The second largest legion in Western Canada, Branch 88 opens its doors to the public on Saturday.
For 85 years, the local legion has looked out for its veterans.
This Saturday, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 88 - the second largest legion in Western Canada - will open its doors to the public to celebrate this milestone.
The Royal Canadian Legion was established in 1926 and the Maple Ridge branch was established a year later in 1927.
Sixty "returned men" - as veterans were referred to at that point in history - first met on Feb. 15, 1927 in the Agricultural Hall in Port Haney.
In the end, there were 41 actual legion members in the first year of operation.
They began meeting regularly at various halls and executive meetings were held in people's homes.
The first president was Maj. W.D. Bruce, and in his first annual report in December, he noted that "our wisest accomplishment was in getting the women to form what has proved a very strong and keen women's auxiliary."
The first legion was opened just after the Second World War, on what is now 117th Avenue, but was then called Thomas Avenue. The building was the former Morris Sheet Metal building.
The legion's second location was on 224th Street and Dewdney Trunk Road in a building that now houses Haney Sewing and Sound.
The current location of Branch 88 was opened across the street, in 1989. Before the legion building was constructed on that property, the first housing for veterans - known as the Legion Lodge - occupied the lot.
Current Branch 88 president Jim MacDonald said the biggest story as the legion turns 85 is its large membership.
While the largest legion in Western Canada, the Calgary branch, draws from a large metropolitan area, Branch 88 in Maple Ridge draws from a population of about 85,000 and still has 2,100 members.
Sid and Betty Smith were planning to have lunch in the fireside lounge in the legion on Thursday afternoon - a place they've been coming to for 16 years.
Sid Smith is a veteran of the Second World War having served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1941 to 1945 as a tail gunner.
The Vancouver-born Smith joined the legion in Burnaby and then the one in New Westminster before he and his wife joined the Maple Ridge branch.
"This the best legion I've ever been to," Smith said. "It seems to be the best run - it certainly serves the veterans and the community."
Branch 88 gives out about $115,000 a year to charities and sponsors three cadet corps.
"I love that the community knows if they've got something very good they can contact us and we'll do our damnest to help," MacDonald said.
The legion provides a "safe place" with a plethora of activities where members can enjoy themselves, MacDonald said.
The rules have changed over the years so that one doesn't have to have a military background to join the legion.
In addition to taking care of veterans and their families, the legion is the "caretaker of military history," MacDonald said.
And while the legion is a non-political organization, they do lobby on behalf of veterans' rights, he added.
Memorabilia from several wars, from First World War, Second World War, the Korean War, Afghanistan, and the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia can be found at the legion, in glass cases and lining the walls.
The legion continues to receive donations from families as veterans pass away.
The open house on Saturday, June 23, runs from noon to 6 p.m. It will begin with marching on the colours - the legion's colour parade - a recount of the history of Branch 88, a prayer and laying of a wreath, and then the marching off the colours.
At the open house, there will be a membership information booth, a complimentary barbecue with hotdogs, and a cake at 2 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Chris Haley from 1 to 5 p.m. with oldies and contemporary music.
Al Casswell, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1968 to 1971, is helping organize Saturday's events, and he hopes it will draw the younger generation to the legion.
"I'm hoping a generation of grandchildren - or even younger than that - would come and have a look and see if there's anything for them," Casswell said.
Casswell served three terms as president of Branch 88 and now sits on the management committee.
Both of Casswell's parents served in Second World War, and he said he feels he owes it to veterans to support them through his volunteer work at the legion.
"Once you get involved, it stays with you," Casswell said.