Military and community come together for radical renovation

HeroWork volunteers swing their pick axe and shovels while performing landcaping work as part of their Radical Renovation of the Rainbow Kitchen on the grounds of the Esquimalt United Church. Photo by Tom Gore, HeroWork

HeroWork volunteers swing their pick axe and shovels while performing landcaping work as part of their Radical Renovation of the Rainbow Kitchen on the grounds of the Esquimalt United Church. Photo by Tom Gore, HeroWork

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Military personnel and civilians worked side-by-side battling wet and muddy conditions during the opening weekend of a massive renovation project at Esquimalt’s Rainbow Kitchen.

The $500,000 ‘Radical Renovation’ being carried out by local non-profit charity HeroWork, at the Esquimalt United Church facility on Admirals Road, kicked off on the evening of Sept. 16. The community-driven building project is similar to an old-fashioned barn-raising or the quick-turn-around home rebuilding work done by Habitat for Humanity. It uses large numbers of volunteers to get large-scale construction projects done quickly.

The kick-off began with volunteers marching from the Canteen Road parking lot to the job site with a police escort and musical accompaniment provided by the Naden Band. After a warm welcome, some words of encouragement by organizers and stakeholders and a complimentary fully-catered barbeque, approximately 150 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and began work on the first phase of the project. Some of the initial work performed included a massive landscaping project on the church’s grounds, stripping the roof of its shingles and gutting portions of the inside of the building.

“The level of assistance we received from CFB Esquimalt was amazing,” said HeroWork founder and executive director, Paul LaTour. “The fact that they all showed up on a Saturday morning with smiles on their faces when it was pouring rain, got soaked to the bone and covered in mud, but continued to work, helped us move the project forward without any major delays.”

The project’s military liaison, Lt(N) Colin Dudeck, said the enthusiasm and encouragement from organizers and stakeholders made the unpleasant weather conditions much easier to deal with.

“It wasn’t just work, it was all about the fun too,” said Lt(N) Dudeck. “People were excited and clapping their hands on opening day and it just snowballed from there. It was great to see military personnel from all different trades and units working together with their civilian counterparts towards a common goal.”

Many of the 50-plus military volunteers in attendance at the launch of the renovation were particularly inspired by the words of Maureen Eykelenboom during her opening remarks. She was there on behalf of Boomer’s Legacy, a Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services Charity named after her son, Corporal Andrew ‘Boomer’ Eykelenboom, a Canadian Forces Army Medic who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2006. The group recently donated $20,000 to HeroWork to help pay for the costs involved in the Rainbow Kitchen renovation.

One of the military volunteers in attendance was Lt Adelaide Fearnley of 12 Field Ambulance, who had been named tournament MVP at the Canadian Armed Forces Women’s Soccer Championship the day before. She returned to Victoria tired and jet-legged but determined to do her part for HeroWork and Boomer’s Legacy.

“Committing a couple of weekends and our personal time to help improve a place that changes people’s lives for the better is extremely rewarding,” said Lt Fearnley. “By volunteering and becoming involved in these types of activities, we are able to promote CAF values in our local community, try our best to help those in need and honour generous and meaningful foundations such as Boomer’s Legacy and HeroWork.”

HeroWork is still looking to recruit additional volunteers for the final weekend of renovations leading up to the reveal event on Oct 2. Any personnel interested in taking part should contact Lt(N) Dudeck at for more information.

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  1. Leanne Benoit, Esquimalt United Church says:

    A huge thanks to Boomers Legacy, and all the military and civilian volunteers who have given your time and skill so freely to help others in our community. Community truly does begin with you!

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