Blair Spencer shows off the community tool shed at a subsidised housing complex built by himself and the six-person Leadership Victoria team.

Blair Spencer shows off the community tool shed at a subsidised housing complex built by himself and the six-person Leadership Victoria team.

Leadership Victoria volunteers build community tool shed

For a tool shed built by a gang of white-collar workers, it looks unexpectedly sturdy and cleanly designed.

For a tool shed built by a gang of white-collar workers, it looks unexpectedly sturdy and cleanly designed.

It’s walls are lined with all manner of tools – pliers, screwdrivers, pliers, grips, extension cords, levels, rakes, shovels and hoses, and even has earthquake kits. It a handyman’s dream and a first shot at making a community tool shed within a Capital Region Housing Corporation townhouse complex.

The community tool shed was conceived and built by a six-person team within a Leadership Victoria 2012 class, modelled on a similar tool sharing project out of Portland, Ore.

In partnership with CRHC, the LifeCycles non-profit group was starting a community garden at the Cloverdale Avenue site, so a community tool shed seemed a perfect fit for 26 families in the complex and 26 seniors in an adjacent building.

Over the course of the project from September to May, the Leadership Victoria team fundraised money, had the tools donated, and even had time and expertise donated from a contractor and building designer. The six, who are mainly managers and professionals, also