With less than two million Estonians in the world, Estonians in Canada still have an important role to play in keeping our culture, our language and our history alive. Even with an independent Estonia - this must be our collective goal. This is the goal of the Estonian Foundation of Canada.
For more than 40 years, the Estonian Foundation of Canada has supported Estonian cultural and heritage initiatives across Canada, and it is a registered charity. We can all be proud of the Estonian community’s significant achievements in Canada.
These messages of support and community pride were central at the Annual Meeting of the Estonian Foundation of Canada on April 25, 2018, chaired by President Eva Varangu and attended by Board of Directors: Mihkel Holmberg, Lia Hess, Peeter Põldre, Martin Pede, Martin Weiler, Maris-Ann Vanaselja, Elli Kipper and Katrin Roop; and Foundation staff, Andrea Herrmann, Foundation Administrator and Manager of Marketing & Development, and Liis Teedla, Administrative Assistant, as well as Foundation members.
Eva Varangu began by honouring the past and reminding members of the Foundation’s history. Founding directors Artur Ekbaum, Ilmar Heinsoo, John Hans Lupp, Rev. Dr. Andres Taul and Dr. Roman Toi incorporated the Foundation in 1974, when the Soviet Union still occupied Estonia. Their objective was to ensure that assets of Estonians in Canada remained here to support and sustain a growing and vibrant Estonian community in Canada. And what a success their initiative has been. Total financial support to the community across Canada from EFC since 2001 is more than $5.5 million.
But to continue to provide funds to the community at this level, the Foundation needs all Estonians to donate and help the Foundation to provide the necessary financial assistance to our community, our organizations and our initiatives.
To highlight the broad community support the Foundation provides, President Varangu provided an overview of the past year. In 2017, the Foundation continued to fund and collaborate with beneficiary organizations such as Estonian language schools and kindergartens, Estonian summer camps and folk dancers, Estonian Societies in Montreal, Vancouver and Alberta.
Policies regarding applications for funding and disbursement of funds continue to be updated to ensure consistency across the country when disbursing funds. For example, if Toronto or Hamilton schools receive funding support of $200 per enrolled child, then Montreal, Vancouver and the Alberta areas or anywhere else in Canada, will receive the same consideration once required information is received.
Applications for funding are still accepted twice a year, and as before, the Board of Directors review each and every application before deciding on funds to be disbursed.
In addition, last year, the Foundation was the Saturday evening sponsor of the EstDocs film “Soviet Hippies” and is a proud founding sponsor of EstDocs. EFC also funded many of the Estonia 100 celebrations across the country and is a major sponsor of Estonian Music Week. For the sixth time, EFC hosted An Estonian Christmas / Rahvajõulupuu, along with sponsors Estonian House, Estonian Credit Union, Estonian Relief Committee in Canada, and other partner organizations, resulting in over 450 attendees and volunteers.
Looking across the country, the President was also pleased to be invited to the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society (AEHS) October board and member meeting where she presented information and responded to questions about EFC, as well as celebrating the launch of their new website aehs.ca.
Internally, the President reported that EFC implemented further changes in 2017 and realigned the organization to become more efficient and effective. In addition, following a review of EFC members and donors, the Board offered Lifetime membership to donors who have crossed the Donor Wall threshold to better facilitate their participation in the corporation It is important that key donors should also be members. Currently, EFC has over 160 members across the country.
EFC continues to improve communication with our community - with our new website, through an increased presence in Eesti Elu, social media, advertising and public relations – both to improve visibility and to help demonstrate the real impact of the work of EFC. Varangu stressed that we all need to help the Foundation support the community by sharing information about EFC, helping to grow the EFC database, and sharing how to donate.
Estonian Foundation of Canada Board of Directors is also proud to be one of the four organizations leading the ongoing Estonian Centre (EC) project to build a new community and cultural centre on Madison Avenue just north of Tartu College in Toronto. The Foundation has been consistent in supporting and encouraging consolidation of our community. It is time that we put aside our differences and look at the realities that face us and the opportunity before us.
