Membership numbers stabilized, Legion says

The Royal Canadian Legion says after years of declining numbers, it has had some success in recruiting new members in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Legion has won national awards for its membership retention strategies

Outgoing Legion president Aiden Crewe says they've used a one-on-one approach to recruit new members. (CBC)

The Royal Canadian Legion in Newfoundland and Labrador says its membership has stablized after years of declining numbers.

The challenge now is to boost those numbers.

Membership is one of the main topics being discussed at provincial Legion meetings in Gander this week.

Outgoing president Aiden Crewe said it's put in a lot of hard work with its recruitment efforts.

"We got creative ... and we used a one-on-one approach," said Crewe.

"We encourage every member to bring in a new member, and we offer prizes for the top recruiter, such as a trip to the eastern seaboard. We give away a few free meals — and people will come and ask to join, you don't have to beg them."

Crewe added the legion has won national awards for its membership retention strategies.

While there are a couple of provincial branches that aren't faring well, none have closed in the last two years.

During the past year, even with aging membership, the Legion has recruited almost as many members as it lost.

The Woody Point branch has gone from about 70 members five years ago — to a very healthy 220 today.

Nelson Granter has been provincial membership chair of the Royal Canadian Legion. (CBC)

Nelson Granter, outgoing provincial membership chair, said since his branch in Gambo closed a decade ago, he goes to Eastport where there's a vibrant Legion community and more than 90 members.

"It's just a grass roots thing," said Granter.

"I don't believe in just sending it out and letting it die … you've got to be constantly checking with the branches to see how their campaigns are going … see if they're following up with their regular members, who just haven't paid their dues for the year."

It's been almost 50 years since legion membership was military, ex-military and family only — a stereotype the legion still battles. For many small communities, the Legion is one of the only active service clubs.

There are no restrictions on who can become a member of the Legion.