HCGM President Andy Crilis’s Speech at the Town Hall Meeting and Press Conference

The HCGM organized its first online Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, August 25, to provide a state of affairs on our Community, our successes, our financials, our projects and our future plans. The meeting was held online, with live streaming from the HCGM Facebook page. A week earlier, a Press Conference was held at the Hellenic Community Centre Adrian Maris for the local Greek media.

Posted by Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal on Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The President’s Speech

We are here tonight to provide a state of affairs on our community, our successes and ongoing projects.

We will also provide an update on our finances, not only to explain how COVID has affected us but also how we’ve managed to keep going.

The HCGM believes in unity and not separation. It is all of us working together, how one group needs to help the other, and that we are here to assist and support our community from cradle to grave.

Who is the Board?

Over the past several months a lot has been said on social media about who this Board is and their ability to maintain our community.  Before moving to the state of affairs I would like to talk to you all about who we are.

The HCGM Board of Directors is a group of 27 individuals with a fresh perspective for the future with insight from the past:  60% are on this BoD for the very first time.

It is a young and vibrant team, more than two-thirds are under the age of 50. We represent the next generation of Greek Montrealers, with almost two-thirds of us born in Canada.

Most of us are university educated: entrepreneurs, accountants, bankers, lawyers, notaries.  Many of us work in sales, marketing, customer service, strategic consulting.

We are parents of children in our schools right now and know first hand what the needs are for our schools not just now, but into the future.  70% of us have children that attend or have attended our schools and 60% of us are or have been involved in their campus’ Parent Committees.

Most important of all we are a Board that has had to adapt to a very unexpected reality. COVID-19 has changed the way the world operates and not just the HCGM.  This Board has shown fortitude in these difficult times, has understood that the HCGM had to make some extremely hard decisions, and has demonstrated great concern for the organization and for the community as a whole. We have done our absolute best to support our community despite the misinformed and misguided opinions being circulated, none of which have any place at a time when a worldwide pandemic is challenging how we operate each and every day.

We believe those that criticize us have greatly underestimated our capabilities as a Board and have made broad conclusions without any understanding of our organization and what we have accomplished or plan to accomplish in the course of our term.

Our 9 Priorities

This Board was elected last year on a platform of 9 priorities:

  • Conduct Strategic Review
  • Involve members to actively participate
  • Achieve financial stability
  • Maintain educational excellence
  • Expand our social services in line with growing needs
  • Actively involve our youth
  • Improve and fully exploit our Assets
  • Expand cultural activities
  • Enhance partnerships

These 9 priorities (along with all of the sub-priorities) will be published on our web site and on social media for everyone to review and to serve as a reminder for why we were elected.

We want it to be clear to the entire community that these 9 priorities have been and will remain the focus of our activities until the end of our term in 2022.

The mission of the HCGM is to preserve and promote our language and culture, to provide charitable and educational organisations for the benefit of the population of Greek origin and to preserve and perpetuate the Greek Orthodox faith and tradition.  We are here to assist and support our Greek community through their entire life cycle, from cradle to grave.

We were elected to be stewards of our organization to deliver on the 9 priorities mentioned above.   The possibility of decentralizing, dismantling or dismembering the HCGM in any way, shape or form, including under the guise of socalled “reform, renewal and restructuring of the HCGM ” was not part of that platform. We DO NOT have the authority or right to do so and CANNOT give anyone else a mandate to explore any ideas or proposals which directly or indirectly or incidentally have the effect of dismantling the HCGM.

This being said, we welcome all Greeks interested in helping the HCGM to advance its mission and vision to join us and to volunteer their time on one of our many committees. We look forward to hearing your ideas and proposals and to discuss their feasibility and alignment with the HCGM vision and mission to support Greeks through their entire life cycle, from cradle to grave.

