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Heroes helping heroes: Victoria’s Cool Aid Society gets revamped

Renovations to bring new life to downtown community centre
Trevor Botkin, HeroWork general manager, shows the centre’s soon-to-be washroom. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

A total transformation is underway for local charity Cool Aid Society’s downtown Victoria community centre.

On Saturday (Aug. 27), HeroWork officially kicked off its “radical renovation” of the downtown community centre, which serves as an emergency shelter, daycare centre and counselling space for some of Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable.

Self-described “director of radical” and general manager of the charity revamping other charities, Trevor Botkin, said the community centre was overdue for renewal due to restrictions stemming from an old design.

“It was dimly lit – the paint hadn’t been refreshed and it was really restricted by this tiny kitchen that it had,” he recalled. “Once they started using that kitchen, they had to shut down the rest of the building because there wasn’t enough room to cook and do food prep.”

Volunteers have been working away since Aug. 8 when demolition began. Valued at roughly $700,000, the project is expected to be completed this fall. The HeroWork team anticipates anywhere from 30 to 70 volunteers – around 40 per cent of whom have experience in construction or the trades – helping each weekend until the grand reveal, scheduled for Nov. 12.

New elements being added to the community centre include an expanded community kitchen, re-envisioned floor layout, new multi-purpose space, gender-neutral washrooms, exterior gathering space and more.

It’s a major upgrade without a doubt, but that’s not what’s making this renovation radical, according to Botkin.

“This project is radical because of the people involved,” he said. “This project we valued at $700,000 and we’re going to do it all with volunteers. Ninety-eight per cent of our volunteers are from the community – the general public, who all want to come together and roll up their sleeves and make a difference for a community that’s not used to people showing up with this kind of presence, power and energy. HeroWork really works to build up entire communities of vulnerable by building up the charities that directly serve them.”

Aimee North, volunteer and construction project manager, said this is the first time she’s done anything like this. “It sounded like such a good opportunity to be able to share whatever skills we have, and all pull together and do something for the community.”

This fall, HeroWork will be hosting an ’80s-themed fundraising event on Sept. 24 at Colwood Creek Park. For more information on how to get involved, visit

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Trevor Botkin, HeroWork general manager, shows what will become the centre’s new and improved kitchen. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)
Trevor Botkin, HeroWork general manager, shows a few volunteers the ropes. (Austin Westphal/News Staff)

Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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