A Good Step Forward for Greener Village, but We're Not There Yet

A Good Step Forward for Greener Village, but We're Not There Yet

Christmas has come early for those who staff, volunteer at, or in any way care about Greener Village and the services it provides for those who rely on it. After the Seventh Day Adventist Church turned the operation on its ear with the shocking, inexcusable firing of its Executive Director Elizabeth Crawford Thurber last summer, the facility has struggled with low morale, dried up donations and the appointment of an unemployed church member woefully unqualified to manage it.

 Ken Little photocredit: CBC

Ken Little photocredit: CBC

But thanks to sustained pressure from within the community and particularly the Facebook group Change Greener Village Board, the church has been forced to do just that. This is a giant step forward and the naming of Ken Little as the new Board Chair is certainly a positive step, as Ken has been at Thurber’s side through much of the inspired innovation she led over many years, taking the food bank from the days of handing out bags of food in a parking lot, to the current facility with a teaching kitchen, community gardens, clothing boutique as well as groceries and staples.

 Seventh Day Adventist Church, Grandame Street, Fredericton

Seventh Day Adventist Church, Grandame Street, Fredericton

So with Ken as Chair and other solid community people also on the board, this is indeed a welcome Christmas present. But this said, The Seventh Day Adventist Church is still being underhanded, and in the interests of honesty and transparency, there are still some nagging questions that should be addressed.

The church has been less than forthright through this whole sorry chapter in Greener Village’s history, so anyone who shares my cynicism will appreciate that with these guys, you can’t take anything for granted. For example, up to a dozen  people were promised they would be told when the church board that runs Greener Village would be holding their Annual General Meeting, so they could attend and ask questions. But not so.  Despite that promise, the church snuck in the meeting last week, with the only notice of it at the church itself. Not cool.

So given it has repeatedly proven it is not to be trusted, here are some key questions the church needs to address.

1.     The news release announcing the new community-focused Greener Village Board of Directors is one thing, but there is no mention of whether this new board has full autonomy or whether there is still a corporate board controlled by the church that would have final say on decisions affecting Greener Village.  Is there still a corporate board, and if so, who are the members?

2.     Where’s the new bylaw and why isn’t it public? I can’t think of one other not-for-profit organization that refuses to make its bylaws public. There is no excuse for keeping this secret?

3.     What is the process for hiring a new Executive Director. What is the timeline? Will it be an open process and will the church have any say on the Board’s choice?

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4.     What process will be put in place to arrive at a first contract for the employees, so what happened to Jim Smith doesn’t happen to anyone else?

5.     Will the clothing boutique be open on Saturdays? This sounds like a frivolous matter, but in the absence of straight answers from the church, it would somewhat address the speculation that Elizabeth was let go because she opened it on Saturday, contrary to Seventh Day Adventist dogma. It would also send a signal of who’s now in charge – the new board or still the church.

 Elizabeth Crawford Thurber

Elizabeth Crawford Thurber

6.     Firing Elizabeth was an incredible betrayal of her by the church and an absolute show of a lack of respect for everything she has done. It was made worse by the church’s failure to address any reasons, in fact saying it was a human resources issue, leaving to speculation that she had done something wrong. If the church is now truly stepping back from Greener Village, will it finally issue an apology to the person it so wronged, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to bring closure to this whole mess it has made of things?

Make no mistake, the naming of a community-based board is a very good thing. It’s the start of returning Greener Village’s reputation to what it was before the church intervened. But what’s needed now are answers to these basic questions, so those directly involved in the facility as well as the greater Fredericton community can be assured the church won’t intervene again the next time something doesn’t strike their fancy.

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