Debt Within These Walls: Agape Center mortgaged part of campaign

Agape Center board chairman Jim Healey speaks to the audience Tuesday, June 28, 2016 during the thrift store and food bank's annual general meeting. The Agape Center took a a loan for $390,000 to cover off the balance of the campaign to repair the building. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A significant portion of a highly publicized fundraising campaign for the Agape Center was actually covered by a long term loan.

In November 2015, campaign organizers made a special appeal through local media for donations to come up with the $200,000 they were short to meet the $980,000 campaign.

The money was used to fix crumbling walls, bring washrooms up to code and repair the heating and cooling system. All the renos were completed in November.

But audited financial statements reviewed during the Agape Center’s AGM last night (Tuesday) show the organization took a ten year loan against the building for $390,000 – to cover off roughly 40 per cent of the campaign.

The loan is the bank prime rate (2.7 per cent) plus 3.0 per cent (total of 5.7 per cent) and is payable in monthly installments of $3,333 over the next ten years.

Board chairman Jim Healey doesn’t believe there’s an issue with the optics of the campaign or whether the public was misled.

“I’m not sure there was ever a statement made, at least not that I’m aware of, that we raised a million dollars. When we first launched the campaign we had people standing in front of a cheque with a million dollars saying this is what our goal is,” Healey told Cornwall Newswatch.

“Remember that it took place within two years – two fiscal years – there was a little over $100,000 the first year and just short of $500,000 the second year. We were between a rock and a hard place. We did not hire a fundraiser so we didn’t have the expense of hiring someone,” he said.

“We knew that the building previously had been totally paid for, so we had no mortgage on it, so it allowed us to be able to fall back to a position…if we needed something we could fund it through the mortgage,” Healey said.

The board chairman believes it was the best choice given the circumstances.

“The reality is, there’s a lot of people competing for volunteer dollars like that and we felt, having achieved $600,000 was a really strong showing for us, literally from all of us pulling our bootstraps,” Healey said.

Healey said the long term debt is their “first priority” and the Agape Center would attempt to prepay the loan if donations are available.

Acting Executive Director Johanne Gauthier told the AGM crowd the renovations have allowed the food bank to double in size, allowing clients to pick their own food. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

She characterized the last year as the “year of the building.”

As for the fiscal year, as of March 31, 2016, the Agape Center had a $51,106 deficit.

Revenue from various sources was down, primarily from fewer grants ($51,661) and thrift store sales ($74,427). The auditor believes trouble with getting into the store during construction was to blame.

Expenses were also down, but only by roughly $10,000.

Chairman Healey anticipated the deficit would be “rectified next year.”