Base volunteers answer the call for Hero Work

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A Naval Warfare Officer from the Naval Personnel Training Group (NPTG) is leading a team of volunteers at the site of a full-scale renovation at Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Downtown Community Centre (DCC).

Lieutenant (Navy) Bob Mackay, an analyst at NPTG and an experienced home renovator, has been spending his days removing carpet, prying drywall, and shattering plastic tiles.

“Nothing is as much fun as throwing a hammer into a wall and knowing you’re not going to get in trouble for it,” he chuckled. “Although our work was difficult, you could see smiles from behind the grime and sweaty coating on our faces.”

A team of eight volunteers from NPTG headquarters has teamed up with local charity HeroWork, focused on renovating and rebuilding facilities that house local non-profit community groups. The Victoria Cool Aid Society has provided a variety of housing, shelter and support and health services to Victoria’s most vulnerable people since 1968.

The latest project at DCC has seen the greatest involvement of the base’s military personnel yet, said Paul Latour, HeroWork founder and Chief Executive Officer.

“Members from CFB Esquimalt have stepped up with the biggest volunteer input our organization has seen, and is a notch above anything from the past,” Latour said.

Latour said getting volunteers in the summer has been difficult as many are on summer leave or vacation, but he said members from the base gladly stepped up to the plate. HeroWork is still searching for more volunteers from the community.

Lt(N) Mackay has volunteered for HeroWork since 2019 and said he has truly enjoyed his work on three different projects to date. Despite the hard work in warm mid-summer conditions this year, he said the team found the experience rewarding.

The support of Boomers Legacy, a Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) non-profit has also been crucial in the success of HeroWork’s current and past projects, Latour said. The organization has provided substantial annual financial support through grants, logistical support and valuable contacts in the community.

Selena Roberts, HeroWork Volunteer Coordinator, said HeroWork’s full-scale renovations would involve military personnel from Base Logistics, Base Administration, Naval Fleet School Pacific, HMCS Calgary and HMCS Regina, and the Planning Office at Canadian Fleet Pacific. The project is slated to wrap up on Nov. 12.

Renovations on the DCC will include:

  • A re-envisioned and more efficient main floor layout
  • A new and expanded community kitchen
  • A new multi-purpose space
  • Updated lighting
  • Updated plumbing and HVAC
  • New accessible and gender-neutral washrooms
  • Construction of a new exterior gathering place
  • Landscape redesign
  • New flooring
  • New entrance
  • New computer stations
  • Storage solutions

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