Town Hall Recap from the Co-Directors

A Letter from our Co-Directors, September 5, 2019

 

Dear Seattle Shambhala Community, 

As many of you know, this past month we had the pleasure of holding two Town Hall Gatherings with members of our community. Thank you to all who attended and shared your thoughts, concerns, and inspirations for the future! These Town Halls are just a starting point for conversations within our community. As Center Co-Directors, we are dedicated to continuing to offer opportunities for us to gather and connect about the areas that are important to us all. 

We also know that there will always be those who are unable to attend. To fill in the gaps, we offer you this brief outline of topics covered at the recent Town Halls. We hope that this information can increase transparency and benefit all in our community.

 

Finance

Over the past few months we have been working closely with our finance manager, Meli-Tashi Happy, and community member Alan Ameche, who is acting as a financial liaison to the Governing Council, to further understand our financial position and start work on long-term planning for the next two years. We are happy to report that our financial situation is currently good. 

Our current financial stability can be attributed to a number of factors, most of which are temporary or one-time situations. 

  • First, the Center Director’s compensation was decreased in March from a salary of $2,500 per month to a stipend of $750, which we as co-directors currently share. This is not a livable wage in the city of Seattle and will need to be increased over time in order to sustain this position in the future.

  • Second, we decreased our contribution to the Universal Giving Model (UGM) from $1,600 to $1,000 per month in order to accomodate our current financial situation. This contribution to Shambhala Global Services supports essential services they offer to centers, and it’s our goal to gradually return to a more sustainable contribution as our situation allows.

  • Additionally, we had an influx of cash early this year from a combination of sources. We received a generous donation from a family member of Karl Springer, whose Sukhavati Ceremony was held at our center this spring. We also had the opportunity to refinance the loan on the Harrison House property, which allowed us to skip one month’s payment and provided us with an additional cash return from the amount borrowed for the loan.

  • The refinance of the loan on the Harrison House property is the only measure that provides us with ongoing savings. Our interest rate had increased to 7.5% in April, however has been adjusted with our refinance to 4.74%, which provides us with a monthly savings of $800! 

While we are grateful for our current situation, there is more work to be done to allow us to reach a place where we can return to our previous level of expenses. 

Our current goals are to be able to increase the Center Director pay to a more livable wage for a full-time position, increase the pay for our Finance Manager to better reflect the market value as compared to other Shambhala finance positions, and increase our UGM contribution to Global Services. We will only be able to achieve this by increasing our income through membership contributions, which are averaging $1,000 lower than this time last year.  

Looking ahead, we plan to release our next in-depth finance report to the community before Shambhala Day in February 2020.

 

Membership

We are at a place now where our focus as a community is naturally turning to membership and community support. As your Center Co-Directors, we are asking for your help as we start a conversation about reinvigorating membership, inviting and welcoming new people to our community, and supporting members new and old. This is a project that naturally includes all of us and will only succeed with community involvement.

Here are a few ways you can help: 

  • Join us at the Harvest of Peace Celebration on Sunday, September 22nd. This year’s celebration will not include a broadcast from Shambhala Central Services, and will instead be an opportunity for our community to spend time together. Often this is an occasion in which our center asks for members to increase their monthly contributions or solicit one time donations. Although this, of course, is always helpful, we will not be asking that of you this year. Instead, we ask that you consider these ways in which we can continue to invite new people into our space.

  • Attend programs that are open to all! We have several upcoming programs this fall that are open to those at any level of practice and experience in our community. This is an opportunity for those at different places in the path to meet and support one another. Making these connections is an important part of cultivating a sense of welcoming and inclusivity. 

  • Attend our Thursday and Sunday Open Houses. We see so many new faces come through our doors at these weekly open sits. We invite you to sign up as a volunteer or simply just show up to sit and make a connection with someone you have not yet met. With so much fresh energy coming through our doors, our newer friends have so much to offer back to our community. 

  • Staff a program you have already taken. This is a great way to revisit the teachings and connect to a cohort of sangha members you may not know. The Way of Shambhala classes are continuing this fall, as well as several visiting teacher programs that still need staffing support. For more information, please contact Sydney at sydmunger@gmail.com

Remember that we are all hosts. The way we show up at these programs and events is how we show up as a community. Anytime you walk through our doors, you are representing Seattle Shambhala. If you’re at a program or an open house do you notice anyone who looks left out, lost, or just new? It’s easy to spend our time reconnecting with old friends and miss those looking to connect with us. This is a practice for all of us to explore as we turn to a conversation about membership together.

 

Governance Redesign Task Force Update

The Governance Redesign Task Force (GRTF) has been hard at work this summer on a working proposal for a new governance structure for our center. The task force is made up of seven members: Greg Wolk, Tom Gaylord, Mary Bolton, Kaitlyn Hatch, Meli-Tashi Happy, JoAnn Schindler, and Annica Holder. The goal of this group has been to identify what needs we have for a system of governance, both legally to comply with the State of Washington requirements and functionally to support our community, and create a draft proposal to bring to the community for feedback. 

