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Malahat Legion celebrates its 90th anniversary after almost closing down during pandemic

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Stan Grenda has been a Legion member for 40 years. The last 27 of those years have been with the Malahat Legion.

He’s a proud veteran of the Canadian Navy after a long career.

“(I served for) 33 years, eight months and 5 days,” said Grenda.

After retirement, he and his wife moved to Mill Bay.

“I came up here and joined the Legion and I realized there was lots to be done here,” said Grenda.

His first order of business was to build a new bar. He designed a limited-edition pin and sold 800 of them as a fundraiser to support the construction.

“It’s paid for by those pins,” said Grenda.

On Friday the red carpet was being rolled out and balloons were going up at the Malahat Legion.

“It’s our 90th anniversary,” said Virginia Bauder, the Legion's treasurer.

The post was established shortly before the Second World War.

“Basically, we’re here to support veterans and veterans families,” said Bauder.

The Legion also supports community organizations, local food banks, animal rescue organizations and others.

“It’s been a tough run,” said Bauder. “2020 was a very tough run through COVID.”

In fact, there was a point where the Legion wasn’t sure if it was going to survive.

“I would say the key to our success is we were working with another organization called YSAGS (Young Seniors Action Group Society)," said Bauder.

That’s an activity group for people 55 years of age and older.

“Back in the day, if you recall, everyone was told to wear masks, but you couldn’t get one,” said Skip Whitfield, past president of YSAGS.

At that time, the Legion partnered with YSAGS to create 8,000 hand-sewn masks and distribute them for free in the community.

Bauder described that effort as a "big turning point" for the Legion, putting it on the community's radar.

Donations began to flow in, which was enough to keep the lights on, pulling the Legion through the tough times of the pandemic.

“We’re having a party tonight and we’re having a second celebration tomorrow,” said Robert Cleroux, Malahat Legion vice president.

The celebrations are to say thank you to the community and the Legion's 373 members, all people that stuck with it, getting it to its 90th anniversary.

“It’s my home away from home,” said Grenda. “The Cowichan Valley is aware of the fact that this little Legion – and I mean little, it has a very small footprint – but my golly, it’s got the biggest heart in the whole valley." 

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