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2014-03-21 at 17:04

Looking for youth

The Finlandia Association is looking for new members.
Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com
The Finlandia Association is looking for new members.
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By Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com

With a membership that’s aging, the Finlandia Association is looking to fill seats on its board.

At its last annual general meeting a couple of weeks ago, only 17 people showed up. And of the 13 board members, only about seven regularly attend meetings.

"We're on a campaign to find younger people," said vice-chairman Vesa Vanska.

They've already seen growth through the addition of the Finlandia Hockey Club last year. In its first year, the program had five teams.

This year they have 14 and the program has brought in about 200 younger members.

The group also dropped its club status in favour of becoming an association and opening membership to the general public and not just the Finn community.

Vanska said they hope to create a strong board to help run the associations three main entities - the Finlandia Hall, Hoito Restaurant and Embassy Bistro.

"We do a lot of business here and without a proper board, it's hard to manage all that stuff. If there is problems, there are on the management end because of the membership aging," he said.

Marvin Salmi, board of directors chairman, said the challenge in having such a small board is the responsibility of running the association falls on too few people.

"We want to get more people involved so everybody understands what's going on so it doesn't become a closed society," he said.

"We ant to keep it open as much as possible."

The Bay Street building has undergone renovations for the past four years at a cost of about $2 million. Both the federal and provincial governments chipped in to help with the construction costs.

The building has been declared a national and provincial heritage site.

While the construction slowed down business at times, Salmi said they are on the rebound.
And despite the struggle to find board members, Salmi doesn't foresee the Finlandia Association having to close their doors anytime soon.

"Not for another 100 years," he said. "We have to keep going. We can't stop now."

The association's next meeting is April 3.


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Comments

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sky high says:
Great place to have a beer and talk to the amazing Finnish people.
3/21/2014 5:28:22 PM
fastball says:
My wife and I used to love to go to the Hoito - and as much as I hate to say it, it's gone downhill lately. The food is still great - but the place really really needs a freshen-up. Close 'er down for a week or so and give the place a real cleaning and make-over. God knows that place has taken in a fortune over the years - maybe spend a bit of that to clean the place up. I hope so, because the place is a real icon.
3/21/2014 6:07:38 PM
patti says:
fastball: could not agree with you more, the dirt/dust built up on the ceiling vents are absolutely disgusting. There's also a very noticeable stain on one of the ceiling panels that's been there for years.
We're not talking about a major expenditure here, just a thorough cleaning which has been neglected for whatever reasons over the years.
3/22/2014 9:34:26 AM
thunderbaycouncel says:
Im surprised the young generation does not want to be apart of what their parents are/were apart of, or what their heritage means to them. There is a huge Fin community here, i hope the youth step forth. I myself am a member of the Italian Hall and we have tons of members all ages. We have festivals many times throughout the year with percs to its members. Its nice to be apart of something that has been around for so long.
3/22/2014 9:59:39 AM
EJ says:
Youth and you don't have to be a Finn didn't to become the only solution. For decades the organization failed to reach out beyond a specific member profile. There are second and third generation Finns who are in all age groups that cherish their heritage but have been disenfranchised. A viable opportunity has been lost. Hopefully a resurgence through any strategy is found. It is a great place with a fantastic history.
3/22/2014 10:43:42 AM
Sportsfan says:
Great Article!
To clarify the 200 new members, they were acquired through the hockey registration that each player's parent paid. This membership was not an option, it was part of the required registration fee. Each player paid to play, and paid for jerseys that were returned to the FHC. In most sports, a sponsor supports the team. In this case, the team is supporting the sponsor. Great idea on their part! Maybe other financially strapped organizations/associations could follow suit and do the same! It is an extremely expensive sport to participate in to begin with. Added expense of a "mandated membership fee" has what to do with kids playing hockey?
3/22/2014 10:51:28 AM
bluebear1985 says:
As a Finnish Canadian myself, I do agree that something needs to be done to make sure things don't continue to slide. The Hoito still seems to be doing okay, but The Embassy Bistro (which is above the Hoito) seems to be having difficulty finding its footing. I have been there a couple of times, but there seems to be some confusion as to when it's actually open. They need to let people know that they're actually there. The food they have is good, but they need to get the word out about themselves.
3/22/2014 1:26:28 PM
localboy says:
My biggest complaint with the hoito is the recent change in hours of operation. They changed from 7am-8pm, to 8am-7pm. I had a great tradition of going for breakfast on Fridays with my dad (a tradition he started over 10 years ago). Since the change in hours, we've had to reluctantly go to scand house.

Who made the decision to NOT serve breakfast food...at BREAKFAST TIME???? Very poor decision.

Seems like they're robbing peter (the hoito) to pay Paul (the bristro)
3/22/2014 2:19:41 PM
reese says:

Immigration has changed over the years
The founders came here mainly because land was free and employement was easy to find
They are not the only group struggling to find people to fill those positions
3/22/2014 2:23:18 PM
racine says:
With so many LU/College students and young professionals and families moving into the area, this is a perfect opportunity for area residents to get involved. This is such a vibrant neighbourhood we have!
3/22/2014 3:18:17 PM
Mamabear5555 says:
Those board members failed to mention that when you buy a $30 membership, all you get from it is the ability to vote once a year for new board members, nothing else!!
3/22/2014 4:29:23 PM
stonecutter says:
They don't really say why anyone would want to be a member. what is the advantage to having a membership?
3/22/2014 4:46:39 PM
FinnCanuck says:
If it isn't broken then don't fix it. The Finlandia Club/Hoito was not broken four years ago. It is now! What changed? As a past member I can say it was the micro-managing, unapproachable board, the many changes in management, the ill-advised decision to build a Bistro that members didn't want and lastly a loss of trust when transparency disappeared. So please, don't blame the members. Look a little closer if blame needs to be assigned. Ask yourselves, why do past members stay away? Further ask yourselves, who in their right mind would take charge of a Board that has turned a profitable business into a near disaster.
Surely, anyone in their right mind can see that investing in the only entity that makes money, the Hoito, is the way to go. Hoito workers and patrons ensure another 100 years.
3/22/2014 9:02:42 PM
FinnCanuck says:
I agree with Thundercouncel's comments. However leadership is the key. I was a younger volunteer at the 100th Anniversary event. Many people came and many volunteered before and up to 2010. Where are these young and older people now and why have they moved on? As for the Hoito, they used to close it down for a day, twice a year, and clean it from top to bottom. The carpet was regularly washed and eventually renewed when needed. Put a suggestion box at the Hoito and people can point out what needs doing! By the way, the Finlandia Club always had/has non-Finnish members.
3/23/2014 11:43:25 AM
whispering_stick says:
Thank you ThunderBayCouncel! I wish our Finlandia Hall was the fun, vibrant society enjoyed by all ages at the Italian Hall. Finlandia Hall was such a place for many years and I hope it will be again. Your leadership knows how to make it a joy for all to participate. Finlandia Board has to learn how to be relevant to all ages. What is this .. "dropped its club status in favour of becoming an association and opening membership to the general public"? Membership was always open to the general public! I myself am a former member and not a drop of Finn blood in me. FinnBoard: Make your meetings accessible and welcoming to the membership! Listen to and learn from dissent! Clean up the Hoito and make it sparkle! Good Luck!!!
3/23/2014 1:12:26 PM
karcat says:
The hoito use to be good, however lately there prices are not so good also the mens bathroom downstairs is a pure mess, tiles missing from the corners and behind the unit , as u can see spaces there of earth, also the dance hall part floor is a mess need sanding and a good surface put on it, as far as the bistro is , open it at noon or close it down staff has been cut to save $$$, sometimes the coffee counter is closed to early, need to rid of there management, and start over with someone that does not always say yes to the bosses, PS where has all the grant money gone???
someone please explane it ty PS I go there on thurs with a member that use to be one ty
3/23/2014 3:44:39 PM
Minna Canth says:
Despite of what people think, Hoito is not a money maker, it never was. Breakeven has been the mantra ever since 1918 when it was created. This needs to change, but the workforce is dead set against it and even unionized recently to prevent changes that are desperately needed: there is a crazy amount of staff that is not needed at all times. Bottom line: the place needs to be run as a business to make money and to take care of itself: bake sales, handouts, charity and government handouts can not sustain the organization. This fundamental change needs to happen sooner rather than later. I hope there are people who want to get involved and save this place.
3/24/2014 12:03:01 PM
PattyOLantern says:
The Hoito was never built to make money in the beginning, it was for the bush workers to get a decent meal after work.

“Break even” is definitely NOT the mantra for today!

You obviously have not visited the Hoito for a very long time. The staffing has been cut down to the bare minimum, 3-4 servers on daily, kitchen staff cut, bussers cut, hours changed. Regular customers have noticed the difference and have questioned the staff about these changes.

The union was brought in as a last resort by the workforce because changes needed to happen.

Bake sales, handouts, charity and government handouts were never used for the Hoito. They were mostly used to build the Embassy Bistro, which to this day has not been successful, and slap a little paint on the outside of the building.
3/25/2014 7:51:00 PM
FinnCanuck says:
I disagree with Minna Canth's comments about the Hoito workers and the idea that the Finlandia Club has regularly sustained itself through handouts, charity and government assistance. Before this current board was voted in, the place sustained itself year after year because of the skill of past management, past board, dedicated staff and volunteers. The exorbitant debt happened in the last four years when this current Board applied for government funding and they are the ones who begged for donations. Without any foresight they poured money into the Bistro bar project ruining the original Finlandia Club Hall and banquet kitchen in the process. It does not seem to register to the Board that Hoito is the money maker (not the Bistro) and keeping it in top running condition needs to take precedence over everything. Hoito workers are hard working people trying to make an honest living. They have weathered cut hours, loss of their only perk (1.00 meal) and are told to suck it up when the conditions in the kitchen are hard to tolerate. Yet Minna Canth seems to think unionizing is partly to blame for the dilemma. Let's get one thing straight, the Board got in over its head with too many projects so maybe they should take some financial responsibility instead of the Hoito workers. Instead of blaming the very people who keep the restaurant running smoothly, the workers, how about asking the Board why they hired and kept a project manager on staff for years; why they needed high-priced consultants; and why they hired at least two people to do the job of one manager? Why didn't they update the Hoito and address the problems people have pointed out instead of pouring the money into the Bistro? When such a small organization is in a high six figure hole, it begs to be asked whether the current Board and management know how to manage money at all?
I too hope that someone will step up and save this historical building. It took 100 years to arrive at a milestone (one bake sale, one bazaar, one dance at a time and the Hoito) and only four to end up where it is now. Go figure!
3/26/2014 3:07:49 PM
Senior Finn says:
I certainly agree with Finncanuck
3/26/2014 7:21:47 PM
whispering_stick says:
I hope this forum has served as a wakeup call for the Board of the Finlandia Club. They desperately need to get a REAL manager into the Hoito and do everything they can to clean it up and save it. That is the only hope for saving the Finlandia Club and Hall. It would be so sad to see her go down the tubes because of 4 years of a leadership vacuum and unskilled management. Those employees of the Hoito represent the heart and soul of the old Finn bush workers who built the Hall in 1910 and ripped a harsh living out of Canada's frozen North. Honor those hardy souls and keep their Dream Alive. ANOTHER HUNDRED YEARS!!!
3/26/2014 8:33:32 PM
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