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MCC looks to combine administration

In a bid to improve their capability of providing aid both at home and abroad, the Mennonite Central Committee has unveiled an ambitious expansion plan for their Ontario headquarters, located at 50 Kent St. in Kitchener.

Set to break ground next fall, the project has been in the works since 2007 when the MCC wanted to renovate its boardroom, but decided it needed to go further than that.

PLANS IN THE MAKING Mennonite Central Committee Ontario executive director Rick Cober Bauman (right) and Mennonite Savings and Credit Union CEO Brent Zorgdrager review the plans for the planned expansion of the MCC office at 50 Kent St. in Kitchener. The MSCU has donated $500,000 towards the project, expected to be complete in 2013.

The plan is to bring their current thrift shops located at 50 Bridgeport Rd. E. in Waterloo and 335 Lancaster St. W. under one roof, along with a branch of the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), an office of the Mennonite World Conference, an office of the
Mennonite Foundation of Canada, as well as the Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada.

In order to accommodate all those agencies and to allow some space for further growth in the future, the building itself needed to expand, said the executive director of MCC Ontario.

“We think this will strengthen everybody and create some efficiencies of a single boardroom, single lunchroom, and a whole number of things that rather than having three or four of, we’ll have one of,” said Rick Cober Bauman.

They must raise $4 million in capital and $12 million in total to expand their operations, with hopes of completion by 2013 to coincide with their 50th anniversary in Ontario.

He also said by having more services available under one roof, they can grow their customer base by making people more aware of the various services available. Someone may come to the thrift shop for a pair of jeans, he said, but then realize that they can open an account with the MSCU.

It will also give employees at the office a chance to reconnect with the main reason why they work for MCC – to make a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.

“We think that it will, in a good way, blur the lines between administrative and program work, so that rather than having an administrative centre that’s separate from what’s going on down on the ground, we’ll be in a much more action-based and active place.”

The new layout, set to be about 50,000 square feet, will have a thrift shop, credit union and expanded warehouse on the main floor, with the second floor devoted to office space. The Waterloo Region School Board has also agreed to sell about two acres of adjacent land to MCC to allow them to remain on the property.

Cober Bauman said that thrift really was the backbone of MCC, and in Ontario alone the organizations 14 shops bring in about $2 million in net revenue – $500,000 of that from Elmira alone.

To date the MCC has collected about $1.2 million of the required $4 million, and a large chunk of that was through the MSCU, which donated $500,000 to the expansion project in the form of a gift.

Cober Bauman said it is critical that the MCC collects these funds in a way that does not interrupt their work both in Canada and abroad, such as helping disaster victims recover by sending medical and supply kits to Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan and Haiti, among others.

“It’s very important that we do not in any way reduce or harm our program work in order to build the building,” said Cober Bauman. “It has to go up with no interruption to quality or quantity of the programs that we do here in Ontario or for our international work.”

That is why the MCC is so grateful for the contribution from the MSCU, and added that their new partnership will help strengthen both organizations.

“The credit union is a good financial partner for the kind of work that we do, which is about community development and we are a good partner for them because we help them spread the message that they’re a credit union committed to social justice and peace values, just like MCC.”

For the MSCU, which now operates eight branches across Ontario, the donation was just their way of giving back to the organization that helped them get their start back in 1964.

The credit union received its very first deposit from the MCC at 50 Kent St. that year, and so this partnership also has historical significance for the two groups.

“MCC also gave us space and leant us their staff until we had our own paid staff, so this is perhaps a complete coming around,” said Brent Zorgdrager, chief executive officer of MSCU.

“It makes complete sense, we had the resources available and MCC needed them, so we were in the position at this time to be the giver, and they were in the position of the receiver.”

He also added that because the two groups share a similar philosophy of providing hands-on help to those who need it, the decision to give some help to the MCC and reduce the burden moving forward was an easy one.

“Mennonite’s are big on mutual aid and helping each other when the need arises.”

To make a pledge or donation, or to learn more about their expansion plans, contact Dan Driedger, resource development director for MCC Ontario at 519-745-8458 or 1-800-313-6226.

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