John Miller (left)

John Miller (left)

New home takes flight for legion

Royal Canadian Legion enters into arrangement with Fraternal Order of the Eagles

A growing friendship has provided Vernon’s Royal Canadian Legion with a new lease on life.

Just weeks after closing its lounge, the legion branch kicks off its first meat draw Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Eagles hall on 25th Avenue.

“It’s kind of exciting because we’re being reborn,” said Al Berg, a legion member.

An office will be rented in the basement and meat draws will be in the Eagles’ lounge Saturdays. Special events, like dances, can be held in the building’s hall.

The legion was forced to restructure because it was  completely reliant on revenue from the 29th Street lounge to cover utility bills, rent and wages. However, fewer people were walking through the door and that impacted the bottom line.

“They were in danger of losing their charter and that would have been horrible for the community,” said John Mayrhofer, Eagles president.

Legion gaming activities, such as the meat draw, raised more than $31,050 last  year for community charities. It cannot go towards operating expenses.

The legion’s poppy campaign raised $32,435 in 2012 for veterans and their families.

John Miller, legion president, has been thrilled with the support shown by Eagles’ members.

“Everyone here has been very responsive,” he said.

While there has been some speculation that one group may want to take the other over, those views are quickly dismissed by Mayrhofer and Miller.

“I don’t know where people get the idea of competition because we are in the same business of helping people in the community,” said Mayrhofer.

“Don’t use the amalgamating word because what we’re doing is working together.”

The legion has 840 members and the Eagles have about 300.

“We will prove that this works,” said Miller, adding that the arrangement could serve as a template for other groups to remain active while reducing overhead costs.

Eagles’ activities will continue as they always have, including the Friday dinner and meat draw.

As part of restructuring, the legion has received help from the City of Vernon and Bruce Blankley, with Marjack Leasing, the owner of the former legion lounge on 29th Street.

“He was more than helpful during the transition. I can’t say enough about the man,” said Miller of Blankley.