The Legion has a new home.
On the brink of financial collapse, Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 43 has been in a state of real estate purgatory. In the spring, a private investment group bought the Legion building after months on the market. That group gave the Legion a year's free rent to find a new location, but utility costs were still adding up on the cash-strapped veterans' organization.
It was another military veteran who completed the circle.
Ryan Kim owned an underutilized building downtown - the former Elks Hall on Sixth Avenue between Dominion and George streets. He had the space, and when he learned of the Legion's predicament, felt motivated to help. The lease agreement was not disclosed by the two parties, but both sides conceded it was a "favourable" monthly rate.
"I was in the Korean army," said Kim. "We learn in Korean history lessons about the countries who came to support us in our war. We celebrate Canada for being there for us. I really appreciate Canada for being one of those countries who helped our country. Canada sometimes joins our military for military practices. This [accommodating lease arrangement] is what I'm looking for. It is time to make a small thank you, and give back a little. The Legion is good."
"This allows us to carry on what we are here to do, which is support the community of Prince George, especially our veterans," said Legion president Bruce Gabriel on Saturday when Legion representatives, Kim, real estate agent Gordon Langer, and Legion purchasing group members got together to celebrate the signing of the lease agreement.
"We all worked together to arrive at this solution," said Langer. "And thanks to Mr. Kim, this was a venture that became possible and will help everybody."
Legion member Marg Robertson was one of the happiest at the gathering.
"My husband Robbie had five terms as president of the Prince George Legion branch," she said. "He was there when our building - the one we just sold - was first opened. This is the next step for us."
To raise funds for renovations and other transition costs, the Legion is holding a dinner and auction on Saturday night at the Civic Centre. The live auction will be conducted by Brock McElroy, who can also be contacted (250-963-9497) for donating new items and purchasing tickets. Tickets are also available from Gabriel (250-964-1822), the Legion (for the time being, it is still open in its usual place), and at Books and Company.
Individual seats are $70 or tables of 10 for $600.
KEY ITEMS AT AUCTION
- Airline tickets
- Helicopter ride
- Artisan items (wooden bowls, blankets, moose horn art, etc.)
- Original art and a selection of prints
- Native art
- A sleigh ride for 10
- New organ
- Various gift certificates
- A selection of new items from the business community