About 20 people gathered in the Vancity boardroom Jun 5 for The Centre’s annual general meeting (AGM).
“We made significant progress in the last year,” said co-chair Craig Maynard. “We have acquired new donors, increased the number of community contacts, we had a successful start to a fundraiser and we were successful in making sure that the City of Vancouver gave us the funding for a feasibility study towards a cultural community centre that better reflects our needs. We’re calling this a very successful year.”
In April, city council voted to grant $35,000 toward the cost of a $45,000 feasibility study to explore the merits of a new building to house The Centre. Its current digs at the corner of Bute and Davie Sts are dilapidated, accessible only by a steep and narrow stair case, musty smelling, and inadequate for The Centre’s work.
The Centre’s executive director Donna Wilson told the board there is a two-phase plan for the feasibility study. Phase one is set to get underway this September.
“The first phase is more community input,” she said. “A series of focus groups and discussions with the community will ask what kind of centre people want to have. It will also be a fact-gathering phase, bringing in research from other community centres across the country.” Wilson says phase one will develop as many as three different possible models for what the new building might look like.
“Phase two–January to March 2007–is actually a matter of testing out the models,” continued Wilson. “We’ll be looking at the practical sides of them, making sure that each one is doable. We’ll be looking at the capacity of the community to pull off each one. We’ll be looking at the possibility of corporate or government funding as well. By March 2007, we’ll have an idea of where the community is directing us and which model is leading us to a particular scenario.”
Wilson said The Centre will hire an expert consultant to guide it through each phase.
“In addition to that,” she said, “the board and myself will identify a steering group made up of different sectors of the community. They’ll really guide the process and help us to bring in the focus groups and so on.”
Among the new members acclaimed to The Centre’s board of directors at the AGM is AIDS Vancouver Director of HIV Prevention Services Phillip Banks. “I’m really interested in a community centre space, a building,” he told the board. “That’s what I want to understand more and contribute to. I’m also interested in seeing the work of The Centre known more by the community. I hope to find ways to contribute to that as well.”
“The work I’ve been doing at AIDS Vancouver is the work of health promotion,” he told Xtra West after the meeting. “Health is what I’m interested in and a gay and lesbian centre is a big contributor to health.
“I’m going to spend some time listening to figure out where people’s visions lie,” he continued. “I don’t want to be some ass who sort of steps in and starts speaking before he understands the situation. I’m going to be listening, observing and asking questions.”
Banks said he’s also eager to interact more with the wider queer community as his work with AIDS Vancouver has him dealing mostly with gay men.
With a small deficit of $12,425 on revenues of $581,808 for 2005, The Centre’s audited financial statements show a not-for profit society on solid financial footings but with a heavy dependence on government grant money. Although private donations fell from 2004 by over $20,000 (to less than $37,000), grants increased by almost $31,000 to $483,144. There was an additional gaming grant of $21,861.
With the exception of $23,500 worth of grants from private foundations like the United Way, all of that grant money–over 75 percent of The Centre’s overall revenues–came from various levels of government, while less than eight percent came from private donations and community fundraising.
The statements also show The Centre’s building fund grew over the course of 2005 by only $29 to $11,018. Most of that money, $10,000, has since been committed to the feasibility study.
“Donations were down in 2005. Part of that is due to the fact that not all of the in-kind donations were reflected,” said co-chair and treasurer Mary MacLellan. “We were successful in getting a gaming grant in 2005 which unfortunately may be the last year we’ll qualify just because of the tightening of restrictions. Grant revenue was up with the one-time funding of the anti-violence program and the start-up of the additional funding we received for PrideSpeaks.
“We have to increase the donations and the fundraising that we’re doing,” she continued. “It’s very promising this year because we’re getting a lot more of the community actually coming to us. The [Davie Village] bar owners’ Mardi Gras event–they thought it up and just presented us with the proceeds.
“That’s the kind of thing we’re really going to need in order to have discretionary funds we can use to grow and do programs for the general public. If we’re going to have a more welcoming, more accessible property, if we’re going to be able to have our AGMs in our own premises, we need additional funding to allow us to do that.”