Council hears request to resurrect cultural centre foundation
By Chad Ingram
A volunteer board is hoping to resume the work of the Minden Hills Cultural Centre Foundation and is looking to the Township of Minden Hills for a loan to help get it started.
Councillors for the township were visited by Patricia Walshe and Jack Brezina during their Oct. 31 meeting.
“It’s a separate charity, it’s a foundation just like the hospital has a foundation, which is separate from the cultural centre,” Walshe said, reviewing the organization’s history.
Created in 2002, the foundation received charitable status in 2004, and raised money for the cultural centre for nearly a decade until it went dormant in 2013 following some disagreement between foundation members at the time and the council of the day as to how funds should be spent.
Among its accomplishments were raising $45,000 for an expansion of the Agnes Jamieson Gallery and donating $17,000 toward the construction of R.D. Lawrence Place (later named Nature’s Place), along with funding a host of arts-related programming.
In addition to raising money for the cultural centre, Walshe pointed out that other benefits of the foundation include that it can apply for grants the cultural centre itself, being township-owned, cannot, that it can issue tax receipts for qualified contributions, that it can apply for a liquor licence to host special events, and perhaps reignite defunct events, such as Fire & Ice, which featured scotch, wine and beer tasting.
“We can do a number of things,” said Walshe. Along with Walshe and Brezina, the current foundation board also includes members Jim Mitchell and Sue Tiffin. The foundation’s revised purpose reads as follows: “The Minden Hills Cultural Centre Foundation (a non-profit charitable corporation) exists for the purpose of raising and receiving funds to support the programs and activities of the Minden Hills Cultural Centre. The programs encourage education and involvement in the arts of all residents and visitors with a focus on youth.”
“We thought we’d paid off all the bills,” Walshe said, but added some unpaid bills still on the foundation’s books had been paid by herself and Mitchell, to the tune of about $700, and they were hoping to be recouped, at least in part.
“We inherited this with a debt, we’ve personally paid that debt, we would like some of that money back . . . and we would not operate without insurance,” Walshe told councillors.
The foundation board is looking for a $2,500 loan from the township, one it would aim to begin paying back in 2021.
That loan would help recouping the money paid to cover the debt, $1,000 for a year’s worth of insurance, fees for accounting and maintaining a website domain, “and it would give us some money to start operating,” Walshe said. “It’s hard to run any event if you don’t have any money.”
Brezina added that because of its legal status, the foundation could essentially act as bank er for other organizations that may wish to make financial contributions for programming at the centre.
“One other benefit of having a foundation here that’s specifically tied to the cultural centre that we experienced in our time, was that foundations that had funds they wanted to channel to an artist in the area would park the money with us, or give the money to us, and we would dedicate it to a particular project, we would hold the money for them and make sure that project took place,” Brezina said. “So . . . the money did not go to the cultural centre, it went to a specific artist, but the foundation itself became the repository from that money from another foundation.”
Walshe said the things the foundation can do with funds come through specific regulations from the CRA.
“We can pay somebody from Fleming College who was going to teach, perhaps, at the cultural centre,” she said. “We can give it to a government, we can legally give it to the municipality to funnel through to the cultural centre.”
Walshe said the board had a number of ideas, but without any funding to begin new fundraising programming, would likely simply close the foundation.
“You have my interest to do this,” said Mayor Brent Devolin. “You made reference to the CRA and some of the rules, because I know there were some complications in the past, so, I guess, from my perspective, I would like to see a report back from staff, that if we wish to do this, with the insurance and the tax receipts and all that . . . the shape and form that it could be done.”
“I think probably most of us wish to proceed with this,” Devolin said, adding it was just a matter of solidifying the logistics.
Treasurer and chief administrative officer Lorrie Blanchard said staff would have to do some research around the legal logistics of the municipality supplying a loan.
“We’re not in the business of loaning money,” Blanchard said.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell suggested perhaps a donation or grant, which would be much simpler logistically.
“It comes back in other ways,” Schell said.
Councillor Bob Carter said he’d like to see a staff report regarding the situation.
“I’d like to hear from staff as to how they feel that the foundation would work with our organization, because I’m not aware, right now, whether staff is for it or against it,” Carter said. “I’m generally positive, through what I’ve been hearing, but I’d like to hear officially from staff.”
Township economic development, destination and marketing officer Emily Stonehouse said she could provide some insight as to how the township and foundation would work together.