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  • Sacred Path Center – Update – Interview with CJ Stone, Board spokesman

    The Sacred Paths Center (SPC)  Board met for their regularly scheduled meeting last night, however all scheduled business was tabled to focus on the financial affairs of the Center. A board quorum was present, and several Board members contributed to the discussion by phone.  The SPC website now has installed a fund-raising thermometer to depict their progress toward the immediate $7500 goal, of which half will be matched by other donations. They are currently at 20% of this goal.

    *NOTE.  The Sacred Paths Center is continually updating their website with fund raising progress and new events.  Please check their website for updates on their current situation !

     

     

    CJ Stone, Board member, has been delegated spokesman for the Sacred Paths Center. I was able to interview him last night,  Friday July 8th, after the Board meeting.

    What is the financial status of the SPC?

    CJ Stone, Board Member, spokesman:

    The immediate needs to keep the doors temporarily open were covered. The Center needs 7500 dollars to continue to operate through this month. The Board has decided that 12,000 was what we needed by midnight of July 30th or we will close the facility. If we can secure that 12k dollars, we can pay our bills to zero and have a positive balance to keep the center open and by able to steer the Center in a direction that will be financially viable.

    What changes would make it viable?

    Some things have happened within the store that have made it a financial jumble. We will sort that out.

    We have had some troubles from the construction on University Avenue. We are going to respond to that in a couple of ways. Right around our area is a large residential community with a lot of family homes, and 5-7000 people living in condos. Those people have been coming to the store and been asking for particular things, like soap, candles, and massage oil. We will take some of the money and re-arrange the inventory so we are serving those two populations. All those people, about 12,000 total, are within walking distance of the Center, and we can serve them whether Pagans come, or construction continues. This will bring a constant, strong stream of revenue from them, selling consumables. They have been in our store looking for certain types of things, and we are going to provide them. Not that we are going to stop providing “Pagan” things. Since we have a market here, we are going to serve it.

    We are looking at strengthening our relationship with communities we already serve, and serve them better. Teachers want to teach at SPC. We have a very strong and steady stream of teachers. I think we can manage the facility to increase that. We want the SPC known as a place to find training, to find the best teachers, in whatever the field. Out particular strength now is Tarot, so we are going to lean on that. It is very popular here. We hope at a national level people will say, “if you want ot learn Tarot, go to the Sacred Paths Center”. We want to develop a stronger relationship with our teachers.

    If you survive this month, and this two-year construction period, then what?

    One Board member is of the opinion that our rent will be stable through this two-year construction period, until the first train rolls anyway. The landlord is likely tolerant to even leave this property empty, if necessary, awaiting that property value jump upon light rail completion. The SPC renting the property now is basically gravy for the landlord. We would have another two years to make a name for ourselves, and have a strong retail presence. After that we can be prepared to move at that time or withstand a higher rent.

    We are looking to be more specific as to what our service is. When you find a service need we will try to address that more directly. Say we find a revenue stream from suburban ‘New Agers’. We will try to cater our service to address that market. We will get them the services and rentals that they want. That will help keep the facility open for whatever “Pagans” need from the Center. A side effect may be, that the Center becomes, “less Pagan”, but there is nothing we can do about that.

    Nationally, alliances are being forged between groups like Hindus, and Pagans. Is that something you would consider?

    Absolutely, if they are being under served and we can serve them, we will. After all we are the Sacred ‘Path-s’ Center, not the Sacred ‘ Path’  Center. One of our board members is especially interested in Shinto, and it seems many interested in that path are coming forward. We may be able to serve Tibetans, if they don’t have a place. We are trying to serve nationwide, for those who want to memorialize and honor their ancestors and passed animal familiars. We want to serve that market. We want to get the word out, and we need the time to get the word out. That is what the Ancestor Shrine is all about.

    What about securing more Members?

