A Turner Valley service club opened its doors to patrons and is counting on community support to keep it afloat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 11, the Royal Canadian Legion Turner Valley Branch opened its diner to half capacity, allowing up to 75 patrons to enjoy lunch and supper three days a week in an effort to continue bringing in revenue, said first vice-president Linda Macaulay.
The Legion closed its doors when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta in mid-March, during which time kitchen staff were only able to provide pick-up and delivery services, she said.
Reopening the diner means more work for kitchen staff, who must sanitize the menus between patrons, frequently clean the washrooms and ensure patrons are keeping physically distanced, including using a separate entrance and exit.
While Macaulay said the number of customers has been low since the diner opened, it’s just enough to keep the Legion in the black.
“We’re making enough to pay the bills, but not much more,” she said. “As long as we can maintain this I’m happy we won’t have to shut down.”
The Legion typically closes July 15 to Sept. 1 each year to give staff and volunteers a break and to complete any renovation work being done.
Macaulay said while the facility was closed throughout the spring, the bar was renovated, which will allow the Legion to remain open throughout the summer. The renovations were covered by a government grant and were scheduled to take place this summer.
“Hopefully being open this summer works and keeps us afloat,” she said. “We might close a week in August and give staff a rest.”
Macaulay said the cost to operate the Legion is approximately $6,000 a month, including taxes, salaries and utilities.
The take-out and delivery services has helped cover a portion of those bills, said Macaulay.
“The bottom line is we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the community support with the take out, delivery and now dine in,” she said. “It’s bringing in enough money to pay our bills and keep our place open. Some Legions aren’t that fortunate and they might not have a kitchen or it just wasn’t viable for them.”
To make up any fiscal gaps, a GIC was cashed and some casino funds used, said Macaulay.
“If we hadn’t had that then we would have had to close,” she said. “We will get through June and then the casino will be down to almost nothing and then it has to come out of our general account.”
Macaulay said she’s applied for a government-sponsored line of credit to help the not-for-profit out.
“Hopefully I don’t have to use it, but it’s there as a backup,” she said.
The struggle to keep afloat has had no impact on local veterans and their families, who lean on the organization for support, said Macaulay.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, Macaulay said they haven’t received any requests for support. In the event they do, funding would come from the poppy campaign that takes place each fall, she said.
“Our veterans all know that we’re here for them and we can get assistance in finding the services they need,” she said. “If it’s more than what we can provide locally I just call Command and they assist us. Right now, as far as I know, our veterans are good.”
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