The long road back to normal operations continues for area Legion branches.

St. Paul Branch 100 remained dark through most of the past two years. President Connie Landsiedel  says the changing restrictions and regulations made it difficult to plan events and to recruit volunteers.

The branch will open its doors for regular hours on Saturdays starting this week. The games room and bar will be open from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. 

And the Legion will resume its popular fundraising suppers in April.

“We tried to open once but with restrictions changing all the time, you never knew from one day to the next—we could buy a whole bunch of groceries and then have to shut down again,” Landsiedel said.  “And with the extra restrictions on buffets and stuff, we had to have even more volunteers to serve our suppers, and that gets to be a challenge. 

“But we are excited about being able to open up again. We want to see people again.”

Cold Lake Branch 211 and Bonnyville Branch 183 have also suffered from the on-again, off-again restrictions. Cold Lake is resuming its Friday meals—they have had German and Irish themed suppers lately, and they will be opening up their barbecue for steak nights in the near future. 

The Cold Lake branch is open to members and guests six days a week, and is relying on fundraising activities like weekly meat draws and a Chase The Ace draw to support their community work.

The Bonnyville branch has remained active through the pandemic, opening regularly on Fridays with food and live music when provincial health regulations have permitted.

Many branches across the country have had a hard time with membership renewals. With Legion halls closed, many members have not been able to drop in and renew their memberships.

Landsiedel says St. Paul should be able to hold its own for renewals.

“We are reminding them, yes,” she said. “But our membership chair says we’re about in line with other years. People are renewing even if they can’t come out to the Legion, they’re renewing by mail or dropping them off. And so I don’t predict that we’re going to see a reduction in membership numbers at all this year.”

New members are always welcome at all branches. It is not necessary to be a veteran to join, as long as you support the Legion’s mission of support for veterans.

There are signs that another important revenue source, hall rental, is making a comeback in St. Paul. The branch missed out on an opportunity to rent their hall to Alberta Health Services for Covid testing for a full year, because their insurance company was not willing to cover them. 

Now companies are starting to call about booking their Christmas parties.

The national Legion organization and its local branches have stressed safe practices when they have been able to open during the pandemic, and that will continue. But in that context, branches are calling on members to support them and their fundraising efforts as they make up for lost time.

Landsiedel says the public in St. Paul seems ready to come back.

“We have amazing support from our community and we appreciate it very much,” she said.

 “We can’t wait to have people in that building again. It’s been pretty quiet down there.”