New leadership behind Albany Veterans Day Parade faces unexpected setbacks | Local

SHAYLA ESCUDERO

The leadership behind the Albany Veterans Day Parade is new this year, and it hasn’t been the easiest transition.

When Christine Ferguson took over as chief organizer, she didn’t know what she was getting into. Of course, she knew the parade drew thousands of participants each year and claimed to be “the largest veterans’ parade west of the Mississippi.”

What she didn’t know was that she would be essentially starting from scratch: the Veterans Commemoration Association, which had organized the parade for a dozen years, had disbanded.

It’s been a rocky start and many people are wondering if the parade will continue this year, Ferguson acknowledged. She even considered quitting, she said. But it will, and it won’t.

An association dissolves

For the past 12 years, the Veterans Memorial Association has undertaken the monumental task of organizing the Veterans Day Parade in Albany, said Al Severson, former vice president. Support, however, has dwindled and more recently the association consisted of only three executive members, including himself.

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Part of the problem, former President Patty Louisiana said, is that when she was ready to step down to care for a sick relative in 2020 or 21, there was no clear successor. This is because of a technical detail in the statutes of the association.

To be nominated for the presidency, “one must attend more than 51% of the meetings of the previous years to be eligible and to be considered for nomination for a position of the board of directors, one must have chaired a successful event in the previous year “, wrote Louisiana. March 30 to the Oregon Department of Justice — which oversees organizational disbandments — in a letter updating the Veterans Commemorative Association’s closing process.

At the time, she writes, no one who fit this bill showed up.

“It would be in the organization’s best interest to give a new nonprofit group a clean slate to begin however they see fit,” Louisiana wrote.

In an interview, Louisiana said it also attributes some of the upheaval to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the YMCA has not operated at full scale for the past two years, opting instead for a “reverse parade campaign, led first in 2020 by the YMCA. .

Loss of tax-exempt status

Years before dissolution, however, came a warning sign: the loss of tax exemption, the thing that makes a nonprofit a nonprofit—for most, that’s -to say.

“Our records indicate that the organization lost its IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in 2017 for failing to file required returns with the IRS,” Kristina Edmunson said via email. Director of Communications at the Department of Justice. It is possible, although generally not recommended, to operate as a nonprofit corporation without IRS tax-exempt status.

The three core members – Severson, Louisiana and former secretary Marilyn Myers – said they were unaware of the loss of tax-exempt status. They also indulged in accusations.

Louisiana identified Myers as the person responsible for filing tax information and Severson as a former treasurer. It was Myers’ name and signature on the CT-12, an annual report that charities must file with the Department of Justice, separate from IRS Form 990.

Severson said that although he previously held the title of treasurer, he hadn’t handled anything financial for some time and instead focused on raising awareness for the parade.

Denying responsibility, Myers said money matters were the purview of the treasurer and third-party tax preparers were used to file forms with the IRS.

Missing records?

At the time Ferguson volunteered for the committee, she knew none of this. But she got into a storm of feelings about how the parade should be run and upset over the disbanding of the Veterans Memorial Association.

“This year has been a challenge because people don’t trust us,” Ferguson said.

This mistrust became public when in April the association received numerous negative comments on its Facebook page after it created a GoFundMe campaign to seek financial assistance for the parade.

People were troubled by the organization’s renaming, now called the Linn County Veterans Day Parade, and didn’t see the message as legitimate, Ferguson said.

Severson said it’s been difficult to let everyone know that the event will continue this year, even though his organization as it is known will not.

The confusion is compounded by the fact that some supplies and documents are missing. Severson alleges that many years of history have been lost.

Among the many documents that have accumulated over the years were financial documents and photos from the last 10 years of the parade, Severson said.

“We’re back to square one,” he said.

Although he was aware of the breakup before it happened, he said he did not plan to lose access to documents and photographs.

“When records go, it triggers red flags,” he said.

Folders found?

Louisiana and Myers apparently have these records.

The DOJ requires that a process be followed to dissolve an organization. This process includes completing a closure form, submitting outstanding financial reports, and listing the organizations or individuals who will receive the charity’s assets upon dissolution, according to the DOJ website.

According to Louisiana’s letter to the DOJ, it distributed the remaining funds to the Linn County Veterans Memorial Association and Veterans of Foreign War Post 584.

“As for the archives of the association, Marilyn Meyers (sic) and myself have kept these archives. First to organize what everyone has, then to organize the various committee files, and finally to shred old and outdated information,” she wrote to the DOJ.

“We will both keep the archives until they become obsolete. As for the photographs of parades and events, we are looking to digitize what we have and turn them over to the Albany Historical Museum. “

According to Edmunson, charities should either donate valuable non-monetary assets to similar organizations or sell them, with profits going to charities. Other assets are at the discretion of the dissolved organization.

“Company records, like minutes and financial records, should be kept for a number of years, in case problems arise,” Edmunson said.

Louisiana said by phone that new committee members should have everything they need. Before leaving, she handed out maps of the parade route, a script and the names of the event’s sponsors.

It’s more than what she started with, she said.

“There has never been a three-ring binder of information,” Louisiana said. The new organization should own the parade, instead of following what it has done.

But for the American Legion, which is helping organize this year’s parade, that’s not enough. Legion members are struggling to determine who has participated in the past few years. They also wished the Veterans Memorial Association had given them supplies such as safety vests and walkie-talkies.

As a result, they will have to purchase the supplies or rely on donations, said American Legion executive assistant Karen Force.

Walking on

If you want to get in touch with Ferguson, you might find her giving a presentation at a civic club or at a meeting at the American Legion or in front of her computer at home. She doesn’t have an office and doesn’t see the need for one.

Because she is in the community.

Ferguson joined the Linn County Veterans Day Parade, which currently operates under the American Legion, with little experience. She had recently moved from Virginia and was looking for more friends. She has worked with Cubs before but has never organized a parade.

“The more I learn about what veterans have given up, the more passionate I am,” she said.

Although Severson no longer holds a leadership position, he remains active in organizing the parade. He is not interested in trying to get in touch with the old leadership. He wants to focus on veterans themselves, he said.

It’s a chance to “close the book and start a new chapter,” Severson said.

He just hopes more young people will join the cause to replace those who fall.

“No young people are coming, and they’re getting smaller, and people are getting older,” he said. He worries about the future.

For her part, Ferguson is determined to make sure everyone knows the parade will continue. It is scheduled for Veterans Day at 11 a.m., November 11, as it has been for many years before. The procession will begin on Pacific Boulevard and travel through downtown before ending at the Linn County Courthouse.

“My goal is to get the parade on the streets this year,” she said. “It’s about honoring our veterans.

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