You couldn’t have blamed the handful of executive members still remaining at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 169 Rankin Inlet if they had become their own best customers for an evening after the Legion was finally granted its club license this past week after a two-year-long struggle.
The license allows the Legion to be open four nights per week (Wednesday to Saturday), which is a first for Rankin.
The remaining executive members are now looking forward to taking care of a few housekeeping issues and moving forward with a bold new attitude.
member-at-large Darrin Nichol is the longest serving member of Branch 169, having sat on the executive back in the late 1990s.
Nichol said he, interim Branch 169 president Pelagie Sharp, interim vice-president Mark Wyatt and past-president Gabe Karlik came together this past fall to see if they could resurrect Branch 169 and move it forward.
He said once the four members decided to proceed, they dug-in their heels, took one challenge at a time and never eased up until the club license arrived this past week.
“I have an interest in seeing the Legion succeed because it’s been here for almost 30 years, and I can see the Legion becoming a good community asset once again,” said Nichol.
“The Legion can be a strong component for supporting our cadets, Rangers and first responders, and there was a consensus among us to put our best foot forward and see if we could pull it out of the weeds.
“It’s been a long, hard process and we’re close to moving it forward again, but we’re not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.
“It’s going to be a tough go for the next couple of years.”
Nichol said Branch 169 basically ceased operations during the spring of 2015.
He said there were issues with the building the Legion had at that time, which was actually owned by Branch 168 in Iqaluit.
“I don’t know what went down back then, but the license wasn’t renewed in 2015 and the process began for Branch 169 to seek out a new place in Rankin to run its operations.
“That building was found at the old Elections site, but it probably could have been scoped-out a lot better.
“There was more than a bit of fatigue among the folks who were trying to keep it going and, after some members left Rankin, it fell on the shoulders of one or two people who quickly found themselves in a tough situation that stretched them to the point where it became questionable if it was possible to go forward.”
Interim vice-president Wyatt said when Branch 169 applied for its club license, he was told numerous times it was a waste of time to ask for the Legion to be open four nights per week.
He said the approval of the four nights came as a major surprise to a number of people, and the reality of the situation, including staffing for each night, is just starting to hit home.
“We’re going to host a co-ed Legion darts league on Wednesdays, so it’s not just a men’s night out sort of thing,” said Wyatt.
“We’ll be closing at 10:30 or 11 p.m. on week nights, and going from 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
“I became involved with the Legion this past Remembrance Day when Darren (Nichol), Pelagie (Sharp) and I started helping Gabe (Karlik), and Darrin and I really starting to look into a lot of things, including renegotiating the lease on our building to a monthly amount the Legion can realistically afford to pay.
“Branch 169 was defunct, but we got permission from Dominion Command to, basically, form a management committee and, when our annual general meeting comes around, we’ll hold elections for our various executive positions and those of us on the committee will probably put our names forward and run for those positions.”
Wyatt said the committee submitted a 50-page application to have the new club license approved, including bios on each committee member.
He said the application also contained letters of the support from Legions in Iqaluit and Nova Scotia, and there was no need to hold a plebiscite in Rankin on the license application because the Legion had previously existed in town.
“As the Royal Canadian Legion Legion Branch 169 Rankin Inlet, we want to really embrace first responders, emergency services, our Canadian Armed Forces and the cadet program, as well as having a much-stronger presence on Canada Day and things of that nature.
“Once we start to generate revenue – we have some serious debts that need to be paid first – we’ll be able to host more events in the community.
“During the days, our building is going to be run as a meeting facility and will be available to rent for corporate-and-business meetings – we can accommodate up to 100 people, theatre style, for corporate meetings and non-licensed events, and up to 80 people for licensed events – to generate more revenue for our operation.
“It will also be available from Sunday to Tuesday for things like weddings, and, hopefully, a host of other activities any time during normal working hours throughout the week, but people should take note if they want to rent the building for a licensed event; they would be totally unaffiliated with the Legion, would be responsible for their own permitting, and understand we will not offer the building any night the Legion is open for its own operations from Wednesday to Saturday.”