Terry Becker is president of the Pitt Meadows Community Foundation. (The News files)

Pitt Meadows Community Foundation foundering

Charity status revoked, now facing dissolution

Pitt Meadows Community Foundation has been inactive, has lost its charitable status, and this year a process will start to dissolve the society.

Canada Revenue Agency revoked the foundation’s charity status a year ago, for failing to file returns. The last CRA return, filed in 2017, showed the foundation having $136,000 in assets.

The BC Registry Service, which lists all not-for-profit societies in the province, reports the group has failed to file its annual report and list of directors for the last two years. After two years of not filing, a society will receive notification. Then in year three it will be dissolved, according to registry service staff. As of March 8, these filings had not been received.

City Councillor Michael Hayes, a former president of the foundation, said residents are concerned. Former foundation members have tried to contact the current board members without success.

“They want to get it back. It needs to come back to the residents of the community,” said Hayes.

He was co-president of the organization when five members of Pitt Meadows city council attended a meeting with their spouses and voted themselves into positions on the foundation’s board of directors. That was May 2017.

The foundation board members at that time became president Terry Becker, wife of then-mayor John Becker, as well as former city councillors Bruce Bell, Mike Stark, and David Murray as directors. John Becker was also a director, along with Wayne Elkerton, husband of former councillor Janis Elkerton. Norma Murray, who was not a councillor or a spouse, was the seventh director.

Foundation membership was open to anyone for a fee of $20 per year. The new board members signed up just weeks before the AGM, and voted themselves in at that meeting.

Mayor Bill Dingwall, who was a councillor at the time, was critical of the move. He called it “a hostile takeover by members of council and their spouses and family.”

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Hayes and other former foundation board members have reached out to foundation, including the most recently known president Terry Becker, hoping to get a membership and participate in an annual general meeting. They have been frustrated.

“It’s been difficult to gain information about the foundation. That goes for me, and for the residents,” said Hayes.

He’s critical of the job being done by his one-time political rivals – Hayes ran for mayor against Becker in the 2014 municipal campaign.

Hayes said the existing foundation board has not run community events or fundraisers, as past board members did. “They have shown no interest in doing anything with the foundation over the last four years or more.”

The co-president with Hayes in 2017 was Zabrina Braithwaite-Kelso. She said it was a busy organization, that was involved with many community events, such as Pitt Meadows Day, Canada Day, and Christmas in Pitt Meadows. It offered two $500 bursaries to high school students, and gave funds to community groups – such as helping the seniors centre get a new computer room.

She said even when foundation members weren’t taking the lead at an event, they would volunteer.

“They were the most selfless group of people…”

Braithwaite-Kelso said she should have been involved on the board executive in her role as a past president, but has never been invited to any meetings.

She knows people would like to join the foundation, and vote for the board members of their choice at an AGM. But they have been frustrated in trying to join, and the existing board is not hosting AGMs.

“They didn’t want anyone to join who could throw them out in the next election,” Braithwaite-Kelso said. “It’s a sad situation.”

A group of people who wanted to join tried to give envelopes containing their membership dues to a member of the board, and he refused to take them to the meeting, added Braithwaite-Kelso.

Hayes wants to see the organization grow into something more like the Maple Ridge Community Foundation. It manages 31 endowment funds worth $756,000. It holds dinner events, golf tournaments, and trivia night events as fundraisers.

Since 2000, it has granted more than $866,000 to non-profits in the city. It’s a template he would like to see the Pitt Meadows foundation follow.

The News emailed the PMC Foundation last month, and received an email response a week later.

Questions to the foundation included whether it has offered any grants, the names of current board members, whether the foundation held a 2020 AGM, and whether an AGM meeting is planned.

These questions were not answered. There was only the following statement provided:

“As you are undoubtedly aware, the global pandemic has temporarily suspended all meetings and fundraising activities of the Pitt Meadows Community Foundation, just as it has impacted others.”

It was signed the board of the Pitt Meadows Community Foundation.

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that we are strictly following the provincial health orders that have been issued according to the province of British Columbia’s state of emergency and under the guidance of Dr. Bonnie Henry,” the statement said.

“Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe.”

The News responded to this correspondence, noting that other local groups have been holding their AGMs online to comply with public health orders, and that the foundation’s charity status was revoked prior to the pandemic. Since then, there has been no response.

Is there more to the story? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News