Branch 4 Ladies Auxiliary steeped in Chilliwack history

Group celebrates 70 years of supporting Legion activities, vets, youth and community

Ladies Auxiliary member Alvina Barnard hugs LIllian Vomberg

Ladies Auxiliary member Alvina Barnard hugs LIllian Vomberg

They organize bake sales, plan dinners, hold meetings, and teas.

They salute the Queen, and lay wreaths and serve up meals to vets on Remembrance Day.

And all the money they raise – thousands every year – goes back into the community through scholarships and donations.

They visit the sick and dying, they encourage the youth to volunteer, and they support local veterans in their activities.

They are the Ladies Auxiliary, Branch 4 Chilliwack, and they have been serving this city for the past 70 years. On March 11, they gathered in the Chilliwack Mt. Cheam Lions Club Hall for a celebration. While they went over business, enjoyed lunch and handed out awards, it was often made clear that the long-running organization needs new members to carry on their legacy.

Lillian Vomberg, Fraser Valley Zone Commissioner, was on hand.

“Seventy years,” she said. “Can you imagine? Seventy years speaks for itself…. What a legacy those first members gave you. They surely could not have have imagined that 70 years this organization would still be going.”

When she mentions that she hopes to see everyone at the 80th luncheon, the room laughs and groans all at once. Many of them have served their community most of their lives, and still manage to find ways to give back.

To keep going into the future, the organization will need new members, young members. At one time, the auxiliary had more than 200 members.

The auxiliary honours those who come out, and this month’s meeting was a chance for awards.

Years of service awards were given to Norma McPhee and Ena Stevenson (40 years), Marie Golding (30 years), Betty Zagwyn (25 years), and Don Penner (15 years).

And a special award was given to Alvina Barnard, a past president and 40-plus year member.

She was given the Meritorious Service Award, by Vomberg.

Barnard first started with LA in March 1972 in Salmon Arm, and has held numerous posts in the local branch since arriving here in 1984.

“With having a life membership presented in 1994 and all the service she has provided to our Ladies Auxiliary, Branch and community Alvina Barnard is definitely deserving of this Meritorious Service Award,” Vomberg said. “This award is the highest honour an auxiliary can bestow upon a member.”

Auxiliary history

When the Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary was created in October 1946, The Progress stated it would add “strength to an already powerful and large organization.”

“There is little doubt that the Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary will add power and poise to an already strong organization,” editor L.E. Barber wrote. Their first president was Lilian Ramsey.

They would be taking over some of the great “women’s work” carried out during the war by The Women’s Auxiliary to Chilliwack Army Personnel Overseas and the Women’s Auxiliary to Air Services. All mothers and wives of veterans were encouraged to join. By their second meeting, in December 1946, they had 66 members. They quickly became an important part of the fabric of society, and were staunch supporters of veterans as well as the wider community.

When the flood of ’48 hit Chilliwack, the Women’s Auxiliary was there to help.

At that time, this newspaper was publishing a Women’s Page, and the stories therein illustrate the small and large efforts that contributed to the community.

They included bake sales, knitting projects, dances, poppy sales, and such events. The proceeds from these activities were funneled back into the community in the form of donations and scholarships. While membership is now down from the auxiliary’s heyday, the fundraising style is much the same.

The members do what they can to raise money, and then field requests from the community filling as many as they can.

Members provide year round support to veterans and their families by donations to George Derby & Brock Farni Veterans Hospitals, lunches at Branch #4 Royal Canadian Legion and lap robes for those who need them. To raise funds, the LA host memorial and funeral teas, serve lunches and cater a variety of events. They host a dinner and cake draw once a month at Branch 4 and partner with the branch in yard sales, bake sales, and craft sales, donating raised money to Branch #4, local charities, youth groups and bursaries to Chilliwack Secondary School.

Community involvement includes marching in parades, providing refreshments for community members and youth groups after the Remembrance Day Parade, collecting for the Food Bank and visiting the sick and infirm.

For information on membership or donating, call 604-792-2337.