ESTEVAN - It's hard to find another group that does so much for Estevan and Canadian veterans as the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Through their poppy campaign and other initiatives, this community service and veterans support organization raises money every year to then provide care through various programs and initiatives. Last year the local legion raised $33,000 through the poppy campaign.
A major portion of the money was split between two programs supporting veterans, Leave the Streets Behind and Paws for Veterans.
"That's the focus of the poppy campaign. Money that goes to the veterans' programs is really, really important," said the president of the Estevan legion branch Jim (Frosty) Forrest.
They also used a part of that money to make a donation to the Wylie-Mitchel Air Cadet Squadron, provided several bursaries to students graduating from the Estevan Comprehensive School who have a connection to veterans, and helped local veterans.
Every year the legion also runs a truck raffle, which, along with bingos and other smaller activities they have, helps them raise money for other important community initiatives they support.
Last year these efforts allowed them to provide significant donations to the St. Joseph's Hospital’s addictions treatment centre and to the long-term care facility, to Creighton Lodge and the Estevan Regional Nursing Home. They also help the United Way Estevan by donating their building for their annual telethon, coming on Oct. 15-16. They support SMILE Service and STARS Air Ambulance.
"We work hard on fundraising, and we try to put it to good use in the community and in the veterans' programs," Forrest said.
The legion is also active in the community during various events. The legion's colour party opened both provincial ball tournaments held in Estevan this year, as well as the Canada Day parade in Bienfait.
They also take care of the Soldiers’ Tree monument and the area around it by the courthouse, as well as the cenotaph, which Forrest said will undergo some refurbishment, probably in the spring.
And they tend to the Honour Wall in the Royal Heights Veterans Memorial Park, which was repainted not that long ago.
The local branch recently started their own shop local campaign in partnership with Estevan businesses. Anyone who shows their legion membership card in participating stores will get some kind of a reward, whether it be a discount or something else.
"We're hoping it will help us with membership, as well as encouraging people to use our local businesses … It's important we keep the money in Estevan here and keep supporting our people, keep our local people working," Forrest said.
The legion has a club room open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, and their hall is available for rent. All health protocols currently in place have to be followed. Forrest added that the hall was made wheelchair-accessible this year, thanks to provincial and federal grants.
The poppy campaign will start on Oct. 29 this year. The legion is currently running their truck raffle, with a $10,000 second prize and a $5,000 third prize, and the draw is to be held on Dec. 31.
"We appreciate the support of the community," Forrest said.