Report from Board of Directors

Report from Board of Directors

Namaste Everyone,

I am very pleased to present to you the Report of your Board of Directors. We have had a very successful year. Our Composition of the BOD is as follows:

Chair - Vishnu Sookar

Vice Chair - Nisha Sharma

Secretary - Mary Rampersad

Treasurer - Randolp Singh

Director for Fundraising - Basil Punit

Director of Facilities - Krishna Doolsingh

In April 2016, one of our Directors Ashton Jagdeo resigned from his position as Director. The Board filled the vacancy as per section 5.08 of our by-laws - which states that the Board of Directors may fill any vacancy occurring in the Board of Directors for the remainder of the term by appointment. The Board appointed Janack Persaud as Director of Finance, as there was a need to obtain the expertise to look after the multiple lists of issues in our Finance area that we inherited. We needed to have a dedicated director to overseer the cash functions due to this high risk area and multiple complaints brought up at previous members' meeting with respect to cash controls. As you have heard Janack stepped into the role and successfully fulfilled the duties and responsibilities - putting an end to any accusations or leakages or non-compliance issues.

Our mandate for 2016, based on Judge Myers Ruling, was to update our by-laws in accordance to the fundamental sections of the New Not-for-Profit Tax Act and to develop proper procedures and policies regarding our membership, supported by proper audit trails.

Last year on April 17, 2016 - we successfully passed resolution for updating the by-laws. The Membership section was updated to reflect the fundamental changes as per the Not for Profit Tax act. Among the updates a Class A for voting members and a Class B for non-voting members was introduced.

Updated Membership:

Since the last court approved list reflected membership as per 2013 listing, the BOD updated the membership list to include eligible voting members for 2014, 2015 and 2016 to ensure that the list we used for this annual meeting was up-to- date. In order to ensure correctness and completeness, the Board appointed a membership committee consisting of 3 Directors and 1 HOD to establish policies and procedures to assist in documenting the process used to update the membership.

The membership committee used the 2013 Court approved list as the starting point to begin the process. Upon review of the list, the committee realized that based on the policy that prevailed during the period prior to January 1, 2012, that the previous administration at that time, promised to include both husbands and wives as two separate lifetime members (LT) if they donated $5,000 to assist the Mandir in paying down its debt. However, there were inconsistencies on how this policy was applied - On the 2013 Court approved list, there were some spouses of members who were included with just the $5,000 contribution, while the spouses of others were not. To ensure consistency, for those members who were LT members by December 31, 2011, the Board, felt that it was right to ensure that all spouses of each of the voting member who contributed the $5,000 by December 31, 2011 and appeared on the 2013 Court approved list, were also included. This ensured consistent application of the policy that prevailed for the periods prior to January 1, 2012. This increased the LT membership to 202 from 150. The Board reviewed and approved the policies and procedures presented by the Membership Committee. After this exercise was done, the Board agreed to wait until the audited statements were completed for 2014, 2015 and 2016, after which, we will notify those members who met their $5,000 contribution and inquire as to whether they were interested in becoming a LT member due to the implementation of a membership form which would assist in providing an audit trail to have proper records as advised by Judge Myers. The last audited statements were done on the 2013 fiscal year which was why the BOD decided to wait until the audited statements for 2014, 2015 & 2016 were completed.

As per the updated by-laws, section 2.02 for LT membership, it clearly states that if a member would like to become a LT member, then an application must be made and acceptance granted by the corporation. However, to show good faith,as soon as the audited statements for 2014, 2015 & 2016 were completed, the Board reached out to those members who met their $5,000 contribution and inquire as to whether they were interested in becoming a LT member by sending the membership form and requesting the respective member to complete the form and return to us if they were interested in becoming a LT member.

Members who completed the form and met the criteria for becoming voting members were approved and instated on the current 2016 membership list.

Annual members: Based on the previous policy, each year on August 31, annual membership expired; last August 31, 2016, when annual membership expired, based on the enacted new section regarding annual members, no longer referred to as Individual members, the BOD agreed that a policy must be developed in accordance to the new section 2.02 of the by-laws for annual members. Section 2.02 states that Annual membership shall be available only to members in good standing, who have paid their annual membership as specified by the board with the organization. The term of membership of an Annual member shall be annual, subject to renewal in accordance with the policies of the Corporation.

The Board met in September 2016 to update its policies based on the approved changes in the by-laws.

