The long-serving members of Ashby Legion Branch 138 aren’t quite sure what keeps their branch active, but they do realize that they are one of the fortunate legions in the Third.
It’s no secret that some legions these days are struggling.
“We wish that they were all thriving,” says brothers Mel and Lowell Crowe from their office at the Ashby legion. “But all legions help each other when they need it.”
The brothers acknowledge that while there was a brief time in the late 70s and early 80s when the branch wasn’t so active, it has since seen 40 plus years of success.
“I’m not sure,” responds Mel when asked why the branch hasn’t experienced the membership decline that others are suffering these days. “Maybe it’s because we are in the middle of the city.”
“We are also a well-run branch,” says Lowell. “We keep it clean. People comment on the cleanliness of the branch.”
“There are also a few younger members on the executive, and they know how to deal with the younger members and get the crowds in,” adds Mel.
“And the older and younger members get along,” Lowell interjects. “We all focus on the solutions and not the problems.”
Those younger members are watching the long-serving members age and begin to need help and are stepping up – and learning how to run a legion at the same time – working on by-laws and communicating with the national office.
Todd Riley has been active in the legion for years and once would have been among the youngest active members at the legion. While he isn’t as young as he once was, he remains as active as always. “We are always trying to find events that will get people in the doors,” he says.
“We have dart groups, baseball and golf, and a card game on Wednesday nights that gets a crowd of 60 or 70 people,” says Riley.
But for Riley the secret to the branch’s success is its people.
“We have an active membership who provide a lot of support to the branch. Our members aren’t transient; they have a stake in the success.”
That membership works hard to be active in the community. The Crowe brothers and other members visit schools, nursing homes, and make sure that the local vets get the time and attention they deserve.
Community service is important to the branch. It provides its upstairs space to community use and takes bookings for special events.
For Riley, it is those community encounters that make the difference. “People come for an event and see that it is a great place, and they want to come back.”
According to the Crowe brothers, the Ashby legion has only three of four World War II vets left. Despite that, they are planning for a well-attended service on Remembrance Day.
This year the veterans from the three legions in the Sydney area (Ashby along with Branches 12, 128) will gather at the Ashby cenotaph at 8 a.m. to lay wreathes. They will then assemble at the Sydney Shopping Centre parking lot where they will march to Centre 200 (weather permitting) where Branch 12 will host the service.
After the service, the members of each branch will gather at their respective legions to lay wreaths to honour branch members. They will then have lunch together, enjoy entertainment, and most importantly relish in the comradery that the day brings.
As the Crowe brothers tell The Third, “The bottom line is we here for the vets and our community.”