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Volunteers aim to give Victoria Mustard Seed food bank a $300,000 extreme makeover

The Mustard Seed may soon get a $300,000 facelift, thanks to the leadership of one Oak Bay waiter.

The Mustard Seed may soon get a $300,000 facelift, thanks to the leadership of one Oak Bay waiter.

Paul Latour, who works four days a week at the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant, is gathering hundreds of volunteers and donors to give the Mustard Seed food bank and drop-in centre an extreme makeover.

“The people who go to the Mustard Seed are in a hard place in their lives and they look around right now and see ugly,” said Latour. “I think environment makes a difference. … When they come in [after the renovation] they’ll know it was community that came together to make that happen.”

Renovations are planned for May 24 to June 2. A documentary of the project, called Hero Work, airs on CHEK-TV June 18 at 9 p.m.

This will be Latour’s third and largest extreme makeover.

Inspired by the Extreme Makeover television show in 2008, he offered to lead an “extreme garden makeover” for a friend who has multiple sclerosis. “It was so overgrown that she could only take her walker in one little line through the yard.” Never one to think small, Latour got 27 businesses, 75 volunteers and a film crew onboard. The group completed a makeover valued at $25,000, spending only $380 in direct costs.

The next year, Latour directed a renovation for the Casa Maria Emergency Housing Society, which provides housing to families in crisis. Under the name Hero Search, Latour and his team completed $100,000 worth of renovations on a $500 budget, working on a two-unit Balmoral Road home that had housed more than 200 families over 20 years.

Since then, he has focused on helping non-profits and renamed the community-makeover program Hero Work.

“As I started to understand what the program was about, the idea of searching for a hero wasn’t it,” he said. “It was the idea of making a difference.”

Before committing to the Mustard Seed, he spent six weeks volunteering there.

Hero Work will focus renovations on the 5,000 square feet dedicated to the sanctuary, lobby, food-bank service area, staff rooms, and volunteer and youth area.

Rudi Wallace, assistant director of the Mustard Seed food bank, described the current space as “used.”

“It’s definitely lived in,” he said. “We’ve been in the building since 1994. Seven thousand folks come through every month, and you know we’re a non-profit, so we do our best to provide a clean and safe environment. But we want to be able to provide a better one.”

Hero Works is providing an opportunity to do that. But the project still needs donations of labour and materials.

“We are seeking all sorts of help from contractors to suppliers to restaurants, to cover some hard costs that we can’t get around,” Latour said.

Denise Hamalainen, who works on multimillion-dollar design projects as owner of Polished Home Decor, has already donated about 100 hours as head designer of the Mustard Seed renovation. “It’s taken up a lot of my time, but I wanted to do this for the community,” she said.

She wants to make the Mustard Seed a comfortable environment. “If I were ever in that predicament, I would want to go to a space that brings a smile to my face.”

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