When Rainbow Kitchen, a non-denominational community kitchen in Esquimalt, approached local charity, HeroWork, for help, they hoped the organization, headed by founder Paul Latour, would be able to help with a renovation of the bathroom at their site.
Latour saw bigger problems, as well as opportunities, at the site, and his charity decided to take on the project.
“The bathrooms needed to be improved, the kitchen needed extensive renovation, the windows, flooring, roof and loading dock…all of it needed to be replaced or repaired,” said Latour. “It’s a 51-year-old building and it needed a lot of help.”
When the project began, the entire 4,500 square foot building was running on a single 200 amp electrical service, noted Latour.
“They used to have to line up coffee makers on plugs served by different breakers and could still only run them one at a time. It would take them two hours to make the coffee in the morning,” said Latour.
HeroWork set to work, creating a renovation plan, contacting suppliers and sponsors, putting out the call for volunteers, and finding ways to leverage a small amount of money available from Rainbow Kitchen into what became a $500,000 renovation.
The project, which was completed over the course of three weekends, rebuilt the structure and involved the support of 120 companies, 170 trades, and 400 volunteers who combined to form what Latour has dubbed his “extreme team.”
The secret, he said, was to plan well in advance and to make certain everyone always had something to do when they arrived.
“We would put everything in place so that on the weekends, when a lot of volunteers would arrive, we had a plan in place. It all can happen very quickly with great support from business and the community and with really good planning,” said Latour.
“And of course having the support of people like Colin was incredible.”
Lt. (N) Colin Dudeck, an officer stationed at CFB Esquimalt, heard about the project at the Rainbow Kitchen, and wanted to do his part. A project manager for the military, Dudeck volunteered his off hours to help in project planning and evaluation. He also took the extra step of calling for volunteers from his fellow servicemen and on Sept. 16 he arranged for the Naden military band to lead a march of volunteers from the Esquimalt base to the Rainbow Kitchen where some 80 military personnel volunteered.
“It was a real privilege to be able to give back to the community and to help out on this amazing project,” said Dudeck.
“This facility has not just the community kitchen but is also home to a preschool and other community groups that use the building. This is going to make a big difference in the community, in our community. I was proud to help.”
For Deborah Hunt, the treasurer of the kitchen and a long-time volunteer, the generosity of the community and the efforts of HeroWork were enough to bring her to tears.
“You have to understand that, for the volunteers and the guests of Rainbow Kitchen, this shows them the community cares about them. They have value and they’re considered members of the community…they have dignity and respect,” said Hunt. “Although they need to come and have a meal with us, they’re still valued people.”
The Rainbow Kitchen renovation is the seventh project undertaken by HeroWork.
For more information on HeroWork visit herowork.com.