Another local non-profit has challenged the District of Sicamous to focus less on economic growth and more on social needs.
In January, district council received a presentation from Eagle Valley Arts Council (EVAC) president Carla Krens. She was distressed with how the district’s finance committee had voted to cut EVAC’s $3,500 grant in aid request to $2,000, explaining this would amount to a $3,000 cut as the arts council receives matched funding. Krens questioned where councils’ priorities are.
At its Feb. 26 regular meeting, council received a presentation by Eagle Valley Community Support Society (EVCSS) executive director Janet McClean Senft who, like Krens, had a grievance to air with council.
McClean Senft began her speech by detailing all the society does and contributes to the community through the Eagle Valley Resource Centre, including family and crisis support, support for seniors, those needing transportation, assistance with income tax preparation and other forms and applications, advocacy and social and educational programs for families with children. In addition, the society was recently awarded a Shuswap-wide contract to develop a Better at Home program to help seniors live more independently.
“We have worked very hard and lobbied very hard to give the community access to social services at a level that is probably the best in B.C. for a community of our size…,” said Senft. “Where we are really challenged is in our efforts in the past few years to garner support from this council.”
McClean Senft went on to criticize council for its lack of recognition of what it means to have a community with more than 300 food bank users in a population of less than 3,000, and more than 200 households where the family income is less than $30,000, where the number of students in local schools has dwindled and where “seniors, and even some of our non-permanent residents are telling us they’re moving away after only a few years here because they see no sustainable future…”
McClean Senft also referred to a grant-in-aid request by the society for 2013, and minutes from council’s committee of the whole meeting where that request, for $4,000, was deliberated and subsequently reduced to $2,000. She noted how the minutes state Mayor Darrell Trouton expressed concern over the society’s proposed budget including $107,000 for wages and benefits “given they are a non profit.” Senft said the EVCSS has 10 year-round employees who, with the society, contribute thousands of dollars annually to the local economy.
“As for the notion that we should somehow manage to do the job without paying wages, perhaps it’s your understanding of what a non-profit for charity is that is what is flawed in this process,” said McClean Senft. “I am pretty certain you would not expect a minister of a church to do his job as a volunteer, or the Eagle Valley Seniors Housing society to run the manor or lodge with volunteers.”
In addition to asking for the district’s support for a garden project promoting local food security, McClean Senft said she and the society would appreciate “the respect that we feel we deserve after serving this community so well for nearly a quarter of a century, and an expectation that you would become more familiar with the scope and nature of our work and its value, socially and economically.”
Couns. Charlotte Hutchinson and Suzanne Carpenter thanked McClean Senft for the reminder of the work the society does, and Carpenter said the district should be giving them more help.
After the meeting, Trouton told the News that he and council endeavour to support all the community’s non-profits as much as possible. But, he added, non-profits cannot be reliant on local taxpayer funding, that they have to look at other ways and means of raising funds. Trouton said he and council have to be fiscally responsible to everyone in the community, adding everyone is having a tough time right now, not just non-profits.
For 2014, the EVCSS submitted a grant-in-aid request for $8,000, to go towards the completion of renovations related to children’s programming. The district’s finance committee cut that amount to $2,000. Trouton said neither he nor council take such decisions lightly.
“We discussed it thoroughly on all angles,” said Trouton. “This isn’t just my decision as Janet might have proclaimed, this is all of council. I’m one vote of council. She wanted to me to take the brunt of it, that’s fine, it’s a council decision and I’m proud of the decision council made.”