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Bruce House elects three new board members at AGM

Organization recognizes tireless volunteers

Past board chair Mark Giberson, volunteer Yvonne Gil and executive director Jay Koornstra, Sept 30. Credit: Bradley Turcotte

Bruce House elected three new board members, and executive director Jay Koornstra outlined progress made within the organization at its annual general meeting Sept 30.

Marc Brabant, Stephen Knight and Jim Young join the board of directors, while Greg Beck takes over as chair. Mark Giberson will remain on the board as past chair after serving last year as chair.

During his six years on the board, Giberson says, he has seen an increase in engagement. The turning point, he says, was the development of the five-year strategic plan, which culminates in 2014.

In keeping with the objectives outlined in the plan, Bruce House increased its number of housing units by 12 percent, something Koornstra says signals “continued growth.”

This past year, the organization also conceived additional programming, including a buddy program for clients who feel particularly isolated, and classes to educate service users on budgeting and nutrition, which further realize goals of the five-year plan, Koornstra points out.

On the fiscal side of the organization, Bruce House saw revenue fall approximately $20,000 from 2012. Its total revenue in 2013 is $1,134,694, while its expenditures for the year total $1,156,643.

Koornstra says the organization was financially “caught unaware” a few times this year.

The organization is now more mindful of unexpected expenses, he says, though he also points out that donations and grants to charitable organizations have fallen 20 percent nationally.

But Bruce House is “doing better than the national average,” he says.

Still, planned roof repairs will likely cost $8,500, and several key pieces of machinery need replacing, Koornstra notes.

On the plus side, the number of volunteer hours dedicated to Bruce House rose from 4,389 in 2011/2012 to 6,021 in the last year.

Former Capital Pride grand marshal T Eileen Murphy continues to volunteer after 13 years and says the experience remains “fantastic.”

“If they thank you once, they’ll thank you 100 times, and it just makes you want to do more for them,” Murphy says.

Bruce House honoured several steadfast volunteers at the AGM, including Yvonne Gil, who has been there for 20 years.

Gil describes Bruce House as a “home away from home” and says she often has to deflect uncomfortable questions while fundraising for the organization. Her HIV status and sexuality are frequent fodder for nosy contacts.

“They look at me and question me. ‘Do you have HIV?’ No. I explain to them I enjoy volunteering and this is what I love to do. ‘Are you straight?’ I’m as straight as a stick,” Gil says with a laugh.

Bruce House’s membership also reflects phenomenal dedication, Giberson says, as there was never a board meeting during his tenure as chair where they didn’t achieve quorum.

Giberson is looking forward to his year as past chair, doing Beck’s “bidding,” and expects work on a new strategic five-year plan to commence soon.

“That will involve a certain degree of taking stock of how have we done,” he says. “Are our objectives still realistic? Have needs changed? I think we’re going to be going back to our clients. I would expect that we would go back to our clients, go back to our partner organizations to get a new assessment of needs and requirements, take stock of what our resources and plan accordingly.”

The organization celebrates its 25th anniversary in November, and Koornstra envisions a healthier community for the next quarter century.

“As we look back at our 25 years of service to people living with and affected by HIV and our contributions to a healthier Ottawa, a healthier community to a healthier nation, we don’t just believe in what is right, we also believe in learning and growing and doing things better and more effectively,” he says.

Founded in 1988, Bruce House is a community-based organization that provides housing, compassionate care and support for Ottawa’s HIV-positive population.