Based on increased expenses in maintaining the Mandir, the Board felt that a $200 membership fee needed to be reviewed. Please note that $200 has been annual membership fee for over 15 years. Upon an analysis of the increased costs for operating the Mandir, the Board agreed that a membership fee of $300 appeared be more representative of the changing economic climate with respect to increased expenses to maintain the Mandir. This change resulted in no extra fees for the PAP members who were our regular individual members as previously called. In November 2016 all PAP and Non-PAP members who were potentially eligible for annual membership were notified in writing of the change and asked if they were interested in joining the membership as Annual members - they were asked to complete the membership form and submit for approval.

PAP members, who contributed $200 by August 31, 2016, were provided with the option to join annual membership for the 2016 year if they filled out the membership form we sent to them and returned to us by December 31, 2016. A  second letter was sent as a follow-up to the PAP members who did not respond to the board's initial letter to again request whether they were interested in joining as annual members. Please note that the contributions made by PAP members, under the previous policy, were only counted between January to August of the particular year; this meant that $25 each month, amounted to $200 by August 31 (which was the previous membership fee). The contributions made by PAP members from September to December, under the previous policy, were not considered contributions to individual membership ($100). However, under the new policy, PAP contributions of $25/month (12 months), amounts to the $300 annual membership fee for the membership year (July to June). So for the future, all PAP contributions for the year will be considered towards membership.

This will encourage more people to come on to PAP since annual membership, if you are a PAP member, in reality, remains the same with the previous contribution of $25 per month. Any new members wishing to join annual membership must pay $300 by June 30 of each year, and complete and signed the membership form.

The membership list was updated to include 17 new members who completed the form and met the criteria for membership. The membership list now stands at 217 voting members as 2 of our LT members passed away during this past year.

Board of Trustees:

Among the changes to the by-laws, a new section was introduced for appointment of a Board of Trustees. The Board's objective was to effectively Institute the Board of Trustees (BoT).

The Board did its due diligence to ensure that this BoT was equipped with individuals who would have the appropriate skills and experience to be guardians of the organization.

The Board first reviewed the skill set that was required based on the Mandir's past history. The events we looked at to make this determination were as follows:

1. The Mandir, over the past few years, have spent, as Janack mentioned, over $230,000 of your donations in legal fees;

2. The Mandir, for our last election, had to pay approximately $93,000 of your donations for the administration of the election, including an elections officer, for administering the last annual general meeting.

3. A few years ago, the temple almost lost its charitable license due to the lateness or almost failure to file its charitable tax return. Since 2014, the temple was supposed to transition to the new not for profit tax act and failed to do so until last April 2016. Industry Canada tax returns were also not filed in 2015. GST rebates owed to the temple was missed for the past 3 years - which made the temple out of pocket for approx $30,000. T4 Summaries and T5s were not filed with CRA which resulted in penalties imposed on the Mandir.

4. This organization painfully suffered due to Governance issues for the past 4 years hence the reason why we had to revert to the Court approved 2013 list for an annual meeting that occurred in 2016. In addition, lately, there have been unfounded allegations made against this current Board for governance issues.

Based on this analysis, the Board sought the skills and experience that would assist us in eliminating the issues highlighted. This new independent body will assist us in maximization of the organization's resources, relationship building with other community-based organizations and promotion of good governance; which are all strategies that are much needed to bring the organization back to the leadership position it once occupied.

The justification for the Board's appointed Trustees, based on the needs of the organization, are as follows:

Young Canadian, Lawyer, Justin Persaud - so that the Mandir can attempt to limit the legal expenses by tapping into the legal knowledge and expertise that Justin brings to the table. To obtain Trustee guidance from a legal mind so that issues can be resolved at the Mandir's level instead of in a courtroom and your donations can be spent on uplifting the Mandir and not on unnecessary legal expenses.

Amrita Williams - Trinidadian descent, a professional in administering elections and shareholders' meetings for various types of corporations - her service will be given free of charge as service to her Dharma - limiting the need to pay an independent elections officer thousands of dollars to administer annual and special meetings as we have done just recently. Also to ensure that all future elections, meetings etc are free from bias and misrepresentations. 

Harish Sharma - East Indian descent - Chartered Professional Accountant and employee with skills and experience working in various tax departments - Appeals and External Audits - his appointment will ensure the organization is protected by its compliance with the regulations and different taxing authorities- limiting the risk exposure of losing its charitable status for non-compliance.

Last but not least - Chanram Persad, as we all know him as Omkar Ji, of Guyanese descent - skilled and experienced in internal audit - worked in various governmental internal audit departments. Not only is he a professional in the field of internal audit but he is a very learned Sanatanist - knowledgeable in our holy scriptures. Omkar Ji will assist in ensuring good governance as well as promotion of the religious aspects of the organization and building relationships with other community-based organizations. 

As you can see, the Board strived to ensure a good compliment was achieved - to obtain representation that is reflective of our community - India, Trinidad, Guyana and Canada. The BoT was successfully appointed on May 15, 2017. They will administer all Annual and Special meetings of the members.  

Religious Segment:

Our Religious segment has instituted a strategic vision of engaging youths as leaders in all aspects of the Religious segment. We have successfully brought 2 very skilled Pundits in performing the various abhiskhas, - including Rudraksh and Durga Paath - pertaining to Shree Durga Maa, who is the presiding deity of our Temple. Such talent is not available in our area.

Another goal was to increase collaboration and form alliances with other Mandirs - building relationships, breaking down silo operations and extending our arms to  assist when needed and vice versa. We have also partnered with the Ajax crematorium to lend support to our community when needed - a special fund is going to be started to assist families who are not able to afford their last rights.

We have also established relations with the Health Heart Institute and had our first women's conference held at the Mandir on June 11, 2017 on Women Empowerment and Wellness led by one of our volunteers, Betty-Ann Persad. We have also participated in the interfaith community initiative by welcoming an invitation from our Muslim brothers and sisters to join them in their Ramadan celebrations. 

Over the past year we have invited several Pundits and temples to join us in our Sunday service so as to align with our strategic goal of networking and building relationships with other community-based organizations. This year we are pleased to engage a youth pundit skilled in all the holy scriptures and trained with the Chinnaya mission to conduct our Sunday morning Kathas and lead our Baal Vikaas Class - again - this initiative is to align with engaging youths in leadership position to make us ready for succession management. We already have engaged youths in leadership position with our kirtan group. 

 We are also beginning an evening Sunday service designed to build relationships with the East Indian community - the kathas will be in Hindi officiated by our resident pundits with an attempt to bring together and join the communities to pray together.

 Through the leadership of Janack and Mary we have also implemented an office and proper procedures for Puja bookings and all related-pundit events and other event bookings. The Office is now fully functional and is managed by volunteers; which is now our main contact for all Mandir's info and events.

Over this past year we have completed quite a bit of work on Facilities - we have fixed the elevator - security system upgrade by adding a few more cameras for safeguarding the Mandir and our major project being the sewer project. We are currently in negotiations to get the project started at an affordable cost. 

BODS STRATEGIC PLAN FOR 2017 TO 2018 

To align with our Communication Strategic Goal - involving PR functions; Social Media; Website; Strategic Alliances/Relationship, we will be focusing on the following 3 objectives for this year and next year to assist us in achieving this goal.

Objective 1:

Build relationship with our congregation and longstanding members.

 We know that we have not spent sufficient time with relationship building to encourage volunteerism as we have been consumed with ensuring the operational segment of the organization. Therefore, we will achieve this by:

 Developing our own People Skills: Good relationships start with good people skills

 Identifying our Relationship Needs: Look at our own relationship needs

 Scheduling and spending the time to build relationships:

        Appreciate Others

        Be Positive

        Manage Your Boundaries

        Avoid Gossiping

Forming a Membership Drive group: We need to reach out to our Members and friends this time of the year with an idea on how we can raise funds for our charity.

For example:

SSDSC Founded in 1988 by a family of seven group without the aid of grants and public funds.

The Pickering Devi Mandir serves as a testament to our dedication to the continuous service to our community and documentation of our devotees and members whose efforts help preserve our great Religion.

There is no doubt the donations received by you is instrumental in helping to cultivate our culture and engage our youths by offering classes in music, singing & dance, and making Baal Vikaas a reality. It would not have happened without the financial assistance of each of you.

 Forming a special function group: These projects will not duplicate existing services. In particular, we are interested in, but not limited to, assistance from this group in the following areas:-

Yagnas

Wedding/BirthdaysMedical & Community Seminars

Deliver services/program to the citizens of the Durham

Community Proposals may be for both “one-time” projects, or for longer- term programs which require some seed money and/or a trial operating period.

 Focusing on improving communication:

        Set-up a Public Relation Group ,Media & Communication Group

        Social Media Strategy - Digital strategy:

Objective 2:

Working as a cohesive group; not just working together but trusting each other.

Work done in teams provides many advantages and benefits. The major advantages are the diversity of knowledge, ideas and tools contributed by our team members, and the camaraderie among members. We will continue to put our differences aside and focus on the best interests of the organization.

Objective 3:

Ensuring that our Board of Trustees (BoT) become fully functional

 Working with the BoT and assisting them in learning and becoming familiar with the operations of the organization through continuous engagement.

 

Respectfully Submitted by:

Vishnu Sookar

Chair of SSDCS - Devi Mandir

On Behalf of the Board of Directors of SSDCS

June 25, 2017.

 

 

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