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Regional district gives Hollyhock less than requested

Area D Director Brenda Leigh didn’t want to give Hollyhock anything

Hollyhock, Cortes Island’s learning institute, will receive funding from the Strathcona Regional District despite one director seeing red flags in Hollyhock’s grant application.

Hollyhock, which operates a campus on Cortes and hosts programs in Vancouver, asked the regional district for a $1,200 grant-in-aid.

At Wednesday’s regional board meeting, Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson, recommended a slightly smaller, $800 grant for three scholarships for Cortes residents to attend a workshop on facilitating meetings.

Anderson said she’s facing so many grant-in-aid requests from non-profits this year that she couldn’t afford to give Hollyhock the full $1,200.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh didn’t want to give Hollyhock anything.

She said Hollyhock had not demonstrated a financial need – a requirement of the grant-in-aid program – and she had concerns with Hollyhock’s application.

“Hollyhock has $2.3 million in income last year, I don’t see why they need $800 of the hard-earned money of property tax payers on Cortes Island to support them,” Leigh said. “Dana Bass Solomon is the CAO of Hollyhock but the application that was sent to us was by Dana Smith. And the application is not signed by anyone.

“Something is strange about the application and I would like to refer it back to staff to investigate who is applying for this and why they need the money.”

Dana Bass Solomon told the Mirror that the money is for partial tuition scholarships for three Cortes Island residents to attend an educational program on facilitation.

“Like universities, scholarship programs are essential to support people with less financial resources to access advanced learning,” Solomon said. “Hollyhock is located in the small community of Cortes Island, with a currently quite weak economy. Our local organizations are predominantly volunteer led, and they need opportunities to increase their skills.”

Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson explained to the board that Hollyhock’s workshops and programming fall under Hollyhock’s non-profit umbrella, while Hollyhock’s store and body work studio has been hived off as a separate business in order to retain its charity status.

Still, not everyone on Cortes believes Hollyhock needs help.

Cortes resident Debra Thompson sent a letter to the regional district urging directors to take a close look Hollyhock’s application.

“This is a multi-million dollar organization,” Thompson said. “I think Hollyhock is doing just fine without dipping into my wallet.

“More than 30 groups are now vying for tax dollars. I do not feel that the current penchant for groups – non-profit, charities, societies – is reflective of the island as a whole.”

Last month, Anderson and the board approved a $25,000 2014 grant-in-aid budget for Cortes non-profits.

Four months into the year, there is $14,500 remaining, not including the $800 for Hollyhock.

Coun. Andy Adams said as a municipal director his only choice is to trust that Anderson, and all electoral area directors, use discretion when bringing forward funding requests to the regional district board.

“As a municipal director on the board, we rely on the area directors doing their due diligence in bringing forward requests and as a result, support them, which I will continue to do,” Adams said. “I find it uncomfortable when that due diligence is being challenged.”

Leigh said she was only doing her due diligence in asking questions about Hollyhock’s application.

“This organization had a profit of $2.3 million last year, they haven’t to me demonstrated a financial need for this and I’m uncomfortable it’s not the correct name of the CEO on our grant application,” Leigh said.

Anderson responded that most of the grant-in-aid applications she receives are not signed, usually because they come via e-mail.

She also assured Leigh that all of her communications have been with Dana Bass Solomon and that she would ask about the discrepancy between the two names.

Hollyhock has operated on Cortes Island for more than 30 years and offers programs covering topics such as art, dance, music, science and spiritual reflection.

The campus offers a variety of rooms and pricing includes all meals which feature organic products grown on the campus.

Hollyhock receives funding from two Canadian charities, the Leadership Institute and the Nextwave Foundation. In 2012/13, the Endswell Foundation of Tides Canada donated more than $20,000 to Hollyhock.

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