Our Key Successes

  • Performing a diagnostic/strategic review of the operational structure and operation model.
  • Developed and in the process of implementing a Management) Performance Goal Review Assessment (semi-annual and annual assessment).
  • Working with the Transaction Advisory Services department of EY, to assess all the HCGM’s real estate assets based on mission, strategic fit, as well as the underlying value and ongoing contribution to the overall organization.
  • Introduced our first ever Town Hall to discuss with members and non-members of the HCGM on topics selected by the community.
  • We are currently holding our first ever On-line Town Hall with all of you following us to discuss ideas, answer questions and look at various suggestions to better our community.
  • Successfully renewed our Bank Loan with more favourable terms.
  • Reinstated the media at the monthly Board of Directors meetings, realizing the importance of their presence.
  • Organized first ever Fundraising Gala, spearheaded by Fundraising Committee Honorary President, Dr. George Tsoukas which raised over $300,000!!!  Efforts are ongoing to collect the remaining pledges and surpass this amount for the many needs of our schools.
  • At the forefront of planning of pandemic measures for our schools, as well as for our churches, employees and workspaces. Pandemic plan for Socrates-Demosthenes in place (with the collaboration of Dr. Chris Karatzios) well before the lockdown was ordered by the government.
  • Worked in conjunction with other groups to offer an enriched cultural experience to our members
  • Successfully renewed the school license for an unprecedented 4 years plus licence to operate pre-K in every campus.
  • General Director, Chris Adamopoulos, selected to advise the Minister of Education on every and all aspects that concern Private Education in Quebec
  • Introduced online membership registration and renewal. A membership drive ready for launch in a few weeks and we are currently exploring a more extensive suite of membership benefits.
  • Introduced “25 of March Greek Independence Day Online” and to the best of our knowledge was the only Greek Community in the world to put together such a comprehensive day of activities in a matter of days following the lockdown.
  • Set up streaming of services from all 6 of our churches and reinstated live broadcast on MikeFM
  • Launched Ta Molivia Ston Aera (Pencils in the Air) on MIKE FM, our first ever radio show

produced by the children Socrates-Demosthene for all children of Greek origin.

  • Launched Video Series on YouTube TA NEA tou Sxoliou Socrates-Demosthene
  • Produced the “Virtual Panigiri” on the South Shore, the first community in Canada to undertake such an initiative and raised almost $20K.
  • In the process of transferring the Foyer Hellenique pour Personnes Agees to the HCGM, and will become an integral part of the HCGM’s real estate portfolio.
  • Completed Phase 1 of St. George Project (the Pedestrian Bridge)

A word about our Finances

The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant financial impact on businesses and organizations worldwide and the HCGM is no exception. As a BoD we must ensure its longevity so that it can continue to carry on its mission long after this crisis is over. In the Spring, we had to make the difficult decision to temporarily lay off some of our employees and although we brought a few back, all head office employees are currently functioning on a 4-day workweek.

With no income from our churches during our busiest months of the year, between March 25th and Easter Sunday, we introduced the “Keep the Faith” fundraising campaign to support the needs of our churches. We thank everyone that has donated and continues to donate to this campaign. We are currently in the middle of a second Facebook Fundraiser campaign called “In lieu of Hellenic Flame” which will run until the end of August. Please visit our fb and donate!

There will be a General Assembly this Fall if government directives allow it, to present our Financial Statements for the year ended June 30-2020 which must be sent to the Minister of Education along with additional reporting that our Auditors are required to provide to the Ministry pertaining to the operations of our school.  For those that may think otherwise, we are required to adhere to our by-laws (Section 22) that any funds received by the Community for the schools (from grants, tuition, fundraising, etc.) cannot be commingled with the GF of the community, and must be used exclusively for the schools.

We have spent countless hours analyzing our financial position, reducing costs and exploring every option for government assistance we might be eligible for. Suffice it to say that our financial situation is extremely precarious and we seriously have to consider the possibility of the HCGM divesting itself of certain assets. We are analyzing all of our real estate portfolios and are waiting for recommendations from the Transaction Advisory Services department at EY.

Our Plans for the Future

  • Continue to review HCGM Priorities, Budgets, Structure and Governance
  • Recruit experts and establish teams of professionals on HCGM Standing Committees to assist in the various areas of the HCGM and on projects
  • Greatly expand our fundraising efforts, systematically and professionally
  • Reopen our schools in accordance with all government guidelines
  • Rebrand and review our service offering in order to better align our Supplementary Education schools (Platon Omeros, Aristotelis and St. Nicholas) with the needs of parents and their children
  • Develop Job Board to bring together Greek-owned businesses looking to hire and Greek individuals seeking work
  • Review and streamline all employee HR policies
  • Develop Employee coaching and feedback process (standardize as part of operating model) align with Performance goal alignment
  • Explore New communication platforms (Podcasts, Livestreams, Email Marketing)
  • Launch membership drive to acquire and renew members
  • Create a mentorship program to match college/university students and established professionals
  • Continue to improve support services to family members of the elderly who are no longer able to take care of themselves
  • Expand the scope of the cultural department (Theatre, Music, Dance, Art) to reflect the full richness of our Hellenic culture in our community.
  • Plan events for the celebration of the bicentennial of the 1821 Greek Revolution.

In closing, I would like to say again that we welcome all Greeks interested in helping the HCGM to advance its mission and vision to join us and to volunteer their time on one of our many committees. We look forward to hearing your ideas and proposals and to discuss their feasibility and alignment with the HCGM vision and mission to support Greeks through their entire life cycle, from cradle to grave.