'The legions are struggling'

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KINGSTON — Had the largest Royal Canadian Legion branch in Kingston not been able to open in June, it wouldn’t have made it to 2021, its president said. Luckily, Branch 560’s reserve fund saved it for the three months when it was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the announcement of the Resilient Communities Fund — $83 million from the Ontario Trillium Foundation — Allan Jones doesn’t see how it will build that reserve fund back up.

“The legions are struggling. Some will close, some won’t survive this, others are really, really struggling, everyone is struggling, we’re struggling,” Jones said. “(The Resilient Communities Fund) doesn’t address our immediate needs, like rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance, telephone. Nothing like that.”

Premier Doug Ford made the funding announcement on Wednesday alongside Lisa MacLeod, the minister for Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. The fund will provide between $5,000 and $150,000 to eligible non-profit organizations to rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.


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“I am proud of the hundreds of volunteer organizations and thousands of volunteers who have stepped up over the last few months and shown the Ontario spirit in caring for others through these difficult times,” Ford said in a news release. “Our local non-profits, including our local legion branches and food banks, are the bedrock of our communities, and their work will be absolutely critical in helping people to rebuild their lives as we restart our economy and reopen the province.”

The funding is to help organizations, including legions, that have been impacted by COVID-19 and want or need to create new spaces, supports or programs in response to the pandemic restrictions. This could be to: develop safety training, purchase new equipment that is now required, create new fundraising efforts, purchase new technology and personal protective equipment, or to create a new community support program.

More information is available at www.otf.ca/resilient-communities-fund. The application deadlines are Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. EST.

The sticking part for Jones, though, is that the Trillium Foundation distributes funds for specific projects, not to restore lost savings and revenues. However, he admits that he needs to dig deeper into the eligibility requirements.

Jones said that asBranch 560 sat empty between March 17 and June 17, the organization lost more than $10,000 while paying its most basic bills. It managed to get by on its reserve fund, but it came close, Jones said.


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As soon as it could, the branch opened its patio and then some of its rooms for five hours at a time on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The pandemic has cost them four wedding bookings, however.

“Some have rebooked for 2021. … But that’s big revenue for us, a wedding,” Jones said. “First there’s the hall rental, then the bar while they’re here. So, we’re losing that.”

With the reduced hours, only having air conditioning on in certain rooms and decreased staff, it has saved money. But if forced to close again for any reason, Jones said it would likely be done for within a few months.

Because of decreased activity, Jones said the branch is already having to consider decreasing its contributions to Kingston charities.

“We donate to homeless shelters, food banks, youth sports, the women’s shelters,” Jones said. “Assuming we’re not making any money because of the shutdown, or partial shutdown now, those funds may be limited.”

As Jones looks around, he’s also aware of how its roughly 35-year-old building and everything in it is aging. The reserve fund was intended to maintain it.

“We’ve done estimates on (the physical assets’) life expectancy, and we know that they’re going to fail,” Jones said. “We’ve replaced our air conditioning and heating units two years ago, but there are other things — your bar fridges, fridges, your freezers, hot water tanks, sump pumps. All of those things are going to have to be replaced.

“So we set up the reserve fund for that. Now when we talked about the three months we were closed, where did the money come from? The reserve fund.”



Allan Jones, president of Branch 560 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Kingston laughs as he places one of the first teddy bears on a Christmas tree at Kingston General Hospital on Nov. 8, 2010, to help kick off the annual teddy bear campaign. Jones said on Friday that the campaign is at risk this yeasr due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Lea/The Whig-Standard)