The doors at the North Otago Returned and Services Association (RSA) are once again open to veterans, though only on a limited basis.
The North Otago RSA was put into liquidation at the end of October 2014, after 18 months of financial strife.
While everything possible was done to bail out the RSA, it was unable to turn its financial situation around and ownership of the Itchen St building was placed in the hands of the Waitaki District Council.
Its closure came about as a result of dwindling numbers, particularly over winter, and at a meeting, members decided to bring in receivers.
However, five months after its closure, the RSA is once again welcoming veterans.
Former North Otago RSA president John Longman said council has given the Waitaki RSA Welfare Trust, which provides welfare assistance to veterans and their families in North Otago, permission to renovate the RSA’s former gaming room to host veterans on Friday afternoons.
The room has been cleaned out, repainted and several pieces of military memorabilia mounted on its walls.
“We’re open at lunchtime on Fridays for tea and coffee and to sit down and have a chat, which is very important. There’s also the opportunity for welfare assistance work, too, if they need it.”
Mr Longman wasn’t sure how long the Friday afternoon openings would last.
“How long it goes on for will depend on the outcome of the receivers. We have no idea what’s happening … it’s still early days.”
Mr Longman is co-ordinating this year’s Poppy Day Appeal on April 17 but was having trouble finding volunteers.
“At this stage, we don’t have many, We need some. We have the local Air Training Corps, but at his stage we have enough to do two stalls and that’s all.”
He said the lack of volunteers was due to uncertainty around the North Otago RSA’s future.
“No-one knew what was going on with the RSA and whether or not Poppy Day would go ahead. I would hate to see it not go ahead. There will be a Poppy Day in Oamaru as long as I’m standing up.”
Last year, the Poppy Day Appeal raised more than $1.78 million nationally.
By Daniel Birchfield