    Well, it was said several years ago there are 10,000 Pagans in the Twin Cities area. If you look at that figure from a direct marketing perspective, 1% is a good response. With 129 members we are over that 1%. What that may mean is that we have tapped that market, we have our 1%, and that is the best we can do for Pagan involvement at the membership level. We have to go somewhere else. We have done what we intended to do, we have that market share as members, but now we need to do something else to keep the Center open for the other 99% of Pagans in the Twin Cities.

    We want to put someone into the position of outreach, so we can go to the Hindus, or Tibetans, or the New Age community and say, “How can we serve you’? And be able to say, “We can give it to you. “

    Is there a need for change in management style?

    Our goal is to fix the problem, not to fix the blame.  We recognize we have had some management problems, largely from people trying to do too many jobs at once. We have learned the hard way that there is not only ‘Pagan Standard Time’, but ‘Pagan Standard Speed’. We tend to move a little more slowly in the Pagan community. When we were told people were over worked, we did not act quickly enough to find people to split the job with. Some things got tangled. In the retail operation, in the rental of the space, and within the whole operation. We moved too slowly.

    Tonight, we agreed that was a problem and that we could not let that happen again. We named the jobs that needed to be done, and then decided how those jobs should be managed. We are already looking for people to fill each one of the jobs. Our first step was to get a talented young lady to be our volunteer coordinator.

    Has your analysis changed?

    We were working from a membership model. A Pagan Community Center has been the dream of several Twin Cities groups, working for the past thirteen years. You would think if the idea of a Pagan Community Center, supported by members, was possible, it would have happened by now. Thirteen years is a long time. When Teisha (Center Executive Director) said , “We have a problem, we have to solve it”, we finally asked, “Are we even using the right model?”

    The answer is NO. We have already gotten the members we are likely to get. Even with a tremendous response, say 500 members, it would be barely enough. We just can’t do it. We made the mistake thinking the members would support it. We learned you can’t support a Pagan Community Center just on membership, at least not without years of work to build it up. We just have a month. We need some big donations now, to get off the membership model as a primary source of income, and continue. Then we can get on to better retail, more targeted retail, better service to our teachers and students. Finding a community that needs what we have got, and then serving it clearly and directly.

     Our deadline is midnight, July 30th, if we don’t have twelve thousand dollars, we will close the doors.

    What will happen then, if you don’t have the whole amount?

    The board has decided, if we have less than $12 thousand dollars, then we will decide. We will pay our outstanding bills, assess the situation, and if necessary, get out of that facility. We will decide, July 30th, when we know what the community has said to us.

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    5 Responses

    1. [...] you can find donation information at their website. Or you can contact them via email.ADDENDUM: PNC-Minnesota has posted an interview with Sacred Paths Center board member CJ Stone.“The immediate needs to keep the doors temporarily open were covered. The Center needs 7500 [...]

    2. [...] immediately if they were to avoid closure. Now one of the SPC’s board members, CJ Stone, has been interviewed by PNC-Minnesota about the situation.“We were working from a membership model. A Pagan Community Center has been the dream of [...]

    3. [...] was in danger of closing down unless they could raise $7,500 immediately. That was followed by an interview conducted by PNC-Minnesota with SPC board member CJ Stone, where it was estimated that the center needed to raise $12,000 total by the end of July to remain [...]

    4. These are a couple of emails between my wife and CJ. I have permission to post them. I think you will find them interesting. Jude

      CJ,

      Thanks for your prompt reply.

      My husband read the PNC article, but I did not (no time with my current teaching load), so please bear with me if I don’t have a clear understanding of what you expressed as other alternative religions. If it includes Hinduism and Buddhism, then the following applies. Please note that I consider other alternative religions pagan and am one of them. I am not what most members of the Twin Cities Pagan Community consider Pagan, and it frustrates me to no end to have to keep defending my path to them as Pagan. The best description of my path is Environmentalist Buddhism. I am not a polytheist in the same sense that most pagans claim to be, but my religion is deeply earth centered. I worship earth, soil, sun, rain, snow, etc. but do not put a human face on my “gods”. I believe in the divine and believe it to be both immanent and transcendent, so in many ways you could call me a Panentheist.

