Avendanos asked to step back from Helping House

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  • There are mounting calls for Tomas ‘Tatay Tom’ Avendano and his relatives and their allies to take a break from the board of the Multicultural Helping House Society (MHHS).

    The clamour comes as MHHS is facing scrutiny over its finances.

    An audit has been requested by the City of Vancouver, one of the founding agencies supporting the programs of the Vancouver-based immigrant-serving organization.

    Also, the demand for a new leadership follows allegations of conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and inappropriate business dealings inside MHHS.

    In addition, there are rumblings about how money is allegedly being made out of caregivers who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of services from the MHHS.

    Avendano did not respond before deadline to a request by the ReyFort Media Group for comment.

    Avendano, his brother Demetrio (also known as Demi), and Tomas’ son Benedicto are members of the board. Avendano is president and CEO, while son Benedicto is the organization’s internal auditor.

    Another board member, Dorothy de los Reyes, is the sister of Norilyn de los Reyes. Norilyn is known for her close association with Tomas Avendano.

    Norilyn was alleged in the past as being engaged in the business of selling of insurance and other financial products to caregivers being served by the MHHS, a practice that has been a source of controversy.

    Another board member identified closely with the Avendano group is Susan Panlican. So are Marilou Yodogawa and Janet Teves. Teves’ husband is associated with the MHHS Foundation, which is also led by Tomas Avendano.

    In addition to the MHHS and MHHS Foundation, Avendano is also president of the MHHS cooperative.

    A call for the Avendanos and their allies to step back from the board was aired at a July 27, 2019 public meeting at the MHHS headquarters on Fraser Street.

    The suggestion to the board was made by Michael Cayetano, an accountant and former member of the MHHS board.

    Cayetano proposed that a caretaker board should step in and the put the affairs of the MHHS in order.

    As of Wednesday (July 31), when Philippine Asian News Today went to print, no one from the board, particularly the Avendanos, has left.

    It can be recalled that Cayetano, despite his long years of service with the MHHS, was not included in the Avendano slate when the MHHS held an election in July 2018.

    During that time, a group calling itself the Concerned Friends of Helping House raised questions about discrepancies in the financial records of the MHHS and the MHHS Foundation. MHHS pays rent to the foundation, but their records allegedly do not match up.

    The Concerned Friends of Helping House also questioned why three Avendanos were running for seats in the board, thereby building a dynasty within the organization. The group likewise mentioned the insurance business of Norilyn de los Reyes.

    [For details, see: https://concernedfriendsof.wixsite.com/website]

    Following questions raised by the Concerned Friends of Helping House last year, Avendano at the time responded by saying that the Avendano family has done a lot of work for MHHS.

    “Ipakita nila ang nagawa nila na tulong at pantayan nila ang nagawa ng mga Avendano sa Multi,” Avendano told the ReyFort Media Group then. “Everybody knows how much we had dedicated our time energy to put up this beautiful building and to look for funding to run programs to provide services to those who most need it.”

    “We need volunteers but only few came to help at where are the so-called Concerned Friends?” Tatay Tom also said.

    Avendano also said that his family does not intend to lord it over the MHHS.

    “I need help to run the society,” Avendano Tom said.

    Going back to the July 27, 2019 public meeting, Mable Elmore, B.C. NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kensington, was one of the attendees. The provincial government is also a funding agency for MHHS.

    “I am aware of the important role the Multicultural Helping House can play in improving the lives of migrant workers and immigrants in our community,” Elmore told the ReyFort Media Group.

    “However, I am also concerned about some of the important issues raised regarding the MHHS Board at the meeting I attended last Saturday, July 27,” Elmore said. “The issues underline an untenable situation and they include questions about conflicts of interest, governance, fiscal questions, private companies making sales at the MHHS and membership lists.”

    Elmore continued, “I am also deeply concerned about how the failure to resolve these issues has placed the funding for MHHS programs – and the viability of MHHS as an organization, in real jeopardy. “

    “As a society whose purpose is to ‘uplift the lives of new immigrants and newcomers’, it is vitally important that these issues are resolved so that the MHHS may be of genuine benefit to our community,” Elmore said.

    A representative from the federal government, also a funding source for MHHS, was also at the July 27 meeting.

    The Avendanos were not present when MHHS lawyer Martha Rans reportedly met with a number of board directors on Wednesday (July 31) about the controversies hounding the Avendanos and their associates.

    MHHS executive director Will Davis declined to comment when reached by the ReyFort Media Group.

    Amado Mercado, a former vice president of MHHS, is supporting the call for the Avendanos and their allies to step back from the board.

    “Kapag hindi na maayos ang barko, dapat palitan na ang kapitan at pahenante nito,” Mercado told the ReyFort Media Group.

    Mercado has been rendering volunteer services to the MHHS for the last 15 years, and was surprised on July 27 to discover that his membership is under question.

    According to Mercado, the Avendano board changed the MHHS constitution and bylaws, which in effect suspended the membership of many.

    The July 27, 2019 was adjourned amid questions about membership, and a new meeting is scheduled for August 23.

    Mercado said: “We have to save the centre. This is nothing personal against the Avendanos.”

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