Ganesha Center pursues nonprofit status in expanded spirit sanctuary

Lee Papa spent most of her adult life working in a high-stress for-profit industry before becoming immersed in spirituality and metaphysics. So it should come as no surprise that when she set up the Ganesha Center: Sanctuary for the Spirit, she did so as a for-profit business.

As the group enters its third year, it is in the process of becoming what several advisers have told Papa it should have been all along: a nonprofit organization.

"The truth is that we’ve always run under the mind-set of a nonprofit," said Papa, founder of the Ganesha Center at the Longford Plaza East Office Park, 3199 E. Warm Springs Road, Suite 300. "We run on volunteers. It’s always been about the mission of the work and providing a place for community. Any money we made went right back into the center."

A friend explained to Papa that the center was already operating as a nonprofit venture but without the benefits of being one. Papa has been told that the process could take approximately seven months to complete. The goal is to have it done by the end of 2012 or sooner.

The Ganesha Center grew from Papa’s long interest in alternative healing and spirituality. Within two weeks of deciding to start the center, it opened. Initially, there were just two rooms, and that expanded to 13 before the time the center moved to its new location a few buildings away.

"We were in 13 rooms, and it wasn’t very centrally set up," Papa said. "We were in about 2,500 square feet. Our new location is 6,000, it’s all contiguous and we have our own entrance."

Two thousand of those square feet are the center’s new café, which doubles as a performance space.

"People were telling us that they just wanted to come in and be in this energy, even if they weren’t taking a class or getting a massage," Papa said. "Having the cafe fits in with our mission of being a center, where people can feel at ease. We also have great coffee and smoothies whenever we want now."

The cafe is set to be heavily utilized March 9, when the center plans a fundraiser to assist with construction costs from the move and legal fees involved in becoming a nonprofit organization.

The event is set to include mini classes and sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by live performances through 10 p.m. by valley musicians and a silent auction, featuring goods and services of interest to the spiritual and metaphysical communities. There is no charge for admission.

"Edwige (Bingue) will be performing; she’s amazing," Papa said. "We have some other local musicians coming who are going to do instrumentals and things like that. Rebecca Ramsey, a violinist who played with Celine Dion and in ‘The Lion King,’ will be here."

The Ganesha Center has an expanded library and reading room, multiple classrooms, including a large room for both spiritual and physical pursuits, and a quiet set of rooms for private healing and physical therapy sessions.

In addition to the work to become a nonprofit group, Papa is trying to get the word out that the center is a resource.

"What I don’t like to hear is people who tell us they’ve been looking for something like this for years and didn’t know you were here," Papa said. "We have a bigger presence now, but we want people to know we are here for them."

Information about classes and events at the Ganesha Center can be found at ganeshacenter.com or by calling 485-4985.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 380-4532.

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