Why HeroWork Was Created

HeroWork was originally created to improve the state of buildings that house charities. But we quickly learned that a modern-day barn raising is about much more than a fast-paced renovation, or what we call Radical Renovations.  From our first project in Victoria, BC, we witnessed an increased sense of pride and engagement for clients, staff and volunteers inhabiting the new space.  Participants in a Radical Renovation also experienced a renewed sense of belonging and community and became stronger leaders through the process.

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.

From the Rainbow Kitchen Radical Renovation reveal.

How Big is the Problem?

The fact is, an accurate statistical inventory of the condition of charitable sector infrastructure is practically non-existent. But we know from experience that poorly maintained buildings make it difficult for charities to deliver essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities. Also, infrastructure that is purchased or donated to charities often do not immediately serve their needs.

An example of a building that diminished slowly over time was the Mustard Seed, a charity that feeds over 7000 people every month in Victoria, BC. Before HeroWork renewed the building, it had multiple code violations, including electrical, egress, and fire. More, the building smelled poorly, had ineffective workflow, and was an eye sore, impacting the emotional and psychological well-being of the staff, volunteers, and vulnerable community members who sought their services.

The Casa Maria Emergency Housing Society is another example in Victoria. Their building was in such a diminished state they were considering giving the building away to another organization who could afford to fix it and use it for good.

An example of a diminished donated building is a 4-unit apartment complex donated to Threshold Housing Society intended for youth transitional housing. But the building had a 130-page inspection report and needed so many upgrades and repairs that Threshold wasn’t even sure they should accept the donation.

When buildings don’t function well they can impede and/or inhibit an organization’s ability to serve their constituents. Staff activities can be hindered. Workplace conditions can be unsafe. Operational costs increase as charities struggle to make ineffective buildings continue to work for them. And a general lack of aesthetics causes a sense of depression and despondency for staff and clients alike.

When charities seek to solve these problems on their own, they face many barriers.  A typical route for a charity is to apply for funding from governments or major foundations and then combine these funds with public donation campaigns to raise the money needed for renovations.  However, funds for renovations are typically more difficult to raise than funds that directly affect ongoing program delivery. When it comes to public donations, there is a common public perception that charities should have overhead rates of no more than 20% of their budgets.  Because of this, people prefer to donate money directly to program delivery and services.

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.

The reality is that renovations are among the most complex of construction projects. Anyone who has completed even a small home renovation knows that things just don’t go according to plan. Demolition takes longer than expected, and exposes new problems, such as underlying structural, plumbing or electrical problems. Needs change as the project progresses.  The scope of the project is under constant pressure for revision.  Every change adds hours and days, making it unlikely that the project will be completed on time or on budget.  While a small organization becomes focused on its renovation, current delivery of programs and services can suffer.

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.

From the Threshold Housing Radical Renovation.

What We Do:

The Art of Modern Day Barn Raising

HeroWork builds community, literally and figuratively.

We are an innovative organization that harnesses the power of community to uplift essential charitable agencies in our society. We inspire, engage and organize community members to donate their time, resources and spirit to charities that need better buildings to deliver services to the vulnerable among us.

When recipients partner with HeroWork to respond to this basic need for refuge, the result is increased engagement of the community, increased awareness of the recipient charity, and the development of leadership and volunteer capacity that ripples out to touch other parts of society.

We create events called Radical Renovations – imagine a modern-day barn raising – where dozens of companies and hundreds of volunteers come together with exceptional cooperation and common vision.  Events kick off with an opening ceremony and block party, and then continue for anywhere from two days to four weekends.  Everyone stops work for lunch and dinner, which is donated and catered for volunteers by local restaurants and hotels.  At the end of the project, we put on a “Big Reveal” during which the building is unveiled to a select group from the charity. This reveal is streamed live on to monitors so all the volunteers can see the amazed look of gratitude on recipients’ faces.

The short timelines, close quarters, and cooperative atmosphere bind people together. There is constant excitement and camaraderie. We use social media to tell the story of the people and businesses who rise up to make it happen.  Radical Renovations ripple out goodwill into the community by providing an example of what can be done when people work together with common vision and good planning.

But before the magic of a Radical Renovation event can be realized, HeroWork spends many months with each recipient. With HeroWork’s experience and guidance from the experts who volunteer their services, we help recipients maximize the potential impact of their renovation.

During the planning stage, HeroWork staff and volunteers guide the recipient charity through needs analysis, scope definition, and detailed planning of every aspect of the renovation. From this work, HeroWork develops a budget and timeline and identifies the necessary supplies, trades and construction experts, and other volunteers that will make the Radical Renovation a reality.

Also during the planning stage, HeroWork utilizes its social networks to bring together the many volunteers who will make the project succeed. Volunteers are invited to participate in a series of workshops designed to build a strong, cohesive team, and increase the leadership capacity of every participant.

We spend time and resources to layout and plan the available space to meet the long-term vision for future program delivery, to identify and mitigate risks associated with major renovations and to provide professionals who develop the engineering and architectural plans that are essential for a successful project.