Trustees Assist Gravenhurst Legion After Executive Resignations

Royal Canadian Legion Gravenhurst Branch 302 trustees
Gravenhurst Branch 302 of the Royal Canadian Legion. Muskoka411 File Photo

Trustees from the Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion are working with the Gravenhurst branch to improve operations after the resignation of most branch executives.

Pamela Sweeny, executive director of the Ontario Command, said the trustees were put in place on Nov. 8 to determine why the executives resigned and to see where improvements could be made. Sometimes issues come down to personality conflicts while other times they’re related to by-law adherence, she said, but with 390 branches across the province that rely on volunteers to operate, these situations are par for the course at Ontario Command. The group of trustees is made up of a chair and two members who will work with the legion until Feb. 6, 2024.

“We never want to see a branch close,” Sweeny said. “That’s the thing, it’s not like we’re taking them over. What we’re doing is we’re putting a team of educated people in there to see where the loopholes are, where the inconsistencies are. There are several members of the executive that quit, so why is that?”

When a board of trustees is placed at a branch, it’s typically made up of past district commanders, branch presidents, zone commanders, and others with extensive knowledge and experience, she said. They’re usually implemented for about 90 days to oversee branch affairs, preserve its property and solve any outstanding issues.

Chair Bob Ladouceur and members Wayne Hooey and Fred Cosgrove are helping the branch undergo what the Ontario Command calls a “Legion-type university.” They look at their financial records, observe volunteer interactions, and see how they run meetings and events to determine where the issues are coming from.

Sweeny said they identified several problems and found that certain safeguards weren’t being met, but they’ve also found people who were willing to step up and fill crucial roles. After noting issues with the legion’s handwritten ledgers, they have a new bookkeeper that is using digital accounting software and looking for ways to reduce expenses.

“All of that stuff is part of running a business, which is really what the legion does, as well as … being a support organization for veterans,” she said. “In a lot of cases, because of towns like Gravenhurst, it’s the hub of the community. You want it to be a welcoming place and you want it to remain active because there’s so many supports in the community that the Royal Canadian Legion helps with.”

It’s common for volunteers in any organization to get burnt out and leave before all of their insight has filtered down through the next generation of helping hands, but knowledge is power, Sweeny said. She and her team are doing what they can to empower their members with defined roles, clear guidelines and ongoing support.

While the Gravenhurst branch has its problems, she said the Ontario Command has hope for its future. She encourages locals to show their support by getting involved.

“Pop by, help out if you can,” Sweeny said. “We’re always in need of volunteers, and it’s a fun place to be. People definitely want to see this prosper in the community, which it has, and community involvement certainly goes a long way.”

Gordie Merton, sergeant-at-arms for Gravenhurst Legion Branch 302, echoed Sweeny’s statements, saying it makes a big difference for people to attend events, become members and make financial contributions. But more than anything, they need people who are willing to donate their time.

“The most important support is honestly helping us with volunteers,” Merton said. “Come in and volunteer for anything… We have a lot of different stuff going on, so a lot of events like our snooker night and all of that, it would be awesome to have some volunteers.”

Merton also said the cancellations announced on Dec. 7 have nothing to do with the trustees and their process. TGIF (Thank Gravenhurst It’s Friday), the take-out meals program and Thursday night bingo were cancelled due to issues with their bingo license and other unforeseen challenges, but despite the rumours, the legion isn’t closing. 

Community members can still enjoy the Saturday meat draw, the New Year Bash and Friday night karaoke on the first and third Friday of each month. 

“The branch is still open,” Merton said. “We’re fully functioning, and we just have a board of trustees to help guide us.”

For ongoing updates from Gravenhurst Legion Branch 302, visit their Facebook page.


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