For more than 15 years, EFC has been working alongside other community organizations seeking a solution to consolidating our real estate in southern Ontario and provide for a more sustainable cultural centre. In the past, EFC has also worked with the Estonian Relief Committee, the Estonian Credit Union, Estonian House and others, exploring various options. Throughout the years, the Foundation, along with other organizations, contributed to the cost of consultants and those providing expertise and analysis.
Pursuing the opportunity to build has been incredibly complex and challenging, yet successful on many levels. A major achievement not to be overlooked, has been that four different organizations have committed to work together for the good of the community and toward the collective goal of a modern, accessible, sustainable and innovative new cultural and community centre.
Looking ahead, in 2018 EFC will continue to focus on increasing legacy donations, expand our community database, increase donations and traffic to the new website, and support the Estonian Centre project.
Treasurer Lia Hess delivered a positive report. She reported that both donations and the income generated by the EFC investment portfolio increased in 2017. Although the Foundation’s expenses increased due to additional staff and the 2017 year-end resulted in a loss of $195,981, the EFC is in good financial shape. Total EFC year-end asset value was $3,639,693 which does not capture potential capital gains in the real estate portfolio value, currently reflected at acquisition cost.
The 2018 budget anticipates donations to EFC to increase moderately and investment income is projected to decrease moderately, leaving EFC with a small budget deficit. But Treasurer Hess emphasized that continued support for the community is paramount.
Elections followed and Eva Varangu, Mihkel Holmberg and newcomer Maret Liik were elected by acclamation to a three-year term. Director Martin Weiler stepped down and was thanked for his many contributions.
2017 EFC scholarship recipients Miguel del Castillo, Larissa Vompa and Natalie Vompa sent updates on their activities and thanked the Foundation for its support.
Eva Varangu noted with sorrow that Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Andres Taul passed away on Tuesday, April 24th. Andres was one of the founding directors of the Foundation and continued to serve as director for more than 40 years.
Finally, the President thanked all donors and acknowledged tribute donations for birthdays and anniversaries, as well as noting memorial donations for those who had passed away in 2017 or before with a moment of silence in memory.
EFC lapel pins were presented to donors Alver Rõika, Anne-Mai and Sulev Kaunismaa, Viiu Kanep, Vaike Rannu, Tiiu and Ilmar Kaljurand, Anne Liis Keelmann, Katrin Roop and Sven Lilleoru.
Blades on the Donor Wall honour those whose cumulative donations total $2,500 (bronze), $5,000 (silver), $10,000 (gold), $20,000 (platinum) or $100,000 (diamond). New blades on the donor wall were: DIAMOND: Testament Edgar Ool; GOLD: Toronto Eesti Õngitsejate ja Jahimeeste Klubi, Alver & Gony L. Rõika, Testament Arine Muikma; BRONZE: Laine Aasa, Peeter Andres Leis, Leena Mai Liivet, Irene Mägi, Aino Müllerbeck, Anne Elken-Nõu & Tõnu Nõu, Ruth Merits-Patterson, Aino Rooneem, Katrin Roop & Sven Lilleoru, Ylo-Mark Saar, Tiit Tralla, Viivi & Arvo Vahtra, Rein & Muriel Voltre, Liivi & Peter Forster, Ingrid & Erik Saar, Erich & Vaike Rannu, Ilmar & Siina Kasekamp.
Thanks to their continued contributions, donors also moved into new categories: to DIAMOND: Ühing "Eesti Suvekodud Jõekäärul" Estonian Summer Homes Association; to PLATINUM: Els & William Greensides, Anne-Mai & Sulev Kaunismaa; to GOLD: Leon Tretjakewitsch, Ken Valvur; to SILVER: Eda Matiisen McClung, Dr. Maret Truuvert, Esther Kalkis, Rein & Maret Pajo.
Since the meeting, another EFC founding director, Dr. Roman Toi, passed away on Monday, May 7th. This is a great loss for our community. Yet we can remember and be grateful for all the dedication and foresight from those who worked so hard to create the strong community from which we benefit today.
Estonian Foundation of Canada is grateful to all donors, whether monthly, one-time, or continuing contributors and to EFC members.