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Re-gifting time and talent

   
 
   

November 29, 2005
-by Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. — Helen Kasdorf believes in re-gifting – especially when it comes to re-gifting time and talent.

Re-gifting is becoming a more acceptable idea to talk about openly in our affluent Western world – especially with Christmas around the corner. Many of us begin thinking about who could use a gift that was received as a duplicate last year, or who might find useful a gift we are not able to use.

Kasdorf, the newest member on Mennonite Church Canada’s Finance Policy and Audit Committee (FPAC), has been re-gifting her time and talent for years, as a response to the gifts she has received.

The church – at all levels – is virtually part of Kasdorf’s genetic makeup. “I have many wonderful memories of the [Mennonite] conference and conference experiences. I think it’s always been in my blood. My schedule is busy, as everybody else’s is, but it just seems like the right thing to give back some time to the conference, and this is my area of expertise. This is the area I think I can add some value,” says the Assistant Vice President of Treasury and Capital Planning at Great West Life.

In the congregation she has been a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader, a church council member, and music chair. She has served with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and she and her husband have enjoyed getting involved in their children’s elementary school.

She has a history of sharing her professional skills with the church. A Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) graduate and Chartered Accountant, Kasdorf has served for ten years on the Crosstown Credit Union board of directors (Wpg.), and numerous terms on the finance committee of her congregation, and on the finance committee of Mennonite Church Manitoba.

Giving back was something she learned from her parents. In her early teens, she spent two years in Jamaica with Mennonite Central Committee. Jake Letkemann, her father (now retired), was a leader for many years in the Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite conferences.

Although a member of FPAC for only two months, she says of her first meeting, “I was very impressed with some of the variance reporting that they [staff] do, which allows them to keep a much better handle on our actual revenues and donations coming in, and our expenses, but also how they track compared to prior years, because that’s so important in a non-profit, probably more so than in a profit oriented company.” She is also impressed with the mandate, structure and governance developed around FPAC.

With her years of experience as a finance committee member at the congregational level, she’s very familiar with the struggles that congregations go through when discerning how to disperse their generosity to all levels of church ministry, and how congregations understand their contribution to the wider church.

“How would I view this [financial needs and reporting from MC Canada] if I was back in my finance chair role? Is this the kind of information I want? Is there more? Is the communication frequent enough? Is it enough information? I understand how our giving churches struggle. Hopefully I have a better insight into the dynamics that are involved.”

A major role of FPAC, says Kasdorf, is to offer sober second thought and close attention to the financial aspects in the work of MC Canada staff and leadership. “We kind of sit in the back pews to monitor and provide oversight.”

Kasdorf sees the denominational church as central to the strength of the body of believers – whether expressed through Mennonite Central Committee or other institutions of the church. “Our conferences can feel very foreign to us, until we get involved with them, whether it be through a committee, a camp, a program or a service. I believe that more of our Mennonite church members should get involved in our conferences. I think we would find that the conferences benefit from it as much as the individuals benefit.

“Being a part of the conference, and in particular Mennonite Church Canada, provides us with a connection and insights into the wider church body. It helps us to remember that we are part of a much wider church family, both across the country as well as across the world. It is too easy for me, and soon for my children, to become consumed with the ‘me issues’ and forget about the larger world out there that has problems that help put mine into perspective.

“If my generation doesn't continue to support the conferences both with our time as well as our other gifts, then I don't know who will teach our children the importance of our Mennonite conferences and the worldwide Mennonite community we are a part of.”

Overall, Kasdorf views her “re-gifting” and work on FPAC as life giving – and hopes that area conferences and congregations would also see their participation in the wider church as life giving.

“I think the congregations can feel more at peace that the financial side is running smoothly as long as the donations come in the door. We are still dependant on the congregations. That’s the bottom line.”

Helen Kasdorf is married to Arnie. They have two sons (12 and 10) and a daughter (8). They are long-term members at Home Street Mennonite Church, though the family is currently making a transition to their neighbourhood congregation, Douglas Mennonite Church.