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Michelle Boyer

A Time for Thanks

A Time for Thanks 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

At this special time of the year when our thoughts turn to giving thanks, it is appropriate to reflect on the many reasons Vincentians have to be grateful.

Perhaps the two most important are the ongoing guidance of Divine Providence, which has been wondrously at work on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the past 188 years, and the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit evidenced so beautifully by the way Vincentians respond every day to the challenges we face in serving Christ’s beloved poor.

We are privileged to participate in the perpetual miracle of our Society:  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things which restore hope to those who have none and change their lives for the better. Our countless benefactors, whose generosity makes it possible for us to help so many people in so many ways, deserve our gratitude as well.

On the most personal level, going to the essence of Vincentian spirituality, we should be thankful to those we serve for the blessings they bestow on us which transform our own lives.

Very importantly, we have each other, truly something to cherish.  Loving and supporting one another while helping the poor is an integral part of our mission.

Vincentians have been graced by God to be members of one family throughout the world living Blessed Frederic’s divinely inspired vision of a global network of charity and social justice.  We should thank God for our Vincentian vocation, a blessing of eternal value

And, ultimately, how blessed we are with the gift of faith, and in that faith Christ’s greatest gift – the Eucharist.  How fitting it is that “eucharist” means “gratitude.”

11-24-2021 Questions and Answers

11-24-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: We are an agency of Second Harvest. We have held two mobile pantries, one serving 250 families and the other 200. Should we report this in the “in-kind food” column? We also give out food every third Thursday that is provided by Second Harvest. We average 35 families. We have just started this a few months ago. Please advise if/how we would report this on the Annual Report. Not sure if I could be accurate on the value.

A: Unless you have a special arrangement with Second Harvest, the food you get from Second Harvest is purchased, so it is not in-kind. When you say that you “also give out food every third Thursday that is provided by Second Harvest,” do you mean that Second Harvest is doing the distribution and you are helping, or that Second Harvest gives you the food free of charge and you are distributing? If it is the first, then you don’t record anything except your time. If it is the second, then you record the food distributed as in-kind.

Q: I have a real problem with the ethnicity breakdown requested on the Annual Conference Report. The federal government has a special form for Ethnicity and Race Identification. I see no value in providing this information.

A: The Society does not use this information in any discriminatory way. The ethnicity information is collected only in the aggregate. Based on our Rule (Part I, Article 3.2), we are not to discriminate in membership. The breakdown in the annual report is simply to show how diverse and inclusive the Society has become. Occasionally, there are questions related to this from major funders.

Spanish Translation

P: Somos una agencia de Second Harvest. Hemos tenido dos despensas móviles, una que atiende a 250 familias y la otra a 200. ¿Deberíamos informar esto en la columna de “alimentos en especie”? También repartimos comida cada tercer jueves que es proporcionada por Second Harvest. Tenemos un promedio de 35 familias. Acabamos de comenzar esto hace unos meses. Indique si lo informaremos en el Informe Anual y cómo lo haríamos. No estoy seguro de poder ser exacto sobre el valor.

R: A menos que tenga un acuerdo especial con Second Harvest, la comida que obtiene de Second Harvest se compra, por lo que no es en especie. Cuando dice que “también reparte comida cada tercer jueves que proporciona Second Harvest”, ¿quiere decir que Second Harvest está haciendo la distribución y usted está ayudando, o que Second Harvest le da la comida gratis y usted está distribuido? Si es el primero, no registra nada excepto su tiempo. Si es el segundo, registra los alimentos distribuidos como en especie.

P: Tengo un problema grande con el desglose étnico solicitado en el Informe Anual de la Conferencia. El gobierno federal tiene un formulario especial para la identificación étnica y racial. No veo ningún valor en proporcionar esta información.

R: La Sociedad no utiliza esta información de forma discriminatoria. La información de origen étnico se recopila solo en conjunto. De acuerdo con nuestra Regla (Parte I, Artículo 3.2), no debemos discriminar en la membresía. El desglose en el informe anual es simplemente para mostrar cuán diversa e inclusiva se ha vuelto la Sociedad. De vez en cuando, hay preguntas relacionadas con esto de los donantes principales.

