Donations & Pledges
Board & Committees
Constitution & By-Laws
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions that we often hear from the community. In an effort to answer them, the Board of ZACUCE has tried to explain them in a question/answer format. These may not cover all the topics, hence we hope that the March 4th 2007 Open Forum will bring about a fruitful discussion and help pave the path for future plans for a center for the ZAPANJ community.
- Why do we need a Cultural Center? Why do we not keep renting?
There are multiple reasons to have a center. Different people may see different reasons, but here are our three principle objectives:
At present we do not have a place where we can go and spend few minutes in silence and peace to pray, such as a prayer hall. In India we have Agiyaris and Atashbehrams, which bring people together on all occasions, like Navroz, Pateti, Muktad, Amkaras. In the United States, such a prayer hall is even more important because many of our children and grandchildren may never have the opportunity to see or experience the spirituality of Agiyaris or Atashbeharam. For the rest of us, as our trips to India become less and less frequent, a prayer hall would fill that void to some extent.
As a community we need to stay connected and this Community Center would serve as a venue for community gatherings, religious classes, Jashans, Ghambars, weddings, Navjotes, birthday and graduation parties. It is not just a building; the Center will embody our past, present and future hopes. In India, doctrinal aspects of Zoroastrian living are seamlessly woven into our daily routine because we are surrounded by our own community (especially people living in Parsi colonies) where we have access to places of worship and halls for social gathering. In the U.S.A. we do not live near each other; we cannot have an Agiyari, but we can have a place where our children can learn doctrinal aspects of Zoroastrian living through our customs, ceremonies, and traditions. A place that is our own can instill pride and a sense of belonging, a legacy that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren just as our forefathers like the Wadias, Petits, Jeejeebhoys and others passed on to us.
It is becoming difficult and expensive to rent a hall in our area. Ask any members of the Board of ZAPANJ and they will tell you of how difficult this has become. Last year we had to hold the Ghambar in a restaurant and we are not sure whether we will able to get it this year. We are trying to a reserve a hall for 2008 religious classes now. For both the Pateti and Navroz functions we could not get a hall on the dates we wanted. As time goes by, it will become increasingly difficult to find appropriate gathering places. If we cannot hold these events or if they become too expensive, our community connectivity and cohesiveness will suffer.
- Why do we need too spend $1,000,000 on the community hall? Can't we do it cheaper? Why do we need such a grandiose plan?
Based on the estimated numbers, we feel this is a realistic and very modest plan. Today it costs $400,000 to $500,000 to buy a 2500 sq. ft. house. We figure we need approx. 6000 sq. ft. to accommodate 150 to 200 people. At $125 a sq. ft. plus land for parking, it would cost about $1 million. This is only an estimate. We are flexible and should we find a building that meets our requirements and where we can accommodate 150 people and parking, we will surely consider it for a Center.
- Why can't we spend money on some other projects like research, education or a library?
These are all important and worthy causes. They are not mutually exclusive. We can support all of these projects if someone is willing to take a lead on this. The library will be a part of the center.
- Why do we need to build? Why can't we buy an existing property?
We are not tied to the idea of building a center from the ground up. As a matter of fact we have seen many churches, synagogues, even warehouses. We are not eliminating any options. We welcome any input, help or contacts you have to find a suitable property.
- How do we raise $1,000,000?
We need to raise $1,200,000, which includes - most importantly - a $200,000 reserve for maintenance. We have, including pledges, approximately $500,000. We have been told by some large donors that the community needs to do more before big donors would come forward and help. We figure we need to raise $150,000 to $200,000 more from the community in order to attract outside donors, and we would like to raise that during the next 2 years. We are confident that if we do raise that amount we can get another $250,000 to $300,000 from outside donors.
- How are we going to maintain the Center?
We estimate an ongoing expense of $30,000 a year. ZAPANJ spends approximately $8,000 to $10,000 a year for renting a hall for religious classes, two functions and a Ghambar. Although ZAPANJ does not pay these expenses directly because the events are often times sponsored, nevertheless, community members do bear these costs.
We plan to have a maintenance reserve of at least $200,000. If we draw $20,000 a year, this amount will last for 12 years on a compound interest basis. In addition, we plan to hold an annual fund raising event that can raise at least $10,000. We have done it for the last three years and continue to find both large and small-scale methods to fundraise within and outside our community.
This will give us a total of $40,000 per year. Now if it is possible that we can rent the hall out for modest number of days, we would be able to build the maintenance fund even larger. Granted, we have only made the analysis/ estimate for the next 12 years.
- Where are we planning to have the center / what location are we looking at?
The location of the center will depend upon the price, the ease of zoning change; township friendliness and most important how far members have to travel to get there. The following are the three criteria we intend to use:
- 70 to 75 percent of the people will travel 45 minutes or less, another 10 to 15 percent of the people will travel 1 hour or less and finally 5 to 8 percent of the people will travel 1 hour and 15 minutes or less. Of course, there may be some exceptions of families who may have to travel more.
- The location will have to be within 5 miles of a major highway, i.e. 295, NJ and PA Turnpike or 95
- It should include the area from New Brunswick to Philadelphia, parts of PA and Delaware.
- Our children may not be here or they may not be interested in the future. It could be a financial burden on them.
Granted, some of our children have moved out, or will move out, but at the same time other young people have moved in. The U.S. is a mobile society and this type of movement is a fact of life. As to whether they would remain interested in the future or not, we would like to give them some credit and leave the decision to them. We hope that they would make the same wise decision to preserve our religion, heritage and tradition for their children just as we have all done ourselves. As far as the financial burden, there will not be any. The community is now $500,000 richer than it was three years ago. If the future generation decides not to have any part of the center, they can sell the property and use the money for some other purpose. It won't go to waste and nobody will lose any money.
- Why was ZACUCE formed as a separate organization?
At an Annual General Meeting it was decided by the community that the Cultural Center project should be formed separate from ZAPANJ as a legal entity under a separate tax ID. That is how ZACUCE was formed.
- Why do we need ZACUCE and ZAPANJ separate organization? When can we merge two legal entities?
The issue has two different perspectives: one is ZACUCE as a separate legal entity and the other is the management.
As a separate legal entity, it insulates ZAPANJ from special legal tax filing requirements as well as liability. ZACUCE files a separate tax return, is registered as a charitable organization with the NJ Charity commission and every year has to file special reports with the commission. We also have to obtain a license to hold a raffle. Other communities like New York, Houston and Toronto have their community halls under separate legal entities, as well.
As for its management, we are not separate organizations. ZACUCE has no members and is run by Board & Committees that can be nominated from the ZAPANJ members according to its by-laws. A Board & Committees that are not elected now manages it and we are looking at the various options to make it more participatory for all ZAPANJ members. We are exploring two options: one to put the ZACUCE board under the ZAPANJ board as a separate building fund, and the other option is to hold a separate election for the ZACUCE board that will report to ZAPANJ members just like ZAPANJ board. New York has the second structure in place and it seems to work well for them.
At the moment our goal is to raise enough money to get this project underway and then discuss the appropriate structure with the community. We welcome any suggestions, recommendations and help.