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Our Community: Renovations for family of twins, storytelling workshop on homelessness

Renovations for family of twins A custom home builder has completed its second free renovation for a family with a child facing life challenges.
Ray and Amanda Algar and daughter Hannah with twins Keira, left, and Amanda in front of their house in Langford, which recently got a free bathroom-accessibility renovation through the Step Up Community Build Program. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Renovations for family of twins

A custom home builder has completed its second free renovation for a family with a child facing life challenges.

The Algar family, with twin five-year-old girls born with a rare genetic neurological disorder, got a bathroom renovation from Horizon Pacific Contracting as part of the Step Up ­Community Build Program.

The program, which started in 2019, supports families with a free renovation that improves the suitability of the home for a challenged family member.

The Algar girls, Keira and Amelia, have Rett Syndrome, and are both non-mobile, requiring assistance with day-to-day activities, including eating and bathing. It had been getting more difficult and dangerous for their parents to lift them in and out of the bathtub and carry them up and down stairs, as they weigh nearly 40 pounds.

The bathroom renovation will improve safety and functionality and allow the family to remain in their current home.

Amanda Algar, the twins’ mother, says the renovation has made a huge difference.

“The girls love their showers. Now we are able to wheel them in and safely manoeuvre them,” she said, adding the family had been looking for two years for a more accessible home.

“Now we can put our efforts into enjoying the home with our children. It’s also been huge for our daughter Hannah, as staying in this neighbourhood means she can stay connected in this community. That’s really important for her.”

Pamela Ubeda, owner of Coast and Beam Architecture, also donated her services to redesign the space.

Rising stars get a boost through donations to VCM

The Victoria Conservatory of Music is hoping you can help set the stage for the musicians of tomorrow with a donation to its Rising Star campaign.

It says donations will help VCM keep music education affordable, innovate in online learning, engage local master musicians to provide master classes, provide students with the best mentorship possible while also employing local talent, provide performance recording support for students to prepare for auditions and competitions, and ensure a safe and healthy environment for students using VCM’s facilities.

“The Victoria Conservatory of Music is dedicated to guiding our students through this pandemic to ensure they are able to achieve their musical goals,” says Jane Butler McGregor, CEO, Victoria Conservatory of Music. “We are committed to doing everything we can to support and inspire them to reach their creative potential.”

The Victoria Conservatory of Music was founded in 1964 and is considered one of Canada’s most innovative and progressive music schools, with more than 3,700 students and music therapy clients of all ages.

For more information, or to make a donation, go to

Help for mental health available through United Way

The United Way Greater Victoria is making mental health services a top priority, recognizing that the holiday season can be a trigger for many.

It says COVID-19 has taken a toll on many people’s mental health and financial security. More individuals are on the edge of poverty and stress is high.

Donations to the United Way will go toward three areas of action: mental health and addictions, isolated seniors and families in need.

They will provide counselling services, fund outreach and peer support workers and create virtual social gathering places so individuals can connect in order to reduce isolation.

• For more information, or to donate, go to

Storytelling workshop on homelessness Thursday

The Existence Project is holding a storytelling workshop on homelessness for residents of North Park neighbourhood, Thursday on Zoom, in collaboration with the North Park Neighbourhood Association.

In recent months, the neighbourhood has been dealing with a homeless encampment at Central Park, adjacent to the Crystal Pool.

The virtual workshop will be led by Cory Resilient, who experienced homelessness for a number of years and lived in Beacon Hill Park before finding housing less than a year ago.

Attendees will hear Cory’s story and have the chance to ask him questions. Organizers say the goal is to put a face on homelessness and offer ideas for community members who want to support all neighbours — housed and unhoused.

“This workshop is specifically looking for people that are housed, who are interested in engaging more in the issue, hearing someone’s lived experience and having a say in what goes on in their neighbourhood when it relates to homelessness,” said Marko Curuvija, founder of The Existence Project.

The workshop is free to join. It runs 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 and is open to 25 participants. Sign up for the workshop here. For more information, go to

South Island charities receive $2.3 million

Charities on southern Vancouver Island recently received more than $2.3-million in general operating funds so that they can continue to support the needs of the communities during the pandemic.

Grants from the Victoria Foundation’s Community Recovery Program will allow 126 charities and other organizations to continue to offer services and help provide them with financial security.

The organizations operate 128 community projects, focusing on the environment, mental health, homelessness, racial equity and more.

More than $750,000 of the $2.3 million distributed came from direct donations made either to the foundation’s Community Action Funds or from Donor Advised Funds.

“We know how great the impact of this pandemic has been on local charitable organizations, as we see them stretch every dollar in order to continue to offer desperately needed services in our region,” said Sandra Richardson, Victoria Foundation CEO. “It’s the generosity of the community and our fundholders that is allowing us to offer this support, largely through donations made to Community Action Funds.”

The Community Action Funds follows on the success of the Rapid Relief Fund, started by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Family Foundation and the Times Colonist. The fund raised more than $6 million in support of local COVID-19 relief efforts.

Further funding will be based on need in the community as the pandemic evolves. To help in these efforts, donations to the Community Action Funds can be made at

Drive Pink funds support women living with breast cancer

Participating Broco Glass and Speedy Glass service centres in Victoria helped raise $9,000 for the Drive Pink Campaign in support of women living with breast cancer.

Belron International, the parent of three glass repair and replacement companies, partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society to raise funds and public awareness about the disease.

The service centres donated $2 for every pair of wipers sold, raising $4,500. Trico, the supplier of the wipers, agreed to match the donation, doubling it to $9,000.

“At the Canadian Cancer Society, we truly believe that women diagnosed with breast cancer should have a long and fulfilled life,” said Travis Paskaruk, account executive for corporate partnerships for the Canadian Cancer Society. “We work tirelessly to ensure that women with cancer and their loved ones have access to quality services and ongoing support, and it is the contribution of generous donors that supports our research efforts. Our Drive Pink partnership with Apple Auto Glass, Broco Glass and Speedy Glass is a good example of this essential contribution: it will help local women and their families facing breast cancer live their lives more fully and see life beyond their diagnoses.”

Participating local service centres in Victoria included Speedy Glass locations on Government Street and Island Highway and the Broco Glass station on Douglas Street.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian women, with about one in eight women developing this form of cancer in their lifetime. One in 31 will die from it. For more information, go to