INGERSOLL, ONT. -- It’s a major turnaround for the Royal Canadian Legion in Ingersoll, Ont., which has been hit hard by COVID-19.

The crowd-funding platform GoFundMe has donated close to $6,000 to Hillcrest Legion Branch 119, after a misunderstanding last month saw the company return all of the legion’s online donations to donors.

“My heart just almost came out of my chest, it was awesome,” said Vice President Mike Kelly. “It was something that we never imagined would come true.”

This past spring the legion launched a GoFundMe campaign to help pay the bills while the branch was closed due to the pandemic.

The campaign raised close to $6,000, but when the legion couldn’t come up with a non-profit number to prove its non-profit status, GoFundMe returned all the money to donors.

It was a major blow to the legion, which had found itself in dire financial straits during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Branch President Rob Mabee was also worried about what harm it might cause to their reputation in the community.

“When it first all started with them sending the money back I thought, ‘Gee, we aren’t going to be in very good standing with a lot of people.’”

Kelly has said that the U.S.-based company didn’t realize Canadian legions don’t require a non-profit number because in Canada they are already recognized as non-profit and self-sustaining.

That’s when the Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion intervened, contacting top brass at GoFundMe, and explaining the distinction.

Apologies were made, and GoFundMe donated $6,000 of its own money to the Ingersoll branch.

“They’ve come through for us. It was a nice surprise,” said Mabee.

He adds that the money will go towards keeping the lights on at the branch, and giving veterans a place they can call their own.

“It will go towards helping veterans have a place to come and sit down and relax, talk to their friends, and the upkeep of the building.”

The Ingersoll legion is not alone with its financial troubles. The pandemic has hit legions hard, said Ontario District B Commander Diane Conlon. Many though have found creative ways to raise money, she added.

“It’s been rough. There’s no two ways about it, but they’re a resilient group and to raise funds they’ve done everything they can. They’ve had bottle drives, there’s the GoFundMe. A lot of them started doing take-out dinners.”

The Ingersoll legion plans to reopen Sept. 1, following a five- and-a-half month shutdown.

As for GoFundMe, Kelly said the company has informed legion officials that it’s changing some of its policies in Canada to better reflect the rules around Canadian non-profits.