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War vet fights for Legion's roof repairs
TORONTO - Second World War veteran Bruce Malenson is again fighting for something he holds dear — 67 years later.
This time, the 90-year-old is fundraising to patch the leaking roof at his 75-year-old Royal Canadian Legion branch in Etobicoke.
“All legions have problems,” he said.
“But our main problem today is our moneymaker,” Malenson said, referring to the roof of Irwin Hall, which the branch rents out regularly for events, but barely breaks even on expenses.
Branch 286 president Ron Gregory says their financing is structured so “we can’t keep a lot for ourselves to keep things going.”
That’s why the roof couldn’t immediately be replaced when it began leaking three years ago.
“Hall rentals are really our only form of making funds,” Gregory said. Without that income, the branch might not continue to be a safe haven for the 340 members who gather to reminisce and hold charity events. Other legion branches have closed due to financial difficulties and declining ranks.
Gregory’s voluntary presidency is wrapped in family history; a great-grandfather is buried at Vimy Ridge in France; and a grandfather fought in World War II.
“It’s my obligation to keep their memories alive … to keep the memories of all the veterans alive,” he said. “But I can’t do it alone, I need help, too.”
A locksmith, he occasionally makes minor repairs. Many members with trade skills have done the same.
“I’ve spent thousands of dollars out of my own pocket,” Gregory said.
Now the roof could cost up to $80,000, based on estimates.
Luckily, a Superior Spray Foam employee offered to do the job for $25,000, with no money upfront.
“The way that I’m looking at it is, he’s basically just covering his own end,” Gregory said.
The only problem is that the branch has $2,800 for the repairs. That’s where Malenson comes in.
“We’ll accept any amount whatsoever,” he said. Ten years ago, he helped build a memorial in France, dedicated to Canadian veterans.
“When we started that, we thought how the hell are we going to raise a million dollars?” he recalled. “We raised 12 million.”
War is hell, he says, having signed up for it at the age of 17.
“I’m lucky, I came home,” he said. According to him, 46,000 veterans never returned.
The branch is now campaigning to raise $25,000 to begin repairs on the roof before winter.
To contribute, contact the RCL branch 286 - 416-741-5660.