We are happy to report that the Governance Redesign Task Force has scheduled two meetings in the month of September to present the current proposal and receive feedback. Participation will be crucial to creating a well rounded proposal that address all the needs of our sangha. 

You can RSVP for either of the community meetings on Seattle Shambhala website calendar: 

Tuesday, Sept., 24th from 7-9 p.m. – Location: Zoom (link will be provided in a later email)
Sunday, Sept., 29th from 1-3 p.m. – Location: Seattle Shambhala Center

 

Harrison House Campaign Projects Update

Work is underway on many of the Harrison House Campaign projects. Thank you to all of the donors and community members who have supported this campaign with your time, energy, and financial contributions. Together we raised $25,512 towards maintaining our beautiful center.  This truly is a community effort!! 

Here’s where we are with the various projects: 

  • Replacing broken windows: The largest and likely most time consuming project is underway! With advisement and help from Tom Gaylord and Alan Ness, we have selected and ordered the new windows that will be installed in the small downstairs shrineroom, downstairs office, vajrayana shrineroom and tenant apartment. The window selections were made to remain consistent with the rest of the property and with safety, quality, and longevity in mind. We are anticipating the new windows will be installed in mid- to late September. 

  • Repair electrical outlets and install new lighting in the downstairs kitchen: We have scheduled an appointment for an electrician to come and install two new electrical outlets in the kitchen, allowing us to plug in more than one appliance at once, as well as installing new and improved lighting. This work will be done on September 19th. 

  • Garden irrigation and arborvitae hedge maintenance: Over the course of the summer, our wonderful gardener Claire Oravec has worked on installing a soaker hose system throughout the garden beds. This provides easy watering access during the warmer months and allows volunteers to easily assist. Other aspects of the garden improvements will progress through this coming spring when this work will be the most effective. 

  • Install bamboo flooring in the upstairs hallway and Vajrayana shrine room: We are still in the research phase of this project. We’ve had a request from a member to consider redirecting the flooring funds for the Vajrayana shrine room and, instead, replace the stairway carpet. The center recently received a donation of an uplifted rug for the Vajrayana shrine room which, along with repaired closet doors, greatly elevates the feeling of the space. It’s also true that the staircase carpet is certainly showing the effects of heavy traffic over the years. We are seriously considering this request and doing some research on appropriate materials and cost.

  • Purchase a new desktop computer for the office: This project is also in the research stage as we currently investigate what we have stored on our current computer and what is essential to back up and save. Once we have assessed this further, we’ll have a better idea of what’s needed in a new device. 

We are grateful to Ben Hines, who has volunteered as a project manager to help oversee this work through the end of the year. 

This summer we have also been able to take care of some smaller maintenance needs, including replacing a leaky outdoor faucet and getting long-needed maintenance on our insta-hot water heater in the kitchen. On our recent community work day, volunteers worked hard to cleanup the outdoor space at our center, including a skilled work team which took on the task of replacing old wood, sanding, and painting the deck railing and stairs. We are also deeply grateful to David Kimmelman, who has helped with skilled maintenance work, such as fixing the sliding doors in the Vajrayana shrineroom and Tenno room, caulking the tenant’s bathtub, cutting down broken branches, and more.

 

Volunteer Needs

We are incredibly grateful to those who have stepped forward to help fill the needs outlined in our request for help during Annica’s maternity leave. Your generosity and support during this time is so appreciated. 

We are still searching for more help with facilities related upkeep, which includes keeping an eye on the household and grounds to assist with small needs and report broken items or grounds issues. Help would also be appreciated on the Garden Care Team, which is constantly at work maintaining our beautiful green space. If you know of anyone interested in plugging in in either of these areas, please reach out to JoAnn at workingalternatives@gmail.com

 

Community members also brought forth many excellent points of discussion. We were able to touch on some of these topics together during the Town Halls. Below is a sample of topics brought forth that deserve more conversation in the future. 

  • Hosting & Hospitality: How do we show up at our open houses?
  • Contemplating the Path in Shambhala
  • Reinvigorating the Vajrayana community
  • What programs do we want to see in the future? 
  • Volunteering: How do we go out into the world? How do we show up in our community?
  • What is our relationship (as a community and individually) with the Sakyong? 
  • When will we revisit the decision regarding the shrine photographs?

 
Thank you for stepping forward into these important conversations. Our community is successful because of your efforts, our collective practice, and the ways in which we care for one another. If you have thoughts you’d like to share, we invite you to reach out in person or via email at director@seattleshambhala.org

Be on the lookout for more of these conversations in the future!!

 

Yours in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun, 

Annica Holder & JoAnn Schindler
Seattle Shambhala, Co-Directors

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