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HomeZenMeet San Francisco Zen Center’s Outgoing Board Chair Helen Degenhardt

Meet San Francisco Zen Center’s Outgoing Board Chair Helen Degenhardt

By Tova Green

Helen Degenhardt not too long ago stepped down as San Francisco Zen Center’s Board Chair after serving on the Board for ten years. Her connection to SFZC started shortly after she moved to the Bay Area in 1983, when she began attending Sunday packages at Green Gulch Farm. Since then she has “orbited” SFZC, largely bringing her abilities as an architect to many constructing tasks at Green Gulch Farm and Tassajara.

When former Board member Brian McCaffery invited Helen to affix the Board in 2011, it appeared like a pure subsequent step to deepen her involvement with the group and serve in a special function. San Francisco Zen Center had grow to be an essential a part of her life; it had modified how she noticed issues: “Working closely with ZC staff for all these years was my practice, my training by osmosis almost. People were so thoughtful in their interactions and had a presence that I valued.” She joined the Board in 2012.

In 2019, Helen was appointed Board Chair. Together with the Central Abbot and the President (the Abbots’ Executive Group), she developed priorities for the group focusing largely on the long-term monetary well being of SFZC. The group additionally helped to develop a ten-year plan that can information the Board and administration in making well-informed choices over the following decade. When the Covid pandemic shut all the things down in March 2020, the main target abruptly shifted into “survival mode” – how you can help the continued functioning of SFZC, maintain everybody protected, supply packages, and create sufficient income to help the residents and the three temples.

The pandemic eradicated a lot of SFZC’s income sources with the closure of Tassajara’s summer time Guest Season, the closing of convention areas at City Center and Green Gulch Farm, and the problem of working Greens Restaurant throughout the pandemic. Together with Ed Sattizahn and the Board, Helen mounted a fundraising marketing campaign to offset these losses. Many residents left close to the start of the pandemic. Helen realized that it was essential to guarantee the remaining residents that they may keep at SFZC and would proceed to be supported.

During her ten years on the Board, Helen has seen some very vital adjustments: “SFZC has become so much more professional.” For instance, the Accounting Department now produces month-to-month money stream statements and has the capability to undertaking budgets a number of years upfront. In addition, members of the Board Finance Committee (that helps and advises the accounting division) deliver helpful skilled information and experience. This is essential for the organizational and monetary well being of SFZC. She sees comparable advances within the IT division, the expansion of SFZC’s on-line programming, and the streamlining of the administration, now known as Zen Central.

Two years in the past, when Margie O’Driscoll, who was vice chair, left the Board, Helen started in search of a brand new vice chair who would possibly ultimately tackle the function of Board Chair. She instantly considered Angela Ni, who had joined the Board in 2019. With her background in strategic planning she appeared a pure alternative.

When Angela grew to become vice chair, they collaborated on many elements of governance, created agendas for Board retreats, and set objectives for each the Board and the group. After six months Helen invited Angela to be the following Chair. The transition has been easy. Helen appreciates Angela’s vitality, means to suppose strategically, her approach of interacting with individuals, and sees Angela as a tech whiz.

Helen’s lengthy tenure on the Board was honored on the December 2022 Board Holiday occasion at Greens Restaurant. Helen misses the frequent interactions with different Board members and workers and the rapport she developed in working with Abbot Ed Sattizahn and President Sozan Miglioli. However, she continues to be engaged with SFZC. Her experience as an architect is proving invaluable in engaged on the BMT (Beginners’ Mind Temple/City Center) renovations. Helen at present acts because the proprietor’s consultant for the undertaking. She additionally enjoys collaborating in month-to-month one-day sittings at Green Gulch Farm.


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