An extraordinary event in support of the Shalem Mental Health Network has recently taken place, and I am delighted to tell you about it and celebrate it with you. It is beautiful news.
In early 2016 a faithful Shalem supporter approached me and said that he or she would like to facilitate Shalem owning its own office space in Hamilton. The generosity of the offer and the careful thought that went into it took my breath away. It was a real affirmation of Shalem’s work. And it was a response to real need: because of our growth, we have an office space issue. Our current office space has served us well, but it is getting too crowded, and parking remains a significant issue, both for people accessing Shalem’s services and for staff.
Yet I also had some doubts. Our office needs to be in downtown Hamilton, because of both the needs we service in the downtown and the extensive partnerships we have there. It needs to be both on public transportation lines and easily accessible to other parts of Hamilton and communities surrounding Hamilton. Perhaps most significantly, it could not put us in a position of needing to increase our occupancy costs. How would it be possible to increase our space but not increase our rent? Further, we could not engage in a fundraising effort for capital costs that might compete with our need to fundraise in support of our ministries with people. Combined, these obstacles seemed almost insurmountable.
However, thanks to hard work and dedication of the donor and—I am convinced—the provision of God, remarkably, all of these conditions have been met!
The donor has now purchased a highly suitable office building for us and has entered into a Lease to Own Agreement with us. We expect to move in early 2017. (Until we move, our current space is fully functional!) The building is located at 875 Main Street East—right on public transportation lines—and is currently owned by a group of psychologists using it to provide psychological services. There are 8 free parking spots in addition to easily accessible free street parking nearby.
The building is about twice our current square footage. The Lease to Own Agreement assures us of occupancy cost certainty over time—our total outlay for rent and utilities will remain what it presently is—increasing annually only through standard cost-of-living increases. And each year a portion of our rent will go into a fund which will build up over time to, along with a capital fundraising campaign, support Shalem’s eventual purchase of the building from the donor. This arrangement is meant to enlarge Shalem’s support opportunities rather than compete with fundraising for existing programs. The new Head Office space will also complement our small office in the Durham Region.
Please celebrate with us this extraordinary, beautiful partnership and breathtaking gift! Watch for more announcements as we get closer to moving in, including plans for an Open House and Dedication. It is a warm space, and we look forward to warmly inviting you there!
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M,Ed, R.S.W. is Executive Director of the Shalem Mental Health Network.