ST. STEPHEN – The local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has plenty going on in the community.
Charleen Bodley, secretary-treasurer of St. Croix Branch 9, said people know about events like Remembrance Day but aren’t necessarily aware of other activities the legion does in the community. Older members of the community lived through the wars or had parents who served. Younger people don’t have that direct experience, which makes it more difficult for them to relate to the legion as an organization, explained Bodley.
A military museum being built in the basement of the legion hall is expected to be ready to receive visitors for Remembrance Day 2023.
The annual poppy campaign is a key to the visibility of legion members in the community. Bodley says there are two youth programs the poppy donations fund: a literacy program for students from elementary through high school and a bursary program for graduating high school students.
“(The literacy program) happens during the poppy campaign and we promote for students to draw pictures denoting something that relates to remembrance as well as a poem or an essay,” said Bodley.
Some of the winning entries will go on to compete at the provincial level. The local branch hasn’t had anyone go through to the national level yet.
The writing component is quite free-form and can require significant research.
“There’s a lot of students that have written essays trying to depict being there themselves during a conflict, so they had to do research on it,” Bodley said.
In the past, students may have been able to speak with grandfathers or great-grandfathers as part of the research. Those opportunities are fewer now, says the secretary-treasurer, meaning the students have to do a little more work today.
Financial need determines the bursary recipients and the biggest criteria is association to a legion member. The ladies auxiliary also runs a bursary program, with the recipient tied to an association with the auxiliary or a veteran, said Bodley.
“I believe at Dominion Command they’re looking to expand (the veteran connection) a little,” said Bodley, adding students today may not have that association. “They don’t have that same lineage anymore.”
A new program the legion has started is Talk with Me. It’s run through the local school district and brings together parents and their children up to pre-school age to work on communication and interaction skills. The children learn to read and how to play together, learn socialization and co-operation. The group acts as a support group for both parents.
“She has mats on the floor and game areas and books. It’s just neat to watch,” said Bodley.