Monday, Andrew Finton announced he would sacrifice his job as director of Sundog Carving Studio to save the organization money.
Last week, carvers began passing out petitions calling on the government to reinstate funding to the nonprofit group.
Sundog, which teaches First Nation carving and life skills to at-risk youth, didn’t get $145,000 in territorial funding it was expecting to receive this fiscal year, said Finton in an interview last week.
As a result the organization was at risk of losing its studio space and was even considering discontinuing its advanced carver program, which instructs 15 – 20 youth each year.
Finton made his decision to step back at a board of directors’ meeting over the weekend.
“It’s unfortunate he has to step back but it’s a reality,” said board member Stephen Reid, calling Finton the “visionary” and “backbone” of the organization.
The group is trying to stay positive about the decision and is trying to figure out next steps for the carving studio, he added.
However, there are no plans to discontinue the program.
“We heard a lot of people saying we’re shutting down,” he said.
“It was a fear, but there was never consensus that it would happen. Everyone (on the board) was very clear that this isn’t something we’d ever want to stop.”
The organization won’t be hiring anyone to replace Finton. Instead, the workload will be spread between the board, other staff members and the student carvers, said Reid.
Co-founder Heather Finton will continue to do contract work with Sundog, he added.
The group will now think of looking to other sources to fill the funding gap. Ideally, the group needs an additional $400,000 above and beyond the $345,000 they get each year from the territorial government to sustainably run the advanced carver program, said Finton last week. The additional money would go to paying a full-time carver and part-time counsellors.
The current funding from the government isn’t enough to staff seven full- and part-time positions, pay for materials and rent, and give each student carver a monthly stipend, he said.
After rent, materials and stipends have been subtracted, the group has little more than $100,000 to fund necessary staff.
Last fall, the government kicked in an additional $220,000 to keep the program running. The Fintons expected that money was going to be renewed come April.
The board will now be looking to private donors and First Nation governments for that funding, said Reid. About 95 per cent of the group’s current funding comes from the government.
The Department of Justice, which funds the Journey Far program, would not say whether the group would receive extra funds next fiscal year.
“We assess all programming year by year,” said Justice spokesperson Chris Ross.
The board will also continue negotiations with its landlord to secure its downtown studio, said Reid.
Monday afternoon, the advanced carvers learned of Finton’s decision to leave the organization.
“What we heard from the carvers is that there is a lot of shock to the announcement but lots of strength to keep the program moving forward,” said Reid.
Finton officially steps back from his position June 11th.
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