                               

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships and having face-to-face encounters with those in need. Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance. We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective. Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement. Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping? Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision. Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning. It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society.  If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in the E-Gazette. We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness. In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

11-18-2021 Questions and Answers

11-18-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Conference Bylaws, Document 1, indicates Conferences should meet at least twice a month. The standardized Conference and Annual Reports have a possible meeting time of once a month. Please confirm, or not, that if a Conference meets once a month they are not in compliance with the standardized Bylaws, document 1? Also, if a Conference meets less than once a month, what should be the selection  for on the Annual Report, “Other?”

A: “Monthly” and “Other” are on the Annual Report for Conferences to be honest in when they meet. However, the Rule (Part III, Statute 5) is also emphasized in the bylaws. It is up to the Conference to be compliant with the Rule. It is the responsibility of the Conference President to ensure this. It is the responsibility of the District Council to ensure that all Conferences are compliant with the Rule. Any action related to bringing the Conferences into compliance must be initiated by the Conference President and the District Council. If this is ignored by the Conference President and the District Council, then the Conference, the Conference President, and the District Council are all non-compliant with the Rule. In that case, upper Councils must take action when they know this condition exists. Refusal to be compliant with the Rule is grounds for removal from the Society.

Q: How do we report the number of people helped with cash i.e. rent, electric etc.? There is a reporting section for in-kind activity but not cash.

A: The number of people helped with cash is not captured on the annual report separately, but is reflected in our Visits and Services to People which includes in-kind services. As described in the Annual Report instructions, expenses gathered under the treasurer’s report reflect all funds expended for goods and services provided to those we served, including cash, checks, certificates, bus tickets, and gift cards. The principal method for payment of aid will be check, paid directly to the provider of those goods or services. This also includes the cost of food purchased to stock your food pantry. For those Conferences that operate stores and other Special Works, this includes dollars spent for direct aid to those in need.

Spanish Translation

P: Los Estatutos de la Conferencia, Documento 1, indica que la Conferencia debe reunirse al menos dos veces al mes. La Conferencia estandarizada y los Informes Anuales tienen un tiempo de reunión posible de una vez al mes. Por favor confirme, o no, que si una Conferencia se reúne una vez al mes, no cumplen con los Estatutos estandarizados, documento 1. Además, si una Conferencia se reúne menos de una vez al mes, ¿qué debería ser la selección en el Informe Anual, cuando una Conferencia se reúne menos de una vez al mes? ¿Pondría “Otro” en los formularios?

R: “Mensual” y “Otro” están en el informe anual de las Conferencias para ser honestos en cuando se reúnan. Sin embargo, la Regla (Parte III, Estatuto 5) también se enfatiza en los estatutos. Depende de la Conferencia cumplir con la Regla. Es responsabilidad del presidente de la Conferencia garantizar esto. Es responsabilidad del Consejo de Distrito asegurarse de que todas las Conferencias cumplan con la Regla. Cualquier acción relacionada con el cumplimiento de las Conferencias debe ser iniciada por el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo Distrito. Si esto es ignorado por el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo de Distrito, entonces la Conferencia, el presidente de la Conferencia y el Consejo de Distrito no cumplen con la regla. En ese caso, los Consejos superiores deben actuar cuando saben que existe esta condición. Negarse a cumplir con la Regla es motivo de expulsión de la Sociedad.

P: ¿Cómo informamos la cantidad de personas que recibieron ayuda con dinero en efectivo, es decir, alquiler, luz, etc.? Hay una sección de informes para las actividades en especie, pero no en efectivo.

R: La cantidad de personas a las que se ayudó con efectivo no se registra en el informe anual por separado, sino que se refleja en nuestras Visitas y Servicios a las Personas, que incluyen servicios en especie. Como se describe en las instrucciones del informe anual, los gastos recopilados en el informe del tesorero reflejan todos los fondos gastados en bienes y servicios proporcionados a aquellos a quienes servimos, incluido efectivo, cheques, certificados, boletos de autobús y tarjetas de regalo. El método principal de pago de la ayuda será el cheque, pagado directamente al proveedor de esos bienes o servicios. Esto también incluye el costo de los alimentos comprados para abastecer su despensa de alimentos. Para aquellas Conferencias que operan tiendas y otros Trabajos Especiales, esto incluye dólares gastados para ayuda directa a los necesitados.

Councils and Their Conferences

Councils and Their Conferences 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

This document is about Councils; yet, the starting point of this document is Conferences. Why is that? As you will see below, Councils don’t exist without Conferences and the Council’s primary role is to support the Conferences.

