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The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION

Legion winds down Ste Anne operations

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 11/5/2018 9:30 AM

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Martin Gabbs, president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s La Verendrye Branch No. 220, displays the branch charter at his RM of Ste Anne property. Declining membership is behind the decision to close the branch, Gabbs said.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Martin Gabbs, president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s La Verendrye Branch No. 220, displays the branch charter at his RM of Ste Anne property. Declining membership is behind the decision to close the branch, Gabbs said.

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After 70 years of serving veterans and their families, and a decade after losing its brick and mortar home, Ste Anne’s La Verendrye Legion will fold.

President Martin Gabbs said dwindling membership is behind the decision, which received unanimous support at a special meeting held earlier this year.

Based for many years in the Town of Ste Anne, Branch No. 220 was originally chartered in May 1948 to serve veterans in southeastern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.

In its heyday, the branch had 30 to 40 active members, Gabbs estimated. While it still lists 14 active members, Gabbs said attendance at the branch’s eight annual meetings had diminished to little more than the executive, as members passed away, moved away, or suffered declining health.

With no new members to take over, the executive found themselves taking on two or three roles to continue to function, Gabbs said.

"I’m a little bit sad," the 35-year member said of the gradual decline of the branch both his parents belonged to.

He recalled how, in decades past, the legion hall was a hub for community events.

"We’d host socials, weddings."

Fire destroyed the legion’s first hall in April 1979, but the branch rebuilt.

The legion sold its building on Arena Street about a decade ago, but continued to rent it for meetings until a new buyer required more space, Gabbs said. The building now houses Epic Fitness and Ice.

"The members that were left were meeting at members’ houses," Gabbs explained.

Having already downsized the hall’s contents, Gabbs said there isn’t much left to do besides surrender the charter and a few flags to provincial command.

"We’re hoping by the end of this calendar year we’ll have it all closed up."

Legion branches operate independently, but provincial command must sign off on any branch closure or sale of property.

One last poppy fundraising campaign is underway, but the branch will not organize a Remembrance Day ceremony in Ste Anne.

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