The Royal Canadian Legion feted a dozen new members during Sunday’s New Year’s levee and, in the spirit of the celebration, Niagara-on-the-Lake community leaders spoke about their hopes and goals for 2023.
Legion president Al Howse emphasized the importance of the initiation ceremony and how it establishes a clean slate for the new year.
“The initiation ceremony is important as much for the new members as it is for the regular membership because the new members get a look at what our objects and traditions are all about,” said Howse.
The Legion’s main goal for 2023 is to increase accessibility by installing an elevator. The branch’s second floor is not easily accessible for many people.
“We have to raise a lot of funds and we’re looking for some grants, it’s a huge project,” he said.
Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said his focus for the town in 2023, focusing is a “brand new strategic plan.”
And during a heartfelt speech, Zalepa expressed gratitude at being able to celebrate with the Legion and extended thanks to people from the community who helped out those in need after the massive snow storm over the holidays.
“We sent two hydro crews and trucks, we sent a fire unit and also snowplow unit, our men and women from town put their hands up and went out there to help our friends in Fort Erie and Port Colborne.”
MPP Wayne Gates also credited the Legion for its hard work and shared fond memories from childhood.
“This is one Legion that’s increasing membership. That’s not happening everywhere, so we’re obviously doing something right.”
Gates’ parents, who were members of branch 138 in St. Catharines, were very involved with the Legion.
The branch’s many volunteers made his mom and dad feel warm and welcome, Gates said.
“They spent all their time at the Legion and when my dad passed away, they still welcomed my mom.”
On a more political note, Gates and Niagara Falls riding MP Tony Baldinelli outlined their hopes for the coming year.
“Affordability is going to continue to be a big issue, but I think the biggest issue facing people in my riding is health care,” said Gates, citing overflowing and understaffed hospitals.
Baldinelli cited pandemic recovery as a main focus,
“It’s about seeing that the recovery from COVID continues on, particularly in communities in NOTL and Niagara Falls,” he said.
“We’re also living in a cost of living crisis. We need to address that so people can have a better future moving forward.”