Photo courtesy of Ed Muckle                                An early picture of the Princeton cenotaph, with the original Legion hall in the background.

Photo courtesy of Ed Muckle An early picture of the Princeton cenotaph, with the original Legion hall in the background.

After 90 years of service…how about a hand?

Princeton Legion celebrates milestone

After 90 years, some people are getting a little tired.

At least that’s how Doreen Poulsen sees it.

And she is using a milestone anniversary for the local Legion to pitch for new volunteers and members.

Poulsen is president of Princeton Legion Branch 56.

“Everything goes back to volunteers. I’m sure that everyone has noticed we lost the Lions Club and events are slowing down at some of the other clubs because the people that are active in those services clubs, including the Legion, are getting older and they are less able to do physical work,” she said in an interview with The Spotlight.

“I can’t stress enough how important volunteers are.”

The Legion is arguably Princeton’s most active service organization, holding numerous weekly social events and fundraisers, and hosting free barbecues or community breakfasts and dinners through out the year.

So far in 2017 the Legion has donated just over $15,000 to community groups including minor hockey, Sparks, Brownies, Princeton Highland Dancers and area fire departments.

In addition the Legion raised about $10,000 in its poppy campaign this year – and that money is exclusively earmarked for veterans’ services.

About 150 people attended a free dinner at the branch on Friday, to celebrate its 90th birthday.

It was a big birthday that might have slipped by unnoticed, except that Poulsen read a certificate in the lounge earlier this year.

“All of a sudden I noticed it on the wall and it’s been in the back of my mind since.”

With November being such a busy Legion month, she decided to host just one event, but is already thinking about the centennial.

“If I’m around for the 100th it’s not just going to be a dinner.”

The Princeton Legion, when it was founded, was called The Canadian Legion Affiliate of the British Empire Service League.

“It was basically formed as a social group to assist veterans to get back to being comfortable and being proud of what they did.”

In its early days the local branch held a lot of dances – almost always on Monday nights – and hosted boxing matches. Another popular Legion event, just for men, was called a “smoker.”

Smokers were held at the local theatre. “I guess they were like meetings,” said Poulsen.

The Legion’s focus today is still veterans, said Poulsen.

“It is to support veterans, and there are new veterans around but not too many that live in town. We are here to facilitate, to help them apply for benefits they may be eligible for.”

However the organization fills a broader need now, particularly in small towns, she added.

A member is no longer required to be a veteran or service member, or come from a service family.

“These days anyone can join. If you are a good Canadian you are welcome. We want you.”

The future of Legions is not certain, she said.

“We just replaced our roof last year. That was $80,000. Now our boiler is giving us problems. It’s a constant battle. It’s a shame because I truly believe it’s one of the best organizations in Canada and a huge benefit to small communities. I would love to see it survive.”

Poulsen said she wants to “reach out to young people” to get involved.

For example, she said this week two young women spent a couple of hours helping organizers of the upcoming Legion Christmas party wrap presents.

Their worked saved regular volunteers a lot of valuable time.

“If you have a newborn baby and you want to volunteer at the Legion bring they baby,” she said. “We don’t care.”