Legion branch on Vancouver Island closing until January amid soaring COVID-19 cases

Legion branch on Vancouver Island closing until January amid soaring COVID-19 cases
WatchBowser Royal Canadian Legion Branch 211 closing its doors for the remainder of 2020 as COVID-19 cases continue to soar. Skye Ryan has more.

For nearly two decades the Bowser Royal Canadian Legion Branch 211 has been Jack Ellingson’s go-to place.

It’s where the 84-year-old goes for a friendly cup of coffee. It’s also where he goes to see his longtime friends.

“It means everything because my wife died, a year or year and a half ago, and I come down and see them,” said Ellingson.

But Ellingson won’t be able to visit the usually bustling legion branch anytime soon.

That’s because the branch has decided to close its doors for the rest of the year in order to protect its members from becoming infected with COVID-19.

“I didn’t see it coming,” said legion member Wayne Hemstreet. “Well, maybe I was hoping for the best that the COVID thing would fade away.”

In the days before COVID-19 hit, the legion was a busy place. People would participate in many of the legion’s activities such as meat draws, line dancing and pool nights.

“Some people that was their only social interaction with people was Friday and Saturday nights here,” fellow member Rick Nickerson.

Those events were also fundraisers to keep the lights on in the legion and keep it maintained.

So with the facility forced to close now, there’s concern about where those funds will come from to keep this place going.

“We’re good for a while but . . . all legions are going to be hurting because of this,” said Nickerson.

For now, the legion is telling its members it is closed until Jan. 1, but it could be longer.

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, a total of 20 branches have closed permanently during the pandemic.

Many are hoping the Bowser branch isn’t one of them.

“I’m just hoping that we can all get through this pandemic,” said George Cowley, who is also a member of the Bowser legion.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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