CONFERENCE PARTICIPATION IN THE COUNCIL

This is an important principle to keep in mind: Conferences that do not want to participate with the Council have not been convinced they receive anything of value from the Council and its activities. Councils should never be formed simply for the sake of forming a Council. Councils have a particular purpose and the Conferences must understand what that is.

In the Rule that was in effect prior to 2003, there was a statement that was a clear definition of the purpose of any Council. This statement was in Part II of the Rule, Article 15:

  • Councils are responsible for animating and coordinating the work of SVdP units within their respective jurisdictions.
  • They serve the Conferences. All Councils are first and foremost at the service of the Conferences with a view to furthering charitable activities. Because every Council gathers information about human needs and services from a variety of sources – the community at large, as well as the Conferences – it keeps Conferences in touch with changing social problems and new programs for helping
  • … each year, each Council obtains and compiles a consolidated annual report of all the Conferences and Councils attached to it. The Council’s report is then forwarded with any comments to the next higher Council for the preparation of the annual report of the National Council of the United
  • Councils encourage initiatives and strive to bring about the establishment of Conferences, Councils and new works, and the revival of dormant or defunct
  • A Council reviews and evaluates applications for aggregation and institution that are submitted by its affiliated SVdP groups. If approved at District and Diocesan Council levels, the application is forwarded to the National Council for transmittal to the Council General (International).
  • Councils organize, to the fullest possible extent, training and formation sessions for members and potential members on spiritual themes, the Vincentian vocation, and problems of social action and justice.
  • To coordinate Vincentian work, Councils keep in regular contact with their Conferences and Councils and inform them of the activities of the
    The Council represents its constituent units in contacts with religious and public
  • Each Council determines the expected contribution (solidarity) from attached Conferences and Councils in order to meet its necessary expenses and assist needy Conference and Council groupings attached to
  • Special works of the Society conducted by the Councils must rely on the Conferences for support, personnel and

In the current Rule, these responsibilities have not changed. They are also spelled out but not in so compact a form.

The fact of the matter is that all Conferences should be aware of what the Council is doing for them. Conferences should be receiving benefits from the Council that clearly provide value to them. It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that Conferences understand this clearly. Ultimately, it is the Conference members themselves who make up the Councils and who make the decisions in support of the Conferences.

STRONG CONFERENCES

Strong Conferences make a strong Council!! It is the Council’s responsibility to assist and guide Conferences in fulfilling the mission of the Society. The best way to do this is to ensure that Conference leadership and members understand what the Society is all about, what the role of the Conference is and what is expected of members.

When Conferences get into trouble (begin to decline or get into some other difficulty), it is far better to be proactive rather than reactive. It is recommended that each Council form a Conference Resources and Concerns Committee to:

  1. Promote understanding and compliance with the Rule, Bylaws and Manual;
  2. Develop resources that will help Conferences to understand and fulfill their roles in the Society;
  3. Provide training materials for Conference leadership;
  4. Monitor Conference activity and act to assist Conferences who are in trouble;
  5. Promote and assist in establishing new Conferences;
  6. Assist in revitalizing existing Conferences, where needed; and
  7. Mediate Conference concerns where

A well-formed Conference Resources and Concerns Committee can monitor Conference activities and offer many aids to make a Conference more effective.

11-11-2021 Questions and Answers

11-11-2021 Questions and Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: Are two members of the same family allowed to serve as officers in a Conference?

A:  In the Rule, Part III, Statute 12, the last sentence reads: “To safeguard the good reputation of the Conference or Council, and therefore that of the Society itself, appointees should not be relatives of the person empowered to make the appointments.” However, if they are not related to the President, a couple may serve as officers (i.e. Vice President and Secretary) in the same Conference or Council.

Q: Does a family receiving long-term assistance from a Conference have to report it as income on their taxes?

A:  No, there is no IRS income filing requirement for charity received. It is a gift, not income. SVdP does not provide IRS forms to those whom we serve for tax reporting purpose.

Spanish Translation 

P: ¿Se permite que dos miembros de la misma familia sirvan como oficiales en una Conferencia?

R: En la Regla, Parte III, Estatuto 12, la última oración dice: “Para guardar la buena reputación de la Conferencia o Consejo y por lo tanto la de la misma Sociedad, las personas designadas no deben ser familiares de la persona que tiene el poder de hacer los nombramientos.” Sin embargo, si no están relacionados con el presidente, una pareja puede servir como oficiales (es decir, vicepresidente y secretario) en la misma Conferencia o Consejo.

P: ¿Una familia que recibe asistencia a largo plazo de una Conferencia tiene que declararla como ingreso en sus impuestos?

R:  No, no existe un requisito de presentación de ingresos del Servicio de Impuestos Internos (IRS, por sus siglas en inglés) para la caridad recibida. Es un regalo, no un ingreso. SVdP no proporciona formularios del IRS a aquellos a quienes servimos con fines de declaración de impuestos.

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships, and having face-to-face encounters with those in need. Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance. We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective. Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement. Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping? Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision. Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning. It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society. If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in the E-Gazette. We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness. In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

11-4-2021 Questions & Answers

11-4-2021 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Q: How are gift card purchases or gift certificates for food reported on the annual report?

A: Gift cards or gift certificates purchased by Conferences for food should be reported as expenses in the annual report under “those we serve” since the expenditures are on behalf of neighbors in need. Gift cards or gift certificates that have been donated to the Conference are treated as in-kind and are reported as they are used. 

Q: Is it correct that we should not use a friend in need’s name and picture in our advertising – even with their permission?

A: Using our friends in need name and photograph on advertisement is not a violation, with written (authorization) advance permission. We want to be sensitive to a person’s situation, including financial, family, and safety. There are additional sensitivities when dealing with the identities of children. Many SVdP Councils/Conferences have case record forms that have a disclaimer on it; perhaps it will work for this purpose. Others have a separate release of information form for our friends in need to sign. The release of information form is different from a release to use images/photos and normally does not include permission for photographs or advertisements. There is usually a separate release form for this purpose. Contact the National Communications Team, Jill Pioter (jpioter@svpdusa.org) or Michelle Boyer (mboyer@svdpusa.org) about this. A question to ask is if the real name is truly needed: can you tell the story with an alias? Could you use only a first name and have the same impact? The critical point here is the picture, whether you use their real name or an alias. Many people do not want their pictures shown.

Spanish Translation

P: ¿Cómo se informa las compras de tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo para alimentos en el informe anual?

R: Las tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo comprados por las Conferencias para alimentos deben declararse como gastos en el informe anual bajo “aquellos a quienes servimos,” ya que los gastos son en nombre de los vecinos con necesidades. Las tarjetas de regalo o los certificados de regalo que se hayan donado a la Conferencia se tratan como en especie y se informan a medida que se utilizan.

P: ¿Es correcto que no deberíamos usar el nombre y la imagen de un amigo con necesidades en nuestra publicidad, incluso con su permiso?

R: Usar el nombre y la fotografía de nuestros amigos con necesidades no es una violación, con un permiso previo por escrito (autorización). Queremos ser sensibles a la situación de una persona, incluidas las finanzas, la familia y la seguridad. Hay sensibilidades adicionales cuando se trata de las identidades de los niños. Muchos Consejos/Conferencias SVdP tienen formularios de registro de casos que tienen un descargo de responsabilidad; quizás funcione para este propósito. Otros tienen un formulario de divulgación de información por separado para que lo firmen nuestros amigos. El formulario de divulgación de información es diferente de una autorización para usar imágenes/fotos y normalmente no incluye permiso para fotografías o anuncios. Por lo general, existe un formulario de autorización por separado para este propósito. Comuníquese con el equipo nacional de Comunicaciones sobre esto. Una pregunta que debemos hacernos es si realmente se necesita el nombre real: ¿puedes contar la historia con un alias? ¿Podrías usar solo un nombre sin apellido y tener el mismo impacto? El punto crítico aquí es la imagen, ya sea que use su nombre real o un alias. Mucha gente no quiere que se usen sus imágenes.

 

10-28-2021 Questions and Answers

10-28-2021 Questions and Answers 150 150 Michelle Boyer

Q:  Does an active or associate member, who has not been to a meeting or done any active work with the Society for more than a year, have to write a letter of resignation before they can be removed from the membership roster?

A: A letter of resignation has never been required unless it is one of the officers, and then it is optional. Removal based on being inactive for a period of time (like a year) seems reasonable, as long as it is brought to the membership for a consensus or vote.

Q: Can our Conference change in “The Rule” the two person Home Visit to read that we cannot visit a close friend and that other members should do so to avoid any conflict of interest?

A:  Every Conference is expected to follow The Rule, Nationally Approved Bylaws for Conferences and the Manual. In addition, the Conferences are expected to have their own set of guidelines for how they will operate locally. There can be nothing in the Conference Guidelines that contradicts The Rule, Bylaws, Manual, or spirit of the Society. The guidelines should be in writing, approved by the Conference as a whole, and distributed to the members.

On the National website, you will find the document “Vincentian Life: Conference.” Within this document is quite a bit of information on establishing guidelines and what makes Vincentian sense related to the various services we provide. There is also plenty of explanation related to why we do things the way we prescribe. “We cannot visit a close friend and that other members should do so” is a very good practice to be followed. Click here https://members.ssvpusa.org/leadership/, to view the document under the tab “Basics About Conferences.”

Spanish Questions and Answers

P: ¿Un miembro activo o asociado, que no ha estado en una reunión o no ha realizado ningún trabajo activo con la Sociedad por más de un año, tiene que escribir una carta de renuncia antes de que pueda ser removido de la membresía?

R: Nunca se ha requerido una carta de renuncia a menos que sea uno de los oficiales, y luego es opcional. La remoción basada en estar inactivo por un período de tiempo (como un año) parece razonable, siempre y cuando se presente a los miembros para un consenso o votación.

P: ¿Puede nuestra Conferencia cambiar en “La Regla” la visita domiciliaria de dos personas para decir que no podemos visitar a un amigo cercano y que los demás miembros deben hacerlo para evitar cualquier conflicto de intereses?

R:  Se espera que todas las Conferencias sigan la Regla, los Estatutos Aprobados a Nivel Nacional para Conferencias y el Manual. Además, se espera que las Conferencias tengan su propio conjunto de pautas sobre cómo operarán a nivel local. No puede haber nada en las Directrices de la Conferencia que contradiga la Regla, los Estatutos, el Manual o el espíritu de la Sociedad. Las pautas deben estar por escrito, aprobadas por la Conferencia en su conjunto y distribuidas a los miembros.

En el sitio web Nacional, encontrará el documento “Vida Vicentina: Conferencia.” Dentro de este documento hay bastante información sobre el establecimiento de pautas y lo que tiene sentido Vicentino en relación con los diversos servicios que brindamos. También hay muchas explicaciones relacionadas con por qué hacemos las cosas de la manera que prescribimos. “No podemos visitar a un amigo cercano y que otros miembros deban hacerlo” es una muy buena práctica a seguir. Haga clic aquí: https://members.ssvpusa.org/leadership/ para ver el documento en la pestaña “Basics About Conferences.”

Good Stewardship

Good Stewardship 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

What does stewardship look like in your life? Then think of this through the prism of a Vincentian lens which should have a spiritual and biblical foundation.

Then ask yourself what stewardship means to you, to members of the Society, and to your respective Councils and Conferences.

Certainly, as good stewards we need to give thanks for all the gifts we’ve received. This means thanks to God, thanks to our bishops and pastors for allowing us to serve within their dioceses and parishes, thanks to our volunteers and employees, and thanks to every person who has helped us by donating goods and money.

Good stewardship involves, among other things, accepting and acting on the following principles:

  1. The principle that everything we have is a gift from God who has given us the ability to serve others,
  2. The principle of responsibility,
  3. The principle of accountability.

Let’s examine these further:

First, stewardship includes recognition that it is God who created everything and through whose grace and blessing we have been given the ability to serve others and to receive the funds needed to do so effectively. It is God who has given us the graces we need to discern how best to help people.

With this comes the principle of responsibility to use the gifts bestowed on us wisely. This may mean helping other Conferences and upper Councils as well as those who come directly to us. We help those who come to us or who we have sought out and found because they are God’s children. We help other Conferences because we know the people coming to them also need help. We help upper Councils mainly, but not exclusively, through solidarity dues so they can animate and promote our Essential Elements of Spirituality, Friendship and Service. Responsibility also means not hoarding funds but rather honoring donor intent that those in need be helped in whatever way is prudent and will alleviate material, spiritual and emotional need and anxiety, and that the help be delivered by men and women who are well formed in what it means to be a Vincentian.

The principle of accountability also needs to be considered when discussing stewardship. When we as Vincentians become stewards of resources and money given to us, we have an absolute responsibility to give an accounting to all of our stakeholders – we discussed those in September. This includes filing annual reports which have information that is shared with bishops across the country and helps the National Council fulfill its obligation to account to the greater church.

In short, we all have an obligation to be faithful stewards of all God has bestowed upon us and to see that in the end we are serving the common good and furthering God’s Kingdom.

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