Victoria Mustard Seed food bank begins extreme makeover

Plumbers, electricians and renovation experts wielding all manner of smashing tools raced into the Mustard Seed food bank Friday on a one-week extreme makeover mission.

“We are ready to tear it up,” said Dave Meade, owner of KLAD Custom Building.

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Just moments after staff were ushered out of the Queens Avenue building, tradespeople ran in. Within hours, they had ripped structures from the walls, stripped bathrooms to the studs and trucked away food and clothing.

“This is the most ambitious, caring, inspired and amazing event ever,” said organizer Paul Latour, a waiter at the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant.

Inspired by the Extreme Makeover television show, Latour started his own community version — dubbed Hero Work — in 2008, when he co-ordinated a garden makeover for a friend with multiple sclerosis. Next, he led the renovation of Casa Maria Emergency Housing Society.

For his third project — at $500,000, the most expensive and challenging to date — Latour has gathered about 80 businesses, 200 tradespeople and 200 laypersons.

Over the next week, they will give their time and expertise to overhaul the 5,000-square-foot food bank and drop-in centre, which sees 7,000 clients each month.

Mustard Seed executive director Chris Riddell said he was overwhelmed.

“It’s more than we could have ever expected or thought possible,” said Riddell, a Baptist pastor.

The project hits close to home for some participants.

Lew Williams, of Houle Electric, knows that it takes just one accident or misfortune to hurl someone onto the streets.

He was nine years old when his father died, leaving behind seven children and a widow, and his family relied on a food bank for a few years. Now, he said, giving is a matter of instinct.

Jason Lehman, of Sherwin-Williams paint stores, said the renovation “deserves to be top-notch.”

That’s why design manager Denise Hamalainen, owner of Polished Home Decor, is using quartz and granite and high-end lighting and fixtures. “I want them to feel their self worth and respect when they walk in,” she said.

Suppliers donated their best to the designer of§ multimillion-dollar homes.

“Everything is brand-new and sparking and 2013 because they deserve it, like everyone else,” she said.

Project manager Kent McFadyen, who is a volunteer, said he stopped his search for a full-time job when he started working with Latour in February. “This is a very touching place to be.”

Latour is still looking for two tilers, three commercial linoleum installers and five upholsterers, as well as $3,000 in donations.

The finished project will be revealed on June 2. Food drives are now taking place so that the shelves will be stocked when the food bank re-opens June 3.

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