Merritt’s own Royal Canadian Legion Branch 96 hosted an open house as part of Legion Week, a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the Legion and the vital connections and services it brings to the community. Hotdogs, hamburgers, info booths, and plenty of smiling faces could be seen as Merrittonians gathered for the Legion’s open house on Friday, October 14. 

Legion Week is recognized in the second week of October annually, across B.C. and Yukon Territory. Legion branches across the region put on community events and celebrations, bringing awareness to veterans issues and the importance of the organization. Merritt’s Legion Branch 96 was no exception, welcoming Merrittonians in for a BBQ and open house, free of charge. The organization’s executive said turnout was great, and so was the food.

“We bought over 200 hotdogs and hamburgers, and they pretty much all went,” said Arlene Johnston, president of the local Legion. 

“Legion week is all about letting the public know who we are, what we do, and about our veterans. We had quite a few displays of old photographs of some of our troops, information about our history, and a membership table.”

The Legion supports a number of causes in the community, including giving generously to other organizations and individuals. 

While the main focus of the Legion is to support veterans, the group also chooses to support the Nicola Valley Food Bank, local youth groups, and the Nicola Valley First Nations Veterans Association. 

Through fundraising in the community and the collection of membership dues, the legion is also able to offer a number of bursaries to local students entering their post-secondary education.

Activities and events at the Legion are generally open to all ages, including Wednesday afternoon crib and Thursday’s shuffleboard and open jam sessions. These events are held weekly at the Legion’s club lounge on Quilchena Avenue, providing a space for veterans and other community members to connect, socialize, and access needed support. 

Families and children are welcome to visit the Legion, which also offers meal service during regular hours, at a reasonable price. Johnston said it was nice to welcome the community for a taste of what the Legion has to offer, which is broader in scope than some may realize.

“I thought it was great to be able to bring the community into the Legion and share this with everybody,” added Johnston.

“The Legion was originally started after World War II to support veterans that were coming home, and then they started fundraising because a lot of veterans’ expenses weren’t covered. We support veterans in their needs, medical, equipment, or just emotional support. Our main goal is to support our veterans.”

Johnston added that while many think the Legion is focused only on supporting veterans of the World Wars, the organization is focused on supporting veterans from all service, including RCMP members and those who served at any point in their lives. 

Moving forward, the Legion will begin its annual sale of poppies, commemorating the service and sacrifice of those who put their lives on the line for Canada’s freedom. Those interested in volunteering in the sale of poppies should contact
[email protected], or call during regular business hours at 250-378-5631.