Battered Cowichan Station Hub gets double dose of sunshine

Safeway's cleanup crew member Sylvia Benjamin sweeps the stairs at Wednesday's cleanup.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

Cowichan Station Area Association’s vision for a community hub became clearer this week.

An August assault just days before the volunteer community group was set to move into old Cowichan Station School left the school a disaster area gutted of any copper or brass proved to be a huge thorn in efforts to get the facility ready for community use.

But since that mid-August setback, things have dramatically improved.

CSAA’s members are ecstatic about a Canadian Heritage federal grant for $265,000.

Equally pleasing was the volunteer group of employees from Duncan’s Safeway who pitched in Wednesday to tidy up the copper thief’s mess.

“We just saw the article in the paper about what had happened and saw how devastating it was and wanted to help,” volunteer leader Sarah George said, noting this is the group’s second volunteer effort. Members have already spent time volunteering at the Easter Seals camp.

Eight Safeway employees arrived Wednesday, carrying brooms and mops. After a quick briefing, they dove into the dirty work, sweeping up glass, dust and cobwebs, as well as wiping windowsills and washing glass.

CSAA’s Alison Nicholson offered a huge thank you to the group.

“It’s just really great that they’ve come together and come to help us here,” she said.

Meanwhile, the association is busy fundraising to take advantage of the federal grant, which will be used for more improvements and is contingent on matching local funding.

“I’m thrilled, but not really surprised,” said CSAA’s Rick Juliusson, a professional grant writer with FreeRange Consulting, who volunteered his services. “It’s a great project with strong community support, from the CVRD, partner agencies, a vibrant board, and people from all over the valley who are excited about what we’re building here. How could they say no?”

Nicholson wasn’t sure how long the association had to match the grant but reminds folks every dollar, building supply or hour of volunteer time donated doubles their contribution.

The CSAA’s Madelaine MacLeod figured they’ve raised about $50,000 so far.

Meanwhile, the group is also getting ready for a community open house Sunday, Oct. 30 from 2 to 4 p.m. Where they’re hoping to drum up more support from locals.

Their proposal designer and association directors will be available to provide updates, share stories from the village’s past and create some Halloween fun.

Eventually, organizers hope the Hub will house a commercial kitchen, cafe, market place, office spaces, multi-purpose rooms for classes, meetings, banquets and workshops, a gym and theatre for youth recreation, culture, theatre and an emergency shelter.

The property’s annex would also be leased to help support the maintenance and operations. The south field would remain available for sports and recreation under the care of the CVRD. The north field would serve as a community garden and greenhouse.

Outdoor space might eventually include a children’s playground, walking path, a courtyard and garden with seating and a wetland garden, which would use grey water from the buildings.

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