By uniting the community, HeroWork engages and organizes businesses to donate time, money, resources, equipment, and volunteers to participate in “Radical Renovations” for charities in need.
By Jasmine Turner
Normally we hear or read about giving back or paying it forward, as some call it, when the holidays come around or when a celebrity makes a hefty donation to a charity. I often wonder what the world would be like if people gave selflessly 24/7, 365 days a year (think Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”). Just imagine if we donated our two prized possessions, time and money, to people and organizations in grave need. Would homelessness, poor drinking water, or families living below the poverty line still exist? Well … one can dream, right?
There isn’t an easy fix for decades of world problems, but to solve a problem, the first thing you must do is address it. Acknowledgement is the first step to resolving any issue, and often the result is that you create something great, something that has the potential to live forever. You see a need and think, “How can I help?” No matter how big or small your impact may be, you are working in the right direction for a greater good. I wonder if this question birthed the large amount of generosity in the hearts of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, and Paul Latour. You may be familiar with the first three names mentioned, but after reading this article, you will want to familiarize yourself with Latour.
Latour is the Founder and Executive Director of HeroWork. He built his organization on the foundation of giving back to charities through what he calls “Radical Renovations.” It all started when he saw a friend in need and decided to help. “I had a friend who had multiple sclerosis and needed help with accessing her backyard. I would go and try to help on a Saturday afternoon, but I could barely make a dent in the work that needed to be done,” Latour says. “After a day of work, I wondered if I could get 20 friends together for a pizza party to help my friend. So I took this idea, brainstormed about it, and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we did a mini extreme makeover? Seven weeks later, we had 27 businesses, 65 volunteers, 10 musical acts, and five videographers and in the space of a single day did 25,000 Canadian dollars’ ($18,255) worth of renovations with CA$380 dollars. When it was all done, the volunteers came up to me thanking me for giving them the opportunity to make a difference. Something shifted inside of me telling me to follow this path and see where it goes.” Acknowledging a friend in need sparked a light inside of Latour, inspiring him to follow a path of giving back that led him to create HeroWork.
Based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, HeroWork is a progressive and innovative charity that renovates other charities’ infrastructures in a way that saves them up to 80 percent of the construction cost. The organization has completed CA$1.8 million worth of renovations in the Greater Victoria area. Between decreased funding and a high demand for services, as well as the high costs of acquiring and renovating infrastructure, most charities struggle to fulfill their mandates and have little money left to maintain their buildings. With every Radical Renovation, HeroWork is not only transforming a building, it also is rebuilding a community structure. Latour describes this as modern-day barn raising. “The community comes together to help their neighbors, which is so much fun and really feels good,” he says. “You were on the receiving end one day and the next day on the line helping someone else, and that capitalizes on that sense of community with so many different people coming together.”
HeroWork brings together not only communities but also businesses. “We partner with businesses, and businesses provide us with supplies. They also provide services,” Latour explains. “A lot of construction companies send teams of people to do the professional trade work we need done. What we see is that they create networks among themselves as well.”
HeroWork also has built a partnership with Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Vancouver Island, which made it a mission in 2016 to actively engage and partner with HeroWork and to embark on a journey to create a community infrastructure renewal movement across Canada and beyond. “We had BBB-accredited businesses participating with us from the beginning,” says Annette Wall, Board Chair for HeroWork. “They showed up not because they are BBB members but because they saw a need and felt passionate about our work.”
Through this organic partnership, HeroWork and Rosalind Scott, President and CEO of BBB serving Vancouver Island, have created a synergy between the two organizations. “I really give Rosalind a lot of credit for promoting and expanding awareness of HeroWork among her members and for really just being a great supporter and engaging in every opportunity to say this is a great organization and to support both HeroWork and BBB,” Wall says.
Jasmine Turner is a native Washingtonian and a recent graduate of Marymount University with a degree in communications. She currently works as Communication Coordinator for Council of Better Business Bureaus, where she creates consumer and business content while also working on new channels to further produce new content.