By Cory McGregor
Business Representative, 
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 230

HeroWork was originally created to improve the state of buildings that house charities.  For years, the charitable sector has faced increased demand and decreased resources.  Many charities struggle to meet the needs of their constituents. And, as a result, their buildings often take a back seat.  Soon, these halls, parks, homeless shelters, food banks and youth centres are diminished and in need of renewal.

Current methods of financing, funding, and maintaining charity buildings are insufficient and inadequate.  Charities that do undertake the work often don’t have the experience or expertise to plan and oversee the project wisely as it is outside of their traditional mandate.

If a charity can raise the necessary funds for a renovation, they then must undertake a complex, time-consuming and costly process, for which they likely have no experience. Charities typically hire a general contractor, or act as a general contractor themselves, and then coordinate the various trades and skills required to complete complicated jobs.

What if charities could take every dollar raised for renovation and have it leveraged to get three or four dollars’ worth of renovation?  What if they could rely on the knowledgeable and talented men and women in their community to bring their expertise to the project? This is the solution HeroWork offers.

It started with a question

In 2018, HeroWork reached out to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 230 with a simple ask:  Would you have any electricians who would like to be a part of rebuilding the community organizations that the residents of Vancouver Island really lean on for supports?  The answer for our NextGen committee was too easy: When can we start?

The first project was a renovation of the Mustard Seed kitchen. By partnering with Mustard Seed, the biggest food security provider on Vancouver Island, we were able to transform two key pieces of infrastructure.  The first was a food processing kitchen that will take 40,000 pounds of compost-bound food and turn it into soups, stocks, sauces, and more for food-insecure people of Victoria.  In 2018, the kitchen produced approximately 800 meals per month; in 2019, that number will increase exponentially to beyond 4,000 meals per month.  In addition, other organizations will use the kitchen, teaching food literacy, cooking and more.

Electrical changes and upgrades:

  • New 3-phase sub panel run to kitchen area
  • Dedicated distributed 1-phase and 3-phase dedicated circuits routed into kitchen
  • New outlets, lighting and high draw hood fans installed
  • Fire sensors and new fixtures

The second was the Mustard Seed Market, run out of the Mustard Seed Street Church, which serves over 5,000 people a month through their food hamper program.  The project was also labeled the “Dignity Market,” a re-envisioned food bank that looks and feels like a real grocery store, returning the dignity of choice to vulnerable people and families.  The new market will also significantly reduce food waste and utilize “shopping helpers,” who will build relationships and trust with clients, providing food information, referral services, and helping implement transformational change.  At the same time, we transformed the office spaces for both locations, increasing organizational capacity, renewing offices, common areas and creating a better work environment for both staff and volunteers.

Electrical changes and upgrades:

  • Upgrade of existing 3-phase 400-amp service
  • Subpanels for new 3-phase freezer units (most energy efficient)
  • Wiring of dignity market and new offices
  • Upgrade of fire code running man signs, emergency lighting

The stats

  • Number of projects in 2018: 2
  • Number of total Volunteer Hours: 8,442
  • IBEW 230 Volunteer Hours: 900+ Hours from over 35-member volunteers
  • Overall value of renovations: $1.1 million
  • People Impacted by projects: 5,000+ per month

What’s next

HeroWork and IBEW 230 continued their partnership in 2019 and helped to transform part of a former youth detention facility into a home where people who have suffered trauma can heal and transform their lives. Modeled after the San Partigiano Therapeutic Community, this multi-faceted, long-term program is designed to break the vicious cycle of addiction, homelessness, and incarceration. It will have a safe, structured, therapeutic environment guided by professional staff.

The therapeutic community will address the comprehensive, holistic, bio-psycho-social, and ecological perspective of addiction, homelessness, and criminality. This model will see men housed for up to two years engendering healing and self-empowerment so that they can return to society and lead productive lives.

So far, IBEW 230 has put more than 300 volunteer hours into this project and we look forward to the upcoming weekends to finish this important community resource.