The Real Meaning of Charity


An interview with HeroWork volunteer Vance Smith.

By Jasmine Turner

In the summer 2017 issue of TRUSTED magazine, I wrote about the efforts of HeroWork, a nonprofit organization based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, that has perfected the art of modern-day barn raising.

HeroWork mobilizes businesses and community members to come together to participate in what it calls “Radical Renovations.” During these events, dozens of companies donate time, money, equipment, and resources and hundreds of volunteers help to renovate charities’ infrastructures for a fraction of the normal cost.

After I finished my article, I followed up with the HeroWork and struck up a conversation with Vance Smith, one of the organization’s many dedicated volunteers, about his experience with HeroWork.

Here’s an excerpt from our chat:

Turner: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your career as a Structural Technologist?

Smith: I was born and raised in Sidney, on the lower part of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I have two adult sons and live with my high school sweetheart. I’ve been working in the Victoria community for 28 years as a Structural Technologist. I’m the Senior Technologist for RJC Engineers, a Canadian employee-owned company with offices across the country.

Turner: Has your career shaped your volunteer efforts with HeroWork? If so, in what way do you use your expertise to help with projects?

Smith: I’ve always wanted to give back but didn’t know how — until HeroWork came along. HeroWork can use everyone and anyone. I help with planning and preparing drawings and work with project managers to resolve issues before construction. I also have been involved as an area coordinator, taking on specific subprojects and working with skilled trades during the renovations.

Turner: How did you become a volunteer with HeroWork?

Smith: I saw a Facebook post about helping. I initially signed up for a two-hour shift to help move furniture, and after my shift was done, I didn’t leave! I ended up spending the next two weeks there after my 8-to-4 job.

Turner: How long have you been volunteering with HeroWork?

Smith: Since 2013 — I’m about to start my fourth project.

Turner: What is the most memorable project you have worked on and why?

Smith: Hard question. Each project is completely different than the next. The Threshold project stands out for its sheer scale of work, quality of finish, and coordination of trades. I think the end product was amazing considering the time frame.

Turner: If you could choose one word to describe HeroWork and the amazing work it does for the community, what would that word be and why?

Smith: Charity — not in the organizational sense but its real meaning, to love and to give of yourself for others. It’s something that I see embodied in all the volunteers.

To learn more about HeroWork and how you can help, visit

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.