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Changes at Chimo as non-profit loses grant, director

A longtime local charity has parted ways with its executive director and is now bracing for a major cut to its budget.

Chimo Crisis Services, a registered Richmond charity since 1974, is losing a third of its government funding, after the federal government decided against renewing a grant for Chimo's settlement and integration program.

Funding of $600,000 will dry up at the end of March, effectively shuttering a program that could impact up to six staff at the Minoru Boulevard charity.

The charity, which also operates an emergency shelter for women and children and provides individual and family crisis counselling, is facing an additional challenge after the departure last week of executive director Lisa Westermark.

Westermark was hired in July 2012.

"The board has decided that we want to go in another direction as we move forward. It's a transition time for us," said Brian Edwards, the president of Chimo's board of directors. "We wish Lisa (Westermark) all the best."

The board is now planning a process to find a new candidate.

Chimo began offering its settlement program two years ago, according to Edwards. After administration shifted from the province to the federal government, bigger players were chosen to offer the service and Chimo was left out of the mix.

Edwards called it a "significant loss," but emphasized the change will not impact Chimo's core programs, including Nova Transition House. Losing the grant allows the charity to refocus on the services Chimo has long provided, he added.

"It allows us to refocus on our core model," he said. "We do have some ideas … that we hopefully can implement as we move forward in a new direction."

According to Chimo's T3010 Registered Charity Information Return, revenues totalled $2,122,279 in the last fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2013. Most of that income—88 per cent—came from government. Chimo spent $2,093,904—89 per cent on programs and 10 per cent on administration.

It had 19 full-time employees and 19 part-time staff in 2013.

Last June Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued a call for proposals to deliver settlement services in B.C. New contracts start in April, when the federal government resumes management of the federally-funded settlement programs in B.C.

Settlement funds—used for programs that aid newcomers' integration into Canadian society—totalled $100.6 million in 2013-2014.

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