By Peter Douglas
The Upwey-Belgrave RSL Sub-Branch will continue on until at least the end of this year, after a strong show of support from the Dandenong Ranges community.
In January this year, the ‘Mail’ reported the sub-branch was on the brink of closing its doors after this year’s Anzac Day services on Tuesday 25 April.
But support from local MPs Edward O’Donohue, Jason Wood and James Merlino – in addition to assistance from the Healesville RSL Sub-Branch – has shored up the immediate future of the RSL.
The revamped bistro has proved a master-stroke, with the community getting right behind the initiative.
The not-for-profit entity had been battling to remain viable as an organisation.
The management was in real danger of being turned over to head body, RSL House, which could have meant an introduction of poker machines.
Sub-branch president, David Eaton, said the response had been encouraging.
“The bistro has been going great guns since opening and it’s now looking like we’ll stay open until at least the end of the year, staving off the threat of poker machines,” he said.
“The bistro has been going crazy since the story was published; we’re not out of the woods but in a much more positive spot.”
Mr Eaton said the Healesville RSL support, in particular, had been the catalyst for the turnaround, with their guidance.
He said Mr Wood, Mr Merlino and Mr O’Donohue had all personally committed their support.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Cr Noel Cliff, put up his hand to work behind the bar on occasion.
Earlier this year, treasurer Beth Quilty put an Anzac Day deadline on a decision for the sub-branch.
“We get more than 3000 people here on Anzac Day every year, but that can be the only day we see many,” she said.
Mr Eaton is hoping this year’s Anzac Day activities will help the recovery effort gain further momentum.
The dawn service will be conducted at 6am, with the main service at 10am.
The march will be held at 9.30am, with step-off at 9.45am at Main and Mahoney streets in Upwey.
Meanwhile, the Sub-Branch will be one of 285 across Victoria which is taking part in the 2017 Anzac Appeal.
Mr Eaton encouraged the community to give generously.
“Our RSL volunteers, from all walks of life, are ready to offer a variety of Anzac Appeal badges, including a special badge to commemorate the last great charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba in 1917,” he said.
“It is a wonderful time for our community to come together and pay respects to our past and present servicemen and women.”
Funds from the Anzac Appeal go to a variety of services and programs for veterans.
Anzac Appeal badges are also available at Woolworths and Officeworks.
You can also donate online at www.anzacappeal.com.au.