TRANSFORMING CHARITIES BY TRANSFORMING THEIR BUILDINGS
The Challenge: From food banks to shelters to counselling centres, charity buildings house many of our most important social services. Too many charity buildings, however, are in poor condition — diminishing their ability to respond to clients, connect with community, and innovate. And yet, most charities lack the capacity and resources to renovate.
The Solution: Paul Latour’s HeroWork mobilizes volunteers and resources to conduct “Radical Renovations” — working for and with charities to renovate and upgrade their buildings. In the process, HeroWork builds charities’ capacity to serve vulnerable populations while also increasing operational efficiency, revitalizing neighbourhoods, sparking innovation, and building community. Now, Paul is expanding HeroWork across Canada.
Renewing Canada’s charitable infrastructure
HeroWork began because Paul Latour wanted to help a friend with multiple sclerosis make her home more accessible. “Originally, I thought I’d call up a group of friends, order some pizzas, and do some work.” But the idea morphed into something bigger. Seven weeks later, with a team of 20 volunteers, he spearheaded a single-day, $25,000 renovation project with a budget of only $380.
That project galvanized Paul. He’d witnessed not only how a building could transform someone’s life, but also the tremendous power of community to create change.
He also recognized that the food banks, shelters, counselling centres and other buildings that served the most disadvantaged people in his Victoria, BC, community often needed urgent repairs. In many instances, the state of a charity’s building hindered its ability to provide basic services, let alone innovate and improve.
So, Paul created HeroWork. The organization identifies and collaborates closely with local charity partners whose mission and vision would be strongly enhanced with infrastructure upgrades. HeroWork then creates unique, curated “Radical Renovation” events that pull together a wide range of stakeholders — neighbourhood residents, small-business owners, construction companies, charities and their clients — who provide pro bono expertise and labour and discounted materials.
Much more than nuts-and-bolts construction projects, Radical Renovations are inspiring and energizing community events.
“Think of a modern-day barn raising or extreme makeover event, with up to 100 people working simultaneously in colour-coded T-shirts, with lunch served by hotels and restaurants, accompanied by local live music,” says Paul. The idea, he explains, is to create a powerful, tangible experience that connects local businesses and volunteers more closely with charities in order to create a more empathetic community.
At the same time, the renovations transform the way the charities use their buildings, providing them with the spaces they need to creatively deliver their services and nurture innovation.
To date, HeroWork has completed millions of dollars’ worth of charity renovations in the Victoria area, mobilizing hundreds of companies and thousands of volunteers, with a cumulative impact on more than 25,000 individuals and families each year.
Now, Paul plans to expand the organization across Canada, creating new chapters and empowering community-minded leaders to draw on HeroWork’s expertise, track record, strong brand, and powerful business systems as they organize and complete Radical Renovations. In the process, he’s building stronger and more empathetic communities with greater capacity to serve vulnerable populations.