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What do I mean by heroic work?

Work that serves to lift up those around you: that’s one way to be heroic.

When you become involved in an organization that serves others, it does something to you: it feeds something inside us. There is a part of me, that I think exists in everyone, that lights up when we lend a helping hand.

This is what drives us to grasp another’s hand, to hold the door open, or to ask if others are okay, and it feeds an essential need, deep inside the core of our being. Being a part of any uplifting work feeds us in many ways, but before I get in to that, I want to give you some context.

herowork-logoSome of you may know that I volunteer for a charity called HeroWork. I first found out about this charity through my blog writing, and some searching for heroic ideas to write about in my own hometown.

HeroWork essentially renovates charitable institutions, but in a modern barn raising fashion that are called “Radical Renovations”. With the entire community getting involved, from the trades, to the food providers, and everyone in between that prepares the event, it is a team effort. They only last a few weeks, and the event is bookended by very public and engaging opening ceremonies, complete with a march on to the site, and closing ceremonies that give us the “Big Reveal” about the new look.

The inception of HeroWork is a most fascinating tale. Please read about it on the HeroWork website from Paul Latour, the Executive Director and person behind the charity.

During the most recent opening ceremonies, the march to the site consisted of a police escort, a 16 piece military band, and all of the volunteers that were slated to start the careful dismantling of the site that evening. Watching the procession walk the seven or so blocks to the site, with a bouncing “LOVE” ball pushed from one portion of the parade to another, was a marvel to see and hear. As the marching band reached the site and the crowd parted for them, everyone was brought to the stage. It was a delight to see!

From that point on, the event started reshaping the physical building and grounds of the site, but what keeps coming back to me is something that was shared during a team building exercise we all had as volunteers on the project, and it came from the recipients of the project renovations.

To hear the story, as told from the service providers that HeroWork helps, was another jolt that underscored the reason I became involved, and it broadened my perspective, and gave greater understanding about what these charities mean to the persons they serve, and HeroWorks role in all of this.

rk-logoTo the layperson, the recipient of the latest project, The Rainbow Kitchen in Esquimalt, BC, which is run off the side of the Esquimalt United Church, the name may indicate that they simply feed the community, and indeed, they do that. What is not immediately apparent, is the other more subtle, but no less important, functions they serve.

People seek assistance when they clearly need it, and going to the Rainbow Kitchen for food is something that many people do on a daily basis; after all it serves 36,000 meals a year. If you were like me, you probably thought the clients were those that may be homeless, struggling with huge obstacles to overcome in life, and happy to receive any assistance they could find.

Not so true, and this is perhaps a stereotype that is perpetuated by those who simply are not educated on the matter, like I was. You simply don’t know, what you don’t know. Becoming involved in this project taught me more about the fundamental needs of not just the disenfranchised, but also the broader base of people that the kitchen provides for. Seniors that are home poor and can’t afford proper food also visit the kitchen, but let’s consider the average person in Canada.

With the reality and burden of the Canadian debt load, a sudden change in employment status can leave us faced with real world challenges of finding shelter, never mind food. If you are a family provider, your issues just expanded exponentially. Do you have enough savings to last a couple months with no income? What if you lost your job due to an illness or accident outside of work? Could you survive without services such as this?

Many single parents, seniors, or otherwise challenged adults are simply a couple paycheques away from homelessness, and may look to supplementing nourishment through these facilities before it becomes a survival reality. The Rainbow Kitchen feeds their bodies.

But aside from serving a variety of people, they serve a variety of functions. The Rainbow Kitchen, and places like it, don’t just give them food to survive, they also provide a place to meet other people; it’s a social atmosphere.

A senior who may otherwise be sitting at home eating toast and drinking tea, alone, can come and visit with other people that become associates, and eventually friends over time. The tireless staff greet them with smiles and a cheery attitude that can buoy their spirits on a rough day.

The people who have been there for years welcome the new people, and a mixture of simple ‘hellos’ and long stories create a buzz or word sounds melding with those that are happy simply to feel food in their mouths and help clear their mind. The Rainbow Kitchen feeds the heart of those that come in.

It literally creates community within a neighbourhood, as deep and complex as any planned neighbourhood with respect to the relationships that are formed.

Going from a well-loved establishment, to one that exudes a freshness, crisp lines, brilliant paint, and a smell of newly hewn wood, there exists perhaps a growing sense of pride for the physical environment with which the patrons will experience after the Radical Renovation that HeroWork leaves behind. This legacy, of not just paint and wood and appliances, but also that of lovingly decorated facades, signage, and other embellishments, are lovingly created specifically for each targeted site. They enrich the newness of the renovations with the heart of the original, and I hope it serves to indicate to those that use the facility of their worthiness.

The fact that this building and physical form was demonstrably and significantly upgraded, refreshed, and rebuilt with an eye to sustainability, lower maintenance costs, and a beautiful look, must indicate to the patron the value of the site, and the service it provides. Ultimately the worth transfers to the user.

We absorb the environment we are in, be it our friends, our career, the natural environment,or built. If it is ugly to us, we treat it that way, but if we see the value in it, we start to develop and exchange that value within us as well. HeroWork feeds the spirit of the users.

The end product is simply a newer building and grounds. It’s a physical thing, with nothing more to it to the uninitiated or uneducated. It has a dollar value and a different look than it did before, but there is so much more that is transformed.

Work that serves to uplift others is heroic. It feeds us; our bodies, our minds, and our spirit as human beings that are hard-wired to help one another. In targeting other charities that benefit from the Radical Renovations, HeroWork helps organizations like the Rainbow Kitchen feed a broad base of local people; each one in need of nourishment of one kind or another. A place for food, social interactions, and always a warm welcome, it serves a deeper connection many seldom get to witness.

By the time a few weeks are over, and the renovation is complete, the HeroWork volunteers will have all gone their separate ways, returning to their typical lives. But the lasting legacy of what they were able to accomplish in that short time frame will impact the hundreds of people, and thousands of days, of feeding a community.

To find out more about HeroWork or the Rainbow Kitchen, follow their link, or to get involved in some heroic volunteer organizations, type “I want to volunteer” in your favourite search engine. Here is one such link that I found in doing so: Volunteer Canada.

Hungry for change? Feed your mind, body, and spirit by volunteering. HeroWork still needs your help too.

I hope you will join me, and the entire community, October 2nd at 4pm for the “Big Reveal” of the legacy that will be the brand new Rainbow Kitchen!