Stampede volunteers give century-old Legion in Calgary a new look

Click to play video: 'Stampede volunteers clean up Calgary Legion' Stampede volunteers clean up Calgary Legion
Since it first opened in 1922, little had changed inside the walls of Calgary's Royal Canadian Legion #1, until recently when, as Deb Matejicka reports, a group of volunteers stepped in to spruce things up – Apr 10, 2019

A lot has changed in Calgary over the last century. But if you happen to venture downtown, onto 7 Avenue southeast, you may come across the Royal Canadian Legion Number One and you may notice that it has remained relatively unchanged.

At least on the outside and until only recently, the interior also looked like it had been trapped in a time warp.

“When you’ve been in operation for nearly 100 years, things tend to stay just where they are,” joked long-time Legion president Phil MacAulay.

READ MORE: Alberta Legion Command partners with Calgary Food Bank to provide for veterans

The Royal Canadian Legion Number One building first opened in 1922.

Legion membership has steadily declined over the years and funds needed to make any necessary renovations, let alone any critical repairs, just weren’t available.

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“All the artifacts that we had were basically just scattered over the last, you know, almost 100 years,” said MacAulay.

He added Legion membership is also getting older and the ability and energy to make any significant changes to the building and it’s contents is declining.

READ MORE: Food bank for Calgary veterans to be revived by volunteers

Fortunately for Legion Number One, a band of Calgary Stampede volunteer committees came together to spruce the space up.

“It’s a home base for one of our committees during the Stampede,” explained Brian Johnston, a volunteer with the Stampede’s community projects and development committee.

“It’s also a place that the Stampede likes because it represents the veterans and the veterans have come here for years and years and we want to support them.”

It was a seemingly simple way to give back but when volunteers showed up for what they thought would be a quick clean-up and paint job, they discovered much more had to be done.

Carpet and the building’s entire HVAC system had to be replaced. That’s when several Stampede partners stepped in to donate materials and their time.

“We never would have been able to accomplish what they have in the last three months,” said MacAulay. “I mean, we would have been waiting 10 years trying to get the money together to do all this stuff.”

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It took more than 30 volunteers approximately 300 hours to complete repairs, clean, paint, de-clutter and display the hundreds of artifacts the Legion has accumulated over nearly a century.

It’s the first time since the 1960s the Legion has received this kind of TLC. The hope is the newly freshened-up space will attract more community groups.

“Once we’re finished then it gives them the opportunity to rent it out and bring more revenue,” said Johnston.

MacAulay explained the Legion is open to all groups and businesses needing a space for their various events and meetings.

“If they (community groups) want to use the facility, then that’s what we’re here for, you know, community events.”

MacAuley said the Legion makes money from its bar and concession sales but it does not actually charge to rent the space.

He said it’s the Legion’s way of giving back, much in the same way Stampede volunteers gave back to the Legion.

“You know, that’s a community thing… We need more of that.”

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