      You should also note that there are Buddhist Dharma centers in the twin cities and there are places for Hindus and most other alternative religions to worship. I don’t see you attracting many of them away from their current meditation or worship center unless you plan on having interfaith meetings or activities that are advertised at these other locations. Advertising of the SPC and what goes on there is one thing I do not see much of. If you really want to get people to the center, events need to be advertised at places such as coffee shops, bakeries, coops, metaphysical and pagan book stores, and other places where people inclined to consider alternative religious beliefs frequent.

      As far as the SPC events not appealing to me goes, that is only a small part of the issue. The other more important issue is location. The SPC is just too far from me. I live in Wisconsin (13 miles from the Hudson I-94 bridge, but still about 45 min from the SPC) and traveling through the cities when most of your events are is unbearable for us for two reasons 1) Twin Cities traffic and 2) we believe it unethical and undesirable to drive, especially significant distances, when it is does not provide significant benefit to us. Our religion is earth based and driving into the cities on a regular basis and adding significant amounts of CO2 to the air in the process conflicts with our religious beliefs. We walk to the local coop and grocery stores as much as possible for shopping, and I walk to work every day including those days when it is -40 outside.

      If pagans do behave the way you describe in your reply, then it is shameful. How can anyone that claims to practice a religion of love, tolerance, and respect for other beings and the earth behave in such a way. If covens and pagan groups will not cover the cost for members of the community that cannot afford it, then I am ashamed to be associated with them.

      If I do have the time to host an event at the SPC, I would be happy to rent the space for $50 or $100 per hour. Unfortunately, I currently do not have the time with my teaching load and the garden and harvest time upon us.

      If you do find the need to search out a different space, one of the things I would love to see is a space with outside spaces. That is what I believe a community center in the Twin Cities needs. I would then be very happy to carve out some time to help develop outdoor meditation spaces such as a medicine wheel garden or a community garden to feed the pagans in the area that need it. I could then teach the types of classes that fit with my spiritual path, such as courses on gardening (growing food in small spaces, medicine wheel gardens and other sacred garden spaces, and planting wildlife friendly gardens as just a few examples). My spirituality cannot be contained inside. Even in the middle of winter most of my spiritual practice occurs outdoors. Many churches, synagogs, temples, and other places of worship are located in residential areas. I believe this would “compete” as you say with the likes of Eye of Horus or Magus better. I like to think that it would complement what is already available to pagans in the Twin Cities. You should not be competing with Eye of Horus, you should offer spaces and events that they do not or cannot offer. I cannot comment on Keys of Paradise since I am not familiar with it.

      One of the problems I have with the SPC is the space itself. It lacks windows in the meeting spaces and does not have a good earth connection. It feels sterile and uncomfortable to me. It needs more plants and life. I cannot see how pagans can find it a comfortable and welcoming place of worship. I have been to a few events there, and have found that the space has detracted from instead of adding to most of them.

      So as I said before, I wish you well, but if this space really is of value to pagans in the area, they will be willing to pay for it. Maybe it is not the right space for what area pagans want or need and that is why they are not willing to pay for it, and maybe a more appropriate venue can be found.

      Many blessings,
      Lisa K

      — On Mon, 7/11/11, closingquestions@sacredpathscenter.com wrote:

      From: closingquestions@sacredpathscenter.com
      Subject: Re: room rental rates

      CJ Stone here. I’m a board member at SPC.

      > If you are serious about keeping the SPC open, you should definitely look
      > at the possibility of increasing room rental rates.
      >
      > I have recommended this before, and am quite disappointed that the
      > management has not considered it.

      We have considered it. Unfortunately, this is another one of the things
      that got done at “Pagan Standard Speed”. We were finally able to get good
      numbers on what we should be charging. (The landlord was willfully unclear
      about what space was ours.) In addition, we will do two other things:

      1. We will break the Great Room into three smaller temporary rooms via
      shoji-style screens. We don’t lose the Great Room as a separate rentable
      space, and we can accomodate more classes.

      2. We essentially have to treat July and August as a loss and raise the
      rents during the other 10 months of the year to cover that.

      > For instance, I have heard that the
      > belly dance classes are currently free. When I took belly dance classes I
      > paid $10-$15 per class. My yoga classes were similar in cost. Some of
      > this paid the instructor, but at least $5 paid for the rental of the
      > room.

      To say that space is free is inaccurate. This is our basement, and it’s
      not really a rentable space. The belly dancers are willing to tolerate it,
      but we can’t really charge for it. We do ask them to donate for the space,
      but we don’t chase them down and knock it out of their hands. We get
      $20-30/week for that space when we otherwise would get nothing.

      > Yes, there may be a few members of the community that pay
      > much, but most of the community can….Many of the
      > events at the SPC are held by organizations or covens that should have
      > group funds that can cover the cost. I’m sure that many individuals
      > wanting to rent the space would also be willing to pay the full rental
      > cost so that there is not added cost to attendees.

      I agree with you. This is how it should be. The groups cited above do not
      behave this way. We even offer a discount for members, but groups don’t
      take out a membership, even when it would save them money.

      > It is not uncommon for
      > an individual to pay to rent space for a birthday party or anniversary
      > party. It is a great venue for those that live in small apartments in the
      > city or a very small house that do not have the space for entertaining at
      > home.

      Gosh, I wish you would come down here and volunteer to search out this
      group of birthday/anniversary/and such rentals and get them in here. We
      could use someone like you bringing this business to us.

      > Based on how much I regularly see pagans spend on nonessential items…
      > I think they can pay a little more
      > for programs that benefit them. With the number of regular events held at
      > the SPC such as coffee cauldron and mentoring elders, etc. There should
      > be no reason for the SPC to be in crisis.

      I agree with you, but they don’t behave that way, so SPC has the problems
      it does. Let me give you an example. [There was an established group] in here last November,
      about 75 people. They were told they needed to donate to cover the room.
      We got $18. That’s the mentality we’re dealing with. So we’re switching to
      a different model.

      In addition, when it comes to rentals, we aren’t competing with VFWs and
      such. We’re competing with places like Eye of Horus, Keys of Paradise, and
      so on. We may hit the exact number for proper rent revenue in our space
      and find we have priced ourselves out of our market. As we move to that
      proper pricing, we need financial support until we know for sure we aren’t
      cutting our own throats.

      > I’m wishing you well, and willing to pay for services I receive, but I am
      > not willing to support something that does not meet my needs and is too
      > far away from me if those being served are not paying a reasonable amount
      > for the services they receive.

      If you are not seeing what you want here, I hope you will come in and work
      with us to create it. There must be others like you, wanting what you
      want, but we can’t see them and can’t serve them. You could help us do
      both.

      > If you increase your fees for the use of
      > your space, I may consider supporting the SPC again, but not until then.
      > If the community cannot afford higher rental rates for space, then maybe
      > you need to consider finding a space with lower monthly rent.

      This is much harder than it sounds. We need a place that’s large enough,
      has easy access by car, and most importantly, easy access by public
      transportation. Places matching those requirements are few and far. Moving
      is our last option.

      As such, we are changing our model and moving away from member support. We
      are expanding our outreach to teachers and students (which has been the
      most profitable use of our space). We are looking for other communities
      that are underserved alt-religions ready to use the facilities at
      reasonable prices.

      I’m very glad you are clear about your values and what return you expect
      on your charity dollar. Many people object and complain without being
      clear about what they DO want or what their values are. If not supporting
      SPC is OK with you and your gods, fair enough. I hope you will support
      other important Pagan efforts in our community.

      Thank you for writing to us.

      cjs

    5. [...] year construction and revenue from the front store dropped.  In July of 2011 the center said it needed $12,000 within a month to pay past due bills or the center would close.  Pagans from across the country donated and the [...]

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