Warminster legion closes due to ‘lack of support’
The Warminster Legion has closed its doors after decades of being a staple in the small community.
Over the years, staff say the once-bustling legion of over 100 members dwindled to a few dozen, forcing them to make the difficult decision to close due to finances.
"It's very disheartening," said Mike Lawlor, the former First Chair of the Warminster Legion Branch 619.
Lawlor said he's also been a member for over 20 years, doing everything from administrative to bartending.
He said the building became his second home as he devoted his spare time to help keep the legion afloat.
Although, over the years, he says support for the legion began to decline as the members aged and the younger generations stopped coming. Lawlor said they tried everything from community events to garage sales, but the revenue wasn't enough.
"The handwriting was on the wall," said Lawlor. "There's no resurrecting. People keep coming up and saying, 'what can we do, what can we do?' Too little too late."
Warminster isn't the only legion in Canada to fall victim to a lack of support over the last several years.
According to Royal Canadian Legion, since the pandemic began, 20 branches have shuttered while most have weathered the storm.
The legion attempted to aid in the recovery by redeeming all membership fees.
"ON Command returned all membership dues from the past two years, which equalled about $1 million both years," said Garry Pong, the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Provincial Command president.
Pond said it's roughly $11 per member back to the individual legions.
Even with this, some legions still couldn't get by.
Last week, the province announced that it is stepping in to provide gaming licenses to legions to help boost revenue.
"The legions are the heart of our community. We want to find a way that if they are struggling, they have a way to raise money," said Attorney General Doug Downey.
As for the application process for the social gaming license, the province said it's free and can be done on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario's website.
On Monday, the Barrie and Orillia Legions said they would welcome the Warminster members with open arms.
"Everyone is always welcome here," said Fern Taillefer, the first Vice President of the Barrie Legion Branch 147.
"Over a dozen Warminster members have already joined us," said Rick Purcell, the President of the Orillia Legion Branch 34.
As for Lawlor, he said he would likely join the over 1,000 members in Orillia.