By Emily Stonehouse
Along the warm wooden walls of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 636 in Minden, there are a series of framed accolades, accumulated over the years. There are certificates for hospice support, water wells in Guatemala, Trillium Foundation acknowledgments, and evidence of Minden Santa Claus Parade involvement.
These certificates are dispersed amidst photos of veterans, badges of honour, and flags of the past. The facility presents like a museum, with community members contributing paintings, historical documents, and models of vintage airplanes.
The Minden Legion hosts 310 members currently, and is largely run by volunteers. Every year, they take a deep dive into the Poppy Campaign, which allows for legion members and local cadets to head into the community and disperse poppies in preparation for Remembrance Day. The donations from the campaign go directly back into the local community. “We get requests that come in for support,” said Ralf Hennig, the Poppy Campaign chair and the current Veterans Service Officer at the Minden Branch, as well as a local veteran of 31 years. “Based on the request, we can provide that support, for both the veterans, and their families.”
In the past, the campaign has donated over $10,000 to Haliburton Highlands Health Services for their IV pumps, service dogs for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a variety of medical equipment and services to veterans and their families in the area.
The time of year when poppies are donned on every passing lapel may seem like the time that the legion is the most prevalent in the community, but in reality, it never stops. “We are able to keep giving back over the course of the year,” said Hennig.
Beyond the financial contributions back to Minden Hills, Branch 636 keeps its doors open on a regular basis to host events such as euchre, cribbage, darts, bingo, karaoke, and more. It truly is a hub for the region with hot food, great experiences, and community support.
Yet, these events are not just social time. There is something about the environment of the legion that’s different from a standard bar. There’s character, history, stories, and personality. The walls are scattered with the photos of faces who over the years called Minden home before they went off to war. Framed by a doorway is a 1918 Ceasefire Order, donated by Betty Milford, whose father, Norman Klinck, carried the order in the trenches at Vimy Ridge. This act earned him the “military medal” for bravery. At the back of the room, there is a table set up for two, with candles, a single rose, salt on the plates, and dotted with poppies. Every year, the legion showcases this place setting; a table put aside for those who either did not come back from war, or came back completely changed. The space is surrounded by stories.
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 636 of Minden is a destination. A place to learn about the history of the community, to socialize with locals, to sing songs on the good days together, and support one another on the days to remember. It is a place of solidarity, support, and lessons from over the years.
For more information on Branch 636 of Minden, go to them out at “Minden Legion Branch 636” on Facebook, or call 705-286-4541.