Stories of Royal Canadian Legions closing due to a lack of volunteers or funding have become common.
But one legion — the Auclair 121 Legion in Otterburn Park, Que. —avoided that fate. It is thriving, and its members credit community and camaraderie.
Allan Derry, more widely known as “Mac,” has his spot at the Auclair 121 Legion where he has been sitting with friends for nearly 70 years.
He is there more than he likes to admit. “Not too often: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The rest of the time I stay home,” he said with a cheeky laugh.
But not too long ago, he almost lost his home away from home. The legion was in bad shape, desperately needing renovations.
“We thought we were going to lose it,” Mac said. “Then we had a little girl that came here — that little girl there — and she says to me, ‘wait till you see this place, it will completely change.’ And sure enough, it completely changed.”
That little girl is his daughter Laura Derry, who couldn’t fathom seeing this place close.
“Eighty years is worth saving,” Derry said.
During the pandemic, she created a business plan, applied for grants and fundraised to do the necessary renovations.
She constantly drove from her home in Pierrefonds to Otterburn Park to lend a hand.
Fast forward three years, and now membership has nearly doubled to almost 300 people.
She rallied the community, everyone lent their different talents. “Couldn’t have done it without the community. This community means a lot to me,” Derry said.
The Legion has also recently become home for several veterans from the Royal Canadian Hussars, one of the oldest cavalry regiments in North America.
They presented a special table to the Legion as a gift, complete with a time capsule at the bottom.
“It represents camaraderie,” Derry said.
Camaraderie and family is what it’s all about at the Auclair 121 Legion, where Derry’s husband, Alain Dugas, is in charge of the art.
“Alain was able to put this beautiful piece together and voila,” Derry said pointing to a piece of intarsia wood art, a form of woodworking in which pieces of different woods are fitted together to create a design or pattern.
The Legion’s director, veteran Denys Caron, fronts the ever popular bingo. Mac created special cabinets to cover the dart boards, which protects the walls from those who don’t have a great aim.
The secret to this Legion’s success seems to be hard work, community and plenty of fun and love to go around.