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OUR Spaces seeks donors

Wants to raise $70,000 by spring

"We've started the foundation and now we're going to really start avidly looking for people who will write us cheques, big cheques," says OUR Spaces president Laura McDiarmid (centre with Gerry Kasten and Tony Correia). Credit: Chris Howey photo

A Vancouver group set on creating a new, multipurpose queer community centre says it’s moving closer to its goal, but more outreach and better communication is needed if the project is to be realized.

Only nine people attended OUR Spaces’ special general meeting on Nov 20, five of them board members of the society.

The board presented its draft vision and mission statements, which were unanimously adopted by the membership in attendance. The vision statement describes a multipurpose resource centre, a physical space in which to “celebrate, support and enhance” Vancouver’s queer community “through arts, leisure recreation and services.”

While members applauded the overall plan, they expressed disappointment in the board’s lack of productivity and failure to communicate effectively with members.

“I came here not knowing anything about what had been going on in the last year, so I was confused as to why I was going to hear about what is happening in the future when I have no idea what’s being done,” said OUR Spaces member Nick Hall.

Hall said the group’s website and Facebook page had not been updated in months and urged the board to use its networking tools to inspire more community involvement.

Hall suggested more membership meetings are needed throughout the year.

The OUR Spaces board meets monthly and has met with the group’s membership three times since the organization registered as a non-profit in December 2009.

“We haven’t done a very good job in communicating,” acknowledged board member Tony Correia.

“The board very much concurs that we can do a much better job at communication,” agreed OUR Spaces co-chair Gerry Kasten.

“That hasn’t really been a focus for us,” Kasten explained. “Our focus until now has very much been organizational focus, ensuring that there are strong bylaws, that there is charitable status, that we have good processes in place to move forward.

“We are still a small organization, and we have to make sure that we’re established,” he said.

Kasten said the approval of the vision and mission statements put the organization at a “place to start getting big.”

“Today’s meeting was a kick-off point,” he stated. 

The board applied for charitable tax status in October and say they hope to have it in place by January.

So far the group has raised $560 in capital savings, and hopes to raise $70,000 by April 2011.

“Seventy thousand dollars is our capital dollars, but we are also looking at donations of buildings or spaces or land. All of those things are on the agenda,” said president Laura McDiarmid.

The group says it will take every opportunity to fundraise at community gatherings, but in order to meet its fundraising goal by spring, it says private donations are needed. “We have a lot of people in the gay community that are very successful,” McDiarmid noted.

Members welcomed the plans but expressed concern about what they see as the board’s unrealistic expectations.

“My fear is: what if the perfect site comes up in one year from now? Are you guys ready to deal with that? Are any of us ready to deal with that?” asked Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva.

In order to be prepared, Deva said the board must look inside the gay community for assistance and seek out a negotiations and public relations team to help meet the project’s goals.

“You guys have got a positive thing to do,” said Deva.  “And you’ve got to start lighting the fire.”

McDiarmid agreed. “Let’s just say this was baby steps and now we’re into giant steps,” she said. “This was like building blocks. We’ve just started. We want to go from point A to point Z in five steps, but we can’t.

“We have to build it the way we build a building. We’ve started the foundation, and now we’re going to really start avidly looking for people who will write us cheques, big cheques,” she said.