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Five people join Centre board at AGM

Breakspear says she can't yet reveal details about new building

SATISFIED WITH THE TURNOUT. The Centre's co-chair, Craig Maynard, say this year's annual general meeting turnout of about 20 people is about the same attendance as previous years. Credit: Chris Howley

Vancouver’s LGBT Centre board of directors gained five new members at its annual general meeting Jun 25. All nominated by the board’s governance committee, the group joins the five remaining executives, as well as directors June Thompson and Rebecca Shields, both of whom were successfully re-elected.

Co-chair Craig Maynard says that he was satisfied by the meeting’s turnout of about 20 people, 12 of whom now sit on the board. “That’s plus or minus about the same as what we had in years gone by,” he says.

Last year, The Centre saw the resignation of three board members and the hiring and subsequent termination of a new executive director, Michael Harding. Jennifer Breakspear, a former board member, is serving as interim executive director until a replacement is hired.

This theme of change was at the forefront of the board’s annual reports. Shields, who served as Maynard’s co-chair in 2007, commended the staff and volunteers for their efforts over the last year:

“I’ve never worked with an organization with such spirit and dedication,” she remarked, calling the past term an “enormous transition.”

“While change can be exciting, it’s also often quite challenging,” says Breakspear. She echoed Shields’ appreciation for the efforts of those involved, stating that The Centre’s members have “come through together and stronger.”

“To me this time of change is a very cool thing,” says newly elected director Jennifer DeTracey. “I think it’s always fun to be on the edge of something new and something growing.”

New members now sit in open, female and male positions on the board; only the second transgender seat remains to be filled.

Nadine Wu, who has worked both for Little Sister’s and the Asian Society for the Intervention of AIDS, is one of the board’s fresh faces. She hopes to use her directorship to make The Centre “accessible to more diverse corners of the community.”

In her experience, “trying to bring Asian youth into The Centre was actually kind of difficult,” says Wu. “People in the queer Asian community weren’t as aware of The Centre as, say, other parts of the community.”

Accessibility has been an ongoing concern for the organization. Having outgrown its current second-floor location at 1170 Bute St, The Centre has been actively looking for a new space since 2005; still, the board remains unable to give much detail with regard to a prospective facility.

Breakspear says that although she wishes The Centre’s management could announce concrete plans, they “can’t yet.”

According to her year-end report, The Centre’s future location will be found through a municipal structure called the Bonus Amenity Program. Under this arrangement, she says, the city’s Social Planning Department is now negotiating with a developer who wishes “to build a structure that would otherwise run contrary to city building codes and guidelines.” In exchange for approval, the developer must provide something that the city wants – in this case, a new LGBT community centre.

Breakspear says the board must “wait and see” until an agreement is made between the city and the developer before becoming party to consultation.

“That doesn’t mean we sit still,” she says.

Breakspear’s report also notes that The Centre will be “rebranding” itself this year; plans include a new name, logo and website to be launched in the fall.

DeTracey hopes to help in that capacity. She says that it was her facilitation of a branding workshop for The Centre’s staff and volunteers that prompted her to accept their board nomination.

As a business strategist with previous involvement in numerous marketing campaigns, including those for Vancouver’s Gay and Lesbian Business Association and Out on Screen, DeTracey says non-profit organizations often work from a perspective that is not optimistic about funding.

“There can be money if you know how to package things properly,” she claims. “The value of what The Centre offers is huge [and] it just needs to be communicated in a manner that people can resonate with.”

Breakspear says she hopes “a major fundraising initiative” will soon get underway.

The Centre’s directors anticipate that board appointee David Wong, who has years of experience as a chartered accountant, will assist with such fiscal matters. Wong was appointed through a process called BoardMatch in conjunction with Volunteer Vancouver.

The executive also welcomed new directors Jeff Wilcox and Matthew Pascuta.

“It’s always been an aspiration of mine to go back to the Centre and give back in some capacity,” says Pascuta, who utilized The Centre’s coming out support services years ago. “I’m excited for where the Centre is going.”

Wilcox was unable to attend the meeting; sending his regrets, he wrote that he feels “flattered” by the board’s nomination.

Breakspear closed the meeting by welcoming community feedback.

Individual positions on the board, such as that of secretary or treasurer, have yet to be appointed.