For the first time since 1936, the Flatbush Legion’s doors are closed, says Flatbush Legion president Peggy Laing. This is a temporary shut down because of COVID-19.
Across Alberta, 21 Legions are shutting down, Laing says. At this time, Flatbush isn’t one of them. Flatbush has money from past casino fundraisers and a general fund. However, with not being open, it has no source of income. Also, its next chance to volunteer at a casino to raise money is a long way off.
“If we don’t open, we can go on for quite a while,” Laing adds. Prior to COVID-19, 60 to 70 people attended monthly suppers, but with the COVID-19 health regulations the space can currently only hold 16 to 18 people. This isn’t financially viable. Also, the majority of people who attend are seniors, who are at a higher risk of getting very ill or dying from COVID-19.
Unlike Flatbush, Smith Legion is open.
The Smith Legion bar is open on Fridays, with social distancing, says Smith president James Anderson. “It’s our only means of survival,” and it’s going well.
Flatbush Legion has 60 members, says Laing. This has remained stable through the years, which is unusual for a rural Legion, and is one of the most active rural Legions in Alberta and Northwest Territories. Prior to COVID, it was open every Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight. The bar was open and people played darts, pool, and cards. It also rented out the facility to community members for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
In late September, the Slave Lake Legion opened up again for most of its events except cribbage. It is also taking rentals.
“I’m getting a lot of complaints that they can’t play crib,” says Slave Lake president Beth McDonald. However, Tuesday bingo, the September steak supper, and darts are going well. So far, the Legion hasn’t had to turn anyone away from bingo. Eighty people attended the supper in September, which is close to normal. With a few tweaks to make things run smoother, the next steak supper will be Oct. 30.