Royal Canadian Legion Britannia Branch 7 president and office manager Keith Yow and his wife Irene Harrison, who serves the branch as recording secretary and looks after publicity, spend a lot of time at the thriving Summit Avenue club. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Brittannia Legion in Victoria bucking the national trend

Branch celebrates 100th anniversary with no debt, younger than average membership

Even after 100 years, change is inevitable.

The folks overseeing operations of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Britannia Branch No. 7 in Victoria, which recently celebrated its centennial, are managing that change well, at a time when membership is diminishing at other branches and their futures lay in jeopardy.

Keith Yow, in his fourth term as president of the branch and also its volunteer office manager alongside Maxine Hanson, says the executive – made up largely of couples – takes a businesslike approach to operations. To continue the branch’s charitable work in the community, they’ve realized they need to grow the membership base and that has meant going younger, while respecting the older members.

Offering a venue and a welcoming social atmosphere to such recreational groups as Darts Victoria and the Victoria 8-Ball League – and community service opportunities – has prompted many players to join the Legion.

“You have to market it properly, bring in the younger people to keep it going,” Yow says. “As opposed to some Legions where the mean average [age] is about 63 and a half, we’re starting to attract [new members].”

Addressing its dwindling numbers, the Royal Canadian Legion recently opened up its membership to the public – no connection to veterans or the military is required. Now branches can market themselves to prospective members like any other social or service club.

Yow’s wife, Irene Harrison, who serves as the branch’s recording secretary and heads up the public relations and events committees, points out that Britannia’s motto is “the friendly branch.”

“And he’s one president who, if he sees someone walk in the door who he’s never seen before, he always goes over and shakes their hand and welcomes them, and that goes a long way,” she says.

Financially, the branch has no debt and owns a valuable chunk of land the club sits on at Summit Avenue and Nanaimo Street, as well as adjacent property. It rents clubhouse space to current and past members of the RCMP ‘E’ Division and occasionally offers musical acts a venue to stage a dance or concert.

Keeping close financial watch on things is Yow’s forte, says Harrison. “He has a good business mind and knows how to market it.”

Not only did he take on the office manager job so the branch wouldn’t have to pay someone, Yow and first vice-president Dave Neilson are adept at applying for the multitude of grants that are available. They helped Britannia save thousands on a new oven and stove for the kitchen, as well as a cooler and a glass washer for the lounge.

Evelyn Elliott, who lives in Metchosin but plays darts out of the Britannia branch, says she wanted to support the branch and its members and so took out a membership with her son.

“I wanted to support them and I like the branch,” she says. “The members are friendly; as soon as we walked in the door, a [different] gentleman said ‘hello and welcome.’ I liked that.”

With five teams playing darts out of this Legion and eight or more people on a team, that’s upwards of 50 prospective members. Like Elliott, a number of the dart players have signed up.

Yow admittedly wasn’t enthusiastic about making a big deal of celebrating the branch’s centennial, but says past-president Ken Holding headed up the committee and carried it off well.

The event, held 100 years to the day the organization was established as the Great War Veterans Association Victoria Branch, gave a good reminder that this Legion is worth saving.

“It’s a vision and a legacy of what’s supposed to go on,” Yow says. “For the first 100 years, it was nice once you thought about it. But to go forward for the second 100 years and be here, people have to change, and that’s what we’re doing.”

To learn more about Britannia Legion No. 7 and its activities, visit britannia7legion.com.

editor@vicnews.com

Royal Canadian Legion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Certificate shows the origins of the Royal Canadian Legion Brittannia Branch 7 in Victoria, which began life in 1917 as part of the Great War Veterans Association. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Just Posted

Loss of UVic dog park deals a blow to socially anxious pets

Owners of non-socialized dogs seek safe space following closure of Cedar Hill Corner

Camp fun still offered in Greater Victoria

Easter Seals offers day camp options to replace cancelled overnight camps

Public to weigh in on Colwood Royal Bay development Monday

Application to rezone lands north of Latoria Boulevard submitted to council

Residents around Sidney’s Reay Creek Pond welcome federal remediation efforts

It is not clear yet whether Sidney will renovate nearby dam at the same time

Swim advisory issued at Cadboro Bay beach due to high bacteria levels

Island Health advises against water activities, swimming

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read