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Nov 15
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Shambhala on the Move

San Antonio before the renovations

San Antonio before the renovations

NEW COLUMN: Shambhala on the Move
A series about Shambhala Centers and Groups who are moving into new spaces or renovating their existing homes.

by Candlin Dobbs, Shambhala Times Reporter

Like most Shambhala Centers, the San Antonio Shambhala Center started in a living room. They went from rented space to rented space. Now, the San Antonio Center has bought its first real home.

Five years ago, the San Antonio Center, then renting in a business strip in Southtown, requested Eva Wong’s advice. (Eva is a Feng Shui master and a senior member of the Sakyong’s Advisory Panel on Shambhala Environment.) Eva offered a number of suggestions on how to work with the energy of the Southtown space: changes in paint, furniture and pictures. She also suggested that San Antonio move to north of San Antonio’s downtown – a very nice, very affluent section, and one that everyone felt was totally out of the possible price range.

Nonetheless, as the years passed, it became obvious that the San Antonio Center had to move. The Southtown space wasn’t working any more. The rent was so high that it was eating into savings. The center was not allowed any outside signage. There was no good space for children. There was no outdoor green space. And the roof leaked.

In August 2013, a new search committee was set up. Pat Scott (Finance Director) had had her eye on a building at 257 East Hildebrand. Initially its price was too high but now, the price had dropped from $329,000 to $240,000.

The search committee went to see the Hildebrand house. Built as a one-story bungalow in the 1950s, it has enough space for two shrine rooms, a director’s office, a post-meditation room. It had a good outdoor space with room to eat, socialize, have lhasangs (offering ceremony), and also (crucial for a Texas center) space for a barbecue. It had good parking, good climate control, beautiful floors and no leaks in the roof.

It was also near Trinity University, the site of the Druk Sakyong’s first talk in San Antonio. Just three blocks from the home that housed the first San Antonio Study Group and right in the neighborhood that Eva Wong had identified as the best location for a Shambhala Center in San Antonio.

They made an offer on August 18th. “The timing and the speed that this all has happened in has been magical,” said Council member Doria Cross. “Everyone was very excited by the space, and there was a sense of ‘Let’s do it!’”

“So then we had to figure out how we could afford it,” said Phil Castillo, the Center Director. “We all had to learn to ask.” Then a sangha member donated 20% of the purchase price. “That gave us the confidence to go forward.”

Connie Brock, Shambhala’s Chagdzu Kyi Khap, suggested that they reach out to Ashoka Credit Union, a Boulder-based credit union established by the Druk Sakyong in 1976. Ashoka was willing to give them a mortgage for the $180,000 they needed.

“Then came the next hurdle: we needed a collateralized loan to cover the purchase price fast, no time to wait for an appraisal! Basically, we had to find patrons willing to loan us a total of $160,000 dollars – people weren’t donating this amount, just loaning it to us for a 90-day period. During that period, the Council met almost every night. “Since we couldn’t get together in person, we met online using Google hangouts.” said Phil. To keep the community informed, there were a series of Board resolutions that were distributed to members via email, and a blog on the website.

At Harvest of Peace, Phil, Pat and Doria presented the project and the funding needs. “I talked the day before in detail with Allya Canepa and Sarah Luna at Ashoka, so I was ready to answer questions about the intermediary loan,” Doria said.

“We just started calling people we knew. Private people helped. A number of Centers also helped – Los Angeles, Austin, and Dallas. It was so wonderful that so many people and other Shambhala Centers wanted to help.”

They put the money for the intermediary loan together in 4 days, from the 22nd to the 26th. Many forms and signatures later, the Center got the cash-secured intermediary loan in place and closed on the building on September 26th, less than two months after the search committee had started to look.

“Once we had the building, everyone realized that there was so much more to do,” said Doria. So they were on to the next hurdle, renovating the space so that it earns a strong appraised value heading into the final mortgage document.

This has required a constant raising of windhorse. “We are not just doing a renovation project here, we’re on the ground floor of community building,” says Morgan Burnham, one of the organizers of the renovation effort.

There has been lots of dirty work: cleaning, hauling stuff out to the dumpster, cleaning up rat skeletons, removing wallpaper, and having regular lhasangs. “I’ve learned a life lesson,” said Pat. “If a building’s ceilings are wallpapered, be very suspicious!”

Amber Lhamo and Dean Ozimkowski, of the Buddha Dharma Conservation Corps have been organizing the volunteer crews and teaching volunteers how to do the easier skilled tasks. The BDCC is a program of Padmasambhava Peace Institute under the direction of Tulku Jigme Tromge Rinpoche.

Pat shares, “I am most pleased at the participation of newer members. It has felt like an old fashioned barn raising. The sangha has had the opportunity to plan, work, and play together. The new building has provided an opportunity to engage with community on all levels and to witness a transformation that is much deeper than a coat of paint. Folks have come from Austin and put in hours of valuable skill just to see San Antonio have a new home. So, I think there has been about 20+ volunteers and literally hundreds of hours of service.”

Pat went on to say, “One of the things about the old space in Southtown was that it was part of a business strip – a place where people went to get a service and then leave. The new space is a house, and so the environment starts out being more homey, more a place to get together with others, a more heart and community space.”

“The location is ideal,” Pat continued, “on a busy street, near the University, across from the Historic District. We will be able to make more a feeling of a welcoming home and a cultural center. People will feel invited to come in and check us out.”

San Antonio after the renovations, Shastri Betsy Pond takes the meditation hall for a spin

San Antonio after the renovations, Shastri Betsy Pond takes the meditation hall for a spin

Doria shared, “Alan and I and Alyssa started the San Antonio center out of our home. When we applied to be a Study Group, it was just the three of us, but you had to have five, so we put our son and the dog on that first list of members. We would dream… ‘someday we will have a real center.’ And now to see that becoming reality, and so close to where we started, and where there is a sense that we should be… It renews my confidence in Shambhala and in enlightened society.”

Pat Scott also said, “We have been encouraged and assisted by Shambhala International and the Shambhala Legal Council. Every step of the way has been supported so that we can have the confidence to know that this is our time.

“We have done everything, including the 25% down payment on the building purchase and all the renovation to date, on donated funds. We raised $85,000! For a small community (64 members), this has been an amazing feat of commitment and devotion.”

Find out more about their project and see how it’s going, take a look at their website by clicking here.

See their renovation fundraising link by clicking here.

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2 responses to “ Shambhala on the Move ”
  1. Good work! Buying your first building is an incredible step forward. The house we bought in Seattle set the stage for incredible growth and richness in our sangha. Ten years later we are looking at expanding again.

  2. Congratulations San Antonio!!! All Ashokians are delighted to have helped make this big step possible. Special thanks to Pat Scott, Doria Cross, and Sarah Luna (at Ashoka) for such good windhorse, strong and steady. May your leadership inspire!

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