A year after its charitable status was revoked, Malvern Rouge Valley Youth Services is partway through a transformation into a new charity that could carry on its mission.
Before MRVYS shut down last fall, Executive Director Phillip Fearon said its board discussed relaunching the best of the organization under a different name.
They decided instead to launch two organizations, said Fearon in an interview this week.
The first, YPlanet Digital Learning Services, was registered last December.
A non-profit company offering software and technology training, YPlanet rents space at Sheppard and Morningside avenues around the corner from the former MRVYS office.
“We’re largely volunteering, trying to keep this growing,” said Fearon, YPlanet’s executive director, adding MRVYS’s staff had to be downsized. “I’m volunteering. I’m one of the staff laid off.”
Fearon said supporters of MRVYS applied to the Canada Revenue Agency in January to establish a charity called Youth Planet, which would run youth programs and a recording studio, as MRVYS once did. The CRA responded, and Fearon said the applicants (Youth Planet has no directors yet) are trying to answer the federal agency’s questions.
The former Malvern charity was started in the 1980s by neighbourhood resident Robert Brown as the Malvern Youth Club and opened an office at Morningside and Sheppard in 2007.
The CRA stripped the group’s charitable status on Nov. 12, 2011 because of its past connection to a tax shelter, Global Learning Gifting Initiative.
For a year ending in April 2009, the CRA said an audit showed, MRVYS received $17 million in cash and paid more than $14 million to promoters of the tax shelter. The charity also issued tax receipts for more than $103 million for donations of courseware valued at amounts the CRA considered “grossly inflated.”
Fearon said he and the 2011 board weren’t involved with MRVYS during its relationship with the shelter. Still, after its status was lost, those working with MRVYS, which was “in all honesty, tarnished with its past dealings,” could not see a benefit in trying to save it, he said.
Instead, they started YPlanet, which Fearon said is partnering with employment centres and other community organizations to supply low-cost training, including an introduction to computers some laid-off local workers need.
YPlanet hosts free workshops on different topics every Thursday morning, and 15 to 20 people usually attend, Fearon said. “We’re endeavoring to make a difference in the community and help people,” he said.
Cristina Graida, administrator of the Toronto District School Board’s Next-Steps Employment Centre in Scarborough, said YPlanet has delivered much-needed introductory computer workshops to the centre’s clients both on and off site.
“The feedback from our clients about these sessions have been outstanding,” she added in a testimonial. “We would and have highly recommend their services to anyone looking to improve their computer skills.”