$2 million donation
By Loreth Beswetherick
By Dec. 1 next year Whistler’s new interfaith building should be standing on the prime land off Blackcomb Way between the Brew House and municipal hall with doors open for community business, in time for Christmas 2000.
With the help of a generous $2 million donation from the Young and Barker families, the Whistler Skier’s Chapel Society has now raised 65 per cent of the total cost of the project, which comes with an estimated $5.4 million price tag. The Young and Barker families owned Whistler Mountain for 17 years before the 1996 Intrawest merger.
Stephen Milstein, who heads up the chapel society’s steering committee, made the latest funding announcement at the Festival of Lights event held last Saturday. He said the Young and Barker donation was made in honour of the late William Maurice Young. The building name has now been changed to Maurice Young Millennium Place to reflect the contribution.
Maury Young, described as patriarch of the two families, served as president of the Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation for several years before handing the reins over to son Charles.
Milstein said, however, donation discussions with the families were underway well before Maury’s death at age 75 in September this year. The intensely private families were at first reluctant to have the building named after Maury, said Milstein. "But there was a sentiment in the community that it would be an appropriate name," he said "They consented. I think it is really appropriate there is something to recognize his legacy. Maury Young is a significant part of the reason we have a thriving community today."
Charles Young and Frank Barker were not on hand to make the announcement in person Saturday — that was the day they were scattering Maury’s ashes.
With about $3.5 million now in the kitty, the society needs another $1.8 which it hopes to raise before the end of the month. The building plans have received design panel approval and Milstein expects a development permit will be in hand within the next two weeks. Plans are to break ground come April 1.
"We have got a momentum going now and we have got to use that to finish our funding," said Milstein.
The Young and Barker families have also issued a challenge — $1 million of their donation is up front, the rest comes after the society manages to raise a further $1 million.
Other large donations include: $25,000 from the Hongkong Shanghai Bank of Canada; $300,000 from the Chan foundation; project management and construction services worth about $100,000 from Amako construction; $585,000 from the municipality, which is broken down into $285,000 by way of deferred taxes and works and services charges plus a further $300,000. The Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation also put $400,000 toward the building.
Milstein said the foundation was the first to step up to the plate and without that help it wouldn’t have been possible to get the vision off the ground.
Milstein said there are now five faiths interested in being a part of the new ecumenical establishment. The Anglican and Lutheran churches, not currently represented in Whistler, have expressed interest in coming to town and forming a joint ministry with the United Church. They would all be stakeholders in the interfaith chapel, along with the Jewish faith.
The Catholic church has also voiced its support for the project. In a letter from Our Lady of the Mountains church, father Dennis Rowan said the church recognizes the comprehensive community vision of the project and offers support.
"Our support does not necessarily require membership on the board of directors," said Rowan in the letter. "We would like to participate initially with observer status. However, if you feel we can contribute more fully to the ecumenical ministry by being a full board member, we will certainly give such request our full consideration." The Catholic church said it was unlikely they would need space for worship, however, they are interested in exploring the possibility of an inter-faith youth ministry and pastoral care "in an effort to emphasize and deepen the spiritual needs of the community."
The Catholic church said it would also indicate their support to their parishioners and will encourage them, on an individual basis, to offer financial support to Millennium Place if they wish.
Milstein said the letter of support from the Catholic community was "very important." He said it shows the Millennium Place is recognized as being truly a community gathering place. "This is not about building a building. It’s about building community and they want to be a part of that community growth."
Milstein said it’s growth not in terms of population, but in terms of sharing parts of each other with neighbours, something one generally sees in times of crisis.
Milstein said the chapel society will now own an asset and governance is being designed to reflect the diverse uses of the building. The society is changing its own bylaws so each faith will have equal representation on its board. At the same time it is forming a second non-profit society to which the building will be leased for a token $1 per year.
Millennium Place will have a manager plus a small full-time and part time staff. The board of directors of the new society will set policy and oversee management. The board will be comprised of four members appointed by the chapel society, one appointed by the municipality, one by the arts community, one appointed to serve as a teen advocate and one additional seat will be for a community representative. Milstein said the new Whistler Community Foundation has been asked if they would like to occupy that seat.
The chapel society will then appoint a chairperson in consultation with the eight directors. "It’s important the people appointed are capable of managing a $5.4 million facility," said Milstein. "We will hire an individual to manage and market the building. The annual estimated cost of running the building is $285,000, which means it will have to generate some revenue."
The Millennium Place childcare committee is setting terms of reference for the pre-school component and will be issuing a proposal call. The RMOW will be tenant and operator of the teen centre component and the Arts Council will set criteria for anyone wishing to teach arts or music.
The stakeholder religions will get first shot at booking the sanctuary, or chapel, and Wilhelmsen Hall. Each faith will get a certain number of hours per year. Non-profit groups will get a preferential rental rate different from one that will be set for businesses and private use. "It’s all in the formative stages," said Milstein. He envisages the religions making their bookings well in advance, perhaps 18 months into the future, while non-profit groups may look 15 months ahead and special events like weddings and confirmations will be planned a year ahead of time. He said arts performances are also generally booked well in advance.
A criteria has now also been set for performances, said Milstein. "Anything not legally pornographic and suitable for performance in front of an adult audience in a Howe Sound school will be suitable," he said. "We are not in the censorship business, but this is also a community building."
Milstein said in every community, although there are curves, there is a general sense of what is acceptable in terms of public decency. As for religious content, Milstein said no one faith will have veto power in terms of the board make-up. If someone in the community deems something unsuitable, it will be up to the eight-member board to make a final decision.