Mennonite Central Committee Canada says it is cutting some programs in Canada, partly in anticipation of a drop in revenues from its thrift stores. Executive Director Rick Cober Bauman says they anticipate a decline of about $800,000 in annual net income next year. He notes while sales are seeing modest gains, they are projecting some higher expenses.
"In a number of places, there are catch-up expenses, sometimes with building improvements or building expansions. We are also trying to bring the staff, who giveleadership to thrift shops in various places across the country, some equity around our salary levels. We all associate thrift with volunteerism and that continues to be the case. There are hundreds, in fact, there are thousands of volunteers in thrift shops across Canada for which we are very, very grateful and thrifts could not operate without them. But we've also found over the years that thrift shops, generally do better when there are paid leaders, a small group of managers, who give leadership to the shop. And so, bringing all those people into good and healthy salary ranges, along with some of those capital expenses I mentioned earlier, we think that is primarily what is making the next year or two look like we're going to have net revenues to MCC, lower than they have been."
Furthermore, MCC Canada is increasing spending on foreign programs by five percent to 55 percent. Cober Bauman says this was a decision made some time ago because Canada has a better social safety net than many of the countries where it provides support. Furthermore, he says MCC Canada was very tightly and widely-spread with its budget.
"You could even say thinly-spread. So, in a desire to go a little deeper and not be spread quite as widely, to go for a strong, deeper impact, is also partly behind some of these changes."
Among the cuts, the 65-year-old Labrador presence will end as of March 31, MCC Canada’s national coordinator positions for Indigenous Neighbours, Restorative Justice and Low German programs, each the equivalent of one full-time position, will be cut. The Low German coordinator, James Schellenberg, retired last fall, and will not be replaced. Restorative Justice coordinator Randy Klassen and Indigenous Neighbours coordinator Diane Meredith will conclude their work in March.
Other changes include closure of the International Volunteer Exchange Program in Quebec, elimination of the youth and online engagement coordinator in the Maritimes, a reduction from full-time to half-time of the Peace and Justice Ministries coordinator in Quebec, an end to MCC Alberta’s coordination of the 35-year-old M2W2 prison visitation program, elimination of the Low German program within MCC Manitoba, concluding 10 years of work by Winkler-based Tina Fehr-Kehler.
Cober Bauman says these changes are not made without some pain.
"We often say at Mennonite Central Committee, it's easier to start things than it is to stop things. I think that's in part, because relationships go deeply, we develop partnerships with community partners. But I think in order to be completely open to where we are being called as a faith-based relief, development and peace organization, we do need to at times take stock and and say: Where have we done a good work? Where is it time to release ourselves?"