Nanaimo’s First Unitarian shelter gets new ceiling tiles with help from Rod Jansonius

Store lends helping hands to Nanaimo shelter

Nanaimo's Home Depot put $2,000 towards a renovation at the First Unitarian winter weather shelter.

First Unitarian shelter coordinator Kevan Griffith stood outside, ceiling dust covering his face and shoulders, as Team Depot volunteers hauled out old ceiling tile.

“It makes corporations human – things like this,” he said. “It makes me realize, yeah, companies are about making profit, but they are also about making community.”

Home Depot’s Team Depot, which contributes money and manpower toward projects for not-for-profit, charitable organizations, put $2,000 towards supplies for shelter renovations and had its volunteers do the work Friday.

It was one of five projects undertaken by Nanaimo’s Team Depot every year. The majority of money went toward replacing ceiling tiles which had become cracked, broken and marked since the shelter’s days as a fraternal club’s lounge.

Rod Jansonius, assistant manager at  Nanaimo Home Depot and Team Depot captain, said it’s giving back to the community.

“Everyone that’s here today is on their day off, so we’re volunteering,” he said. “It’s really giving back and saying thank you for being part of the community.”

Marla Thorburn, who became the shelter’s executive director in August, said funding models are changing and the shelter is at a point where it needs to look at other sources of funding. She hopes the shelter can connect with companies like Home Depot, who’ll help financially and be part of what the shelter does.

“It’s a fairly minor renovation, but its something we don’t have the manpower to tackle on our own,” she said, adding she was very pleased to hear the news about Home Depot’s contribution.

The shelter gets money from all levels of government, but has seen changes to dollars in recent years. B.C. Housing continues to provide money for the shelter to operate in extreme weather, but federal money has been cut 20 per cent for the last two years in a row, according to Thorburn. The shelter has also received money from the city, including $45,000 last year, but Thorburn said they have been told to look for alternative sources of funding.

The First Unitarian shelter opens Nov. 1 for five months with 24 low-barrier beds.

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