-Red Deer Legion general manager Jim Bourgoin is hoping a cash lottery will payoff for the Legion this year. The lottery is offering up two prizes of $5

-Red Deer Legion general manager Jim Bourgoin is hoping a cash lottery will payoff for the Legion this year. The lottery is offering up two prizes of $5

Legion falling on lean times

The Red Deer Royal Canadian Legion’s first attempt at a lottery hasn’t been going all that well. While it’s the second local lottery that has had to get an extension recently, the problem may not be the slowing economy so much as the nature of the Legion.

The Red Deer Royal Canadian Legion’s first attempt at a lottery hasn’t been going all that well.

While it’s the second local lottery that has had to get an extension recently, the problem may not be the slowing economy so much as the nature of the Legion.

Bev Hanes, president of the Red Deer Legion, said on Tuesday that they have received an extension to continue selling the cash lottery tickets until Dec. 31. They were supposed to end sales on May 28. But with an aging and declining membership, not a lot of volunteers, and limited locations where they can sell, they are behind even the break-even point.

Last week, the 2015 Hospitals Lottery had its cutoff extended by one week to June 28 because it was only 85 per cent sold out. People are buying smaller ticket packages and fewer tickets, possibly because of the current economic situation.

In the Legion’s case, Hanes said they weren’t able to get the lottery up and running until January. That meant they missed the Remembrance Day and Christmas periods to sell tickets. The funds raised will go directly to the local Legion, but half must ultimately go back into the community. The cash prizes include one $25,000 and two $5,000 prizes.

Hanes said that people may not realize the local Legion does not receive any of the money raised through the annual sale of poppies. As well, 95 per cent of the Legion’s membership fees is sent on to the provincial and national Legion levels.

The local Legion, which makes regular donations to groups such as the Red Deer Hospice Society, St. John Ambulance and Meals on Wheels, has been running an operating budget deficit for a few years now. Many of the people who use the Legion don’t have a lot of disposable income, she said.

The Legion, located at 2810 Bremner Ave., is a prime piece of real estate but they are not talking about selling it. “It’ll be a long time in the future” but it is one of their options, said Hanes, adding it would require a special meeting of members.

In 2007, the branch sold an apartment building it owned, providing it with some cash. It also rents out space to two businesses although one is moving out soon.

She said the Red Deer Legion is no different than other Legions, which are facing aging memberships and fewer new members. Many branches have moved to smaller locations but this tends to have a negative affect on membership, Hanes said.

Most of the members in Red Deer are older, many in their 80s and some in their 90s, so a lot of them aren’t volunteering to sell raffle tickets, she said.

The Red Deer and Innisfail branches are in the top five in terms of membership in Canada. Red Deer has about 1,700 members. Hanes wants to be proactive and put some funds into improving the building so they can have an open house to let people know what the Legion has to offer.

“You can bring your family in there … there’s games there they can come in and play with their grandchildren, you don’t have to make reservations, it’s there to enjoy, you don’t have to drink.”

The Legion has a canteen that offers meals and drinks, but it also runs Molly B’s Lounge, open to the public.

Anyone can become a Legion member now as long as they accept the Legion’s values. Historically, the membership was comprised of military and RCMP veterans and their families. Legions offer various services to veterans.

As for new veterans, Hanes said they simply aren’t in the same numbers that Second World War veterans were, and they aren’t seeing much interest from them.

“Overall, I want it to continue as a gathering place for people. … World War One and Two and Korean vets fought for freedom that was probably different in that time, because the whole world was engaged in those conflicts. Now it’s more than one conflict all over the world and I think people just kind of tuned out a bit. …

“It’s like when you look at an election, how many people go to vote? If they only realized what they’re giving up by not getting out there and getting involved.”

Hanes, whose father came from Manitoba to the A-20 Army Camp in Red Deer during the Second World War and met and married a local girl, believes there’s definitely a place and need for the Legion but “how do you get that across to people?”

Although here are many restrictions as to where they can sell, Hanes said they have started selling their lottery tickets at the Red Deer Cruise Nights and the Red Deer Market. They can also be purchased at the Legion.

Tickets are $25 each, with 5,000 tickets printed. For more information, call 403-342-0035.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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