Rotary donation a major boost for Victoria Cool Aid facility

Renovations aim to create more welcoming environment at activity centre

A major influx of cash will help make some valuable improvements to the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Downtown Activity Centre on Pandora Avenue.

The funding, including $80,000 from the Rotary Club of Victoria, will help make the facility more user friendly and brighten it up, said centre co-ordinator Donna McKenna.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” she said, adding the support from Rotary primarily allowed the project to move forward. “The renovations we needed were costed out at $114,000, which absolutely does not exist in my operating budget at the centre.”

The commitment from the service club prompted Cool Aid to apply for a gaming grant, which kicked in the remaining $34,600 for the project, McKenna said. “That meant it was all a go and we could get it all done at once.”

Having run the centre for eight years, McKenna has been keen to improve the facility, which provides recreation opportunities and life skills training to Victoria’s homeless community, individuals at risk and those living in poverty. But money has always been the stumbling block and only surface changes, such as fresh paint, have been able to be done.

“Local Rotarians wanted to make a significant contribution that would help others for many years to come,” said club president Rosalind Scott. “We chose the Downtown Community Centre because of its dedication to youth and adults who need help and are taking steps to improve their own health and situation.”

The renovation project, due to start in late June and be completed in mid-August, includes a makeover of the front entrance, better lighting in several areas, new washroom fixtures and shower facilities, expansion of computer facilities and improvements to the gymnasium.

McKenna said freshening up the facility will not only provide a more welcoming, safe environment for regular users, it will help to avoid stigmatizing youth using the facility Friday nights next fall and winter in its role with the Out of the Rain shelter program.

“Some of the shelters, they have to enter through a back door or someplace where it’s dark.”