at the branch.
“The Legion is not a bar operation, we are a service organization. Financial issues are a common problem, but the branches also do tremendous fundraising for bursaries and so on. The Aldergrove community really supports the Legion, tremendous support, but at the end of the day they are all volunteers, and we are here to help support these volunteers and their not-for-profit work,” said Coburn.
“We have performance standards which must be met, and we are here to help when they need that extra support.”
It’s an open secret that the Aldergrove Legion branch has been cutting back on its expenditures due to declining revenues in recent years. However, the branch continues to contribute financially and in other meaningful ways to many important causes in the community. It also has clear title to its real estate holdings, which are valued in excess of $2 million.
Members are hopeful that a restructuring will enable reopening of the branch in short order. In the meantime the Legion members hope to see supporters turn out for the smorgasbord this evening, 5-7 p.m. at the Legion hall.