Warminster Legion Gives More Than $1 million to Community Groups

By John Swartz

Sunday afternoon served up a perfect metaphor. It was rainy, and as the old saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining,’ seemed fitting because in the
Vimy Lounge of Orillia’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 34 the light reflecting off the teeth of representatives from 20 are charitable organizations was blinding.

People were all smiles because the executive of the former Warminster Branch 619 were handing out donation cheques derived for the proceeds of the sale of the legion building.  The total amount handed out was $1,042,000.

“What I understand, the legion was bought by a Catholic Church,” said branch president Mary Thompson. On December 5, 2021, one week after hosting a district convention, the legion closed its doors. The remaining members of the branch and its executive committee knew the end was coming.

“It was in September (prior) that we finally came to the realization that Warminster legion wasn’t going to make it,” Thompson said. It’s not they didn’t have the money to keep going. “Not declining revenue, but declining members. It was getting harder and harder to find volunteers to help with the work that had to be done.”

Thompson was a member of the legion for 20 years and president of the branch for the last 5. As head of the organization, she had to perform the final act.

“I cried. It’s hard place to be, just to have put your signature on a piece of paper saying it’s gone. I still feel bad. Today has a little bit harder than I anticipated, but it also was a good day.”

Warminster Legion Branch 619 President Mary Thompson And Orillia Youth Centre Director Kevin Gangloff

The Orillia Youth Centre’s Kevin Gangloff has many connections to the military and the legion and on accepting a donation of $10,000 he recognized the struggle Warminster members dealt with to wind down operations.

“It’s incredibly gratifying,” he said to receive the donation, “but it’s also a bit of a sad day with a family legion members and life members and past presidents in my circle of family.”

At the outset of the event, many of the charity representatives only knew they were asked  to attend, not knowing what was about to happen. Some did know something was afoot because of discussions with Warminster legion members about needs. Linda Goodall, executive director of the lighthouse spoke words others were too flabbergasted to come up with on the spot.

“I think we’re all getting a little choked up here. This is a sad day, but the legacy you are leaving behind is unbelievable,”she said.

Warminster Legion Branch 619 Treasurer Alba And Oro-Medonte Fire Chief Hugh Murray And Station 5 District Chief Rick Colacci

A shockwave went through the room when Warminster legion’s treasurer, Alba McFadden, announced the amount of the first donation of $225,000 to the Oro-Medonte Fire Department to specifically buy and equip a rapid response truck for the Warminster fire hall.

“It gives me great pleasure to be able to present this cheque to the boys,” McFadden said. She told the gathering 5 years ago the legion did not pass a fire safety inspection and had to make some major upgrades. It wasn’t the cost of material being the problem but the labour cost to renovate. The volunteer Oro-Medonte firefighters pitched in and donated all the labour to make the upgrades.

This is the time of year the folks at the Sharing Place are working hardest to get cash donations. They get about 55% of their annual budget in November and December.

Warminster Legion Branch 619 Secretary And Sharing Place Executive Director Chris Peacock And Son Henry

It’s a very stressful time as well as a very rewarding time when you get to go to community events and see the people that are supporting us.” said Sharing place executive director Chris Peacock. He was happy to accept a $40,000 boost to their fundraising effort.

“We’ve been a very busy place the past 6 months. We’re serving 1,800 people per month now and through the school programs we serve 22 schools and about 4,500 kids each day,” Peacock said.

Several members of the Warminster branch, and representatives of the district (E5) executive and the Ontario command were in attendance.

“I’m really sorry we’ve lost a branch in (Zone) E5, but the members are all relocating to other branches, so we won’t lose touch. And to the people here today, we’re hoping you enjoy your donations from the Warminster legion,” said deputy commander Betty Smith.

Warminster Legion Branch 619 President Mary Thompson And Lighthouse Executive Director Linda Goodall

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List Of Recipients
  • Warminster Elementary School, $5,000 for library supplies
  • Warminster Soccer, $2,500
  • Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, $10,000 – mental health, $50,000 – neonatal department, $50,000 – MRI
  • Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Montreal, $50,000
  • Salvation Army Christmas Kettle drive, $10,000
  • Mariposa Hospice, $25,000
  • Helping Hands $25,000
  • Sharing Place Food Bank, $40,000
  • Couchiching Jubilee House, $10,000
  • Lynx 99 Air Cadets, $25,000
  • Orillia Youth Centre, $10,000
  • Green Haven Shelter for Women, $25,000
  • Sick Kids Hospital, $50,000
  • Sunnybrook Hospital, $50,000 for veteran’s care
  • Royal Victoria  Hospital, $100,000 for cancer care
  • Lighthouse, $25,000
  • Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command, $50,00 for their Leave The Streets Program (getting homeless veterans and their families places to live), and $90,000 for their service dog program
  • Royal Canadian Legion, Zone E5, $5,000 each to the general fund, hospital trust, charitable foundation; and $2,500 each to their track and field and youth education programs; $20,000 to the Mending on the Fly program.

The CNIB summer camp and veterans service dog programs were also on the list provide, but representatives were not present and the amount they received was not mentioned.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Group photo of Warminster legion officials and representatives of donation recipients.


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