Wanted: a property with plenty of parking and somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet of indoor space to hold meetings, open houses and gatherings of various kinds for a non-profit organization.
That is how an advertisement from the Royal Canadian Legion Saanich Peninsula Branch #37 might read, as the organization serving Saanich Peninsula veterans continues to look for a permanent home. The branch has been operating out of temporary space at Sidney’s SHOAL Centre since February 2020, when it left its former location on Mills Road in North Saanich, its home for 90 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat hidden, at least temporarily, the absence of a space for the organization with its restrictions on indoor gatherings. But the problem has not gone away.
“Oh no,” said Valerie Noyes, chair of the branch’s Poppy and Remembrance Day committee. “It means that we are still physically looking (for a space) and welcome anyone who has any ideas.”
Overall, the absence of a space has had a negative impact, she said.
“It really has curtailed our activity, because we are not out front in the public as we should be. Luckily, for the poppy campaign, I was able to get store frontage.”
Finding a new permanent space has become an all-hands-on-deck effort for local branch leadership, Noyes said. “We have asked everybody to keep their eyes open and notify us about anything that is a possibility.”
The legion has even invited all three municipalities’ mayors to a breakfast meeting to ask for their assistance. So far, the search has come up empty.
That is not to say the branch has not received help. The Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps branch located at Victoria International Airport has given them office space, and the SHOAL Centre has served as a gathering spot, subject to public health guidelines.
Notably, the branch was able to restart its popular meat draw three weeks ago, only to run into supply problems. “We don’t have any meat,” she said. “We are giving out cards in place.”
This said, the branch’s lack of space has in some ways rallied its membership. Since shifting from Mills Road the branch has increased membership by 10 per cent to just over 200. “As far as the actual membership, they are very supportive,” Noyes said.
The branch also still retains its liquor license. While currently suspended, it will be available once the branch finds new premises, said Noyes. “We are very pleased that we can do that.”
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