The Army, Navy Air Force Veterans Unit 217, New Waterford, was first established some time in the year 1930. It has, and still does, play an active part in our community.
The first building to house Unit 217 was located on Hudson Street, on the upper side of Ellsworth Avenue. Some of the organizers of the club at that time were: Lauchlie McLean, Jerome Fortune, Harry Williamson, George McKenzie, Jim Young, Tommy Gadd, and Neil McEachern. The caretaker of the building was Alex Larinarich. The Club participated in many functions and activities in the community, one being the Army Cadets, which was under the direction of Willie George Muise. Another was the many Variety Concerts, which at that time were a main source of entertainment.
Unfortunately, after many years of serving the community, the building which occupied Unit 217 burned. Through the hardships and concerns of many of the members, plans were set in motion to erect a new building. Some members even took out leases on their own homes to buy and secure the property, which is now the present location of the Club, the corner of Wilson Avenue and Smith Street.
The Club, with its new establishment and location, also found itself with a new president, a man by the name of Doug Spencer. For many years to follow, the building remained as only a basement. The full development of the building was delayed due to lack of funding. Things took a turn for the better in 1977 and the the top floor of the building which housed Unit 217 was finally erected.
Although the Unit caters to many functions and banquets, it also finds time to remember some of the other organizations within the community. The Unit donates money to organizations that support the handicapped, as well as to the local high school, via yearly college bursaries. For the past years, the Unit has donated large sums of money toward the Coal Bowl. Coal Bowl is a week long basketball tournament held at Breton Education Centre which invites teams from all over the country. Coal Bowl has become the trade mark and pride of New Waterford.
We have been a major support system for our local Sea Cadets for many years. The Unit actively supports all Cadet functions, both personally and financially. The Cadets provide the color party at our Veterans Appreciation Day as well as our Remembrance Day Service.
Unit 217 was also one of the first Units to start the Nova Scotia Command. There is a lot to be said about this great Unit and the men who are guiding it, but we should not forget about the Ladies Auxiliary. These ladies put a lot of time and effort into the various activities in which they are involved. The Auxiliary is active in both the Unit and the community and has been and continues to be a great asset. The Auxiliary is know for the outstanding meals they prepare and serve for various banquets and weddings.
The Unit has contributed many services to the community in the past, continues to do so now, and is looking forward to doing the same, if not more, in the future. This, in part, is what has led Unit 217 to become one of the finest organization within New Waterford and the surrounding communities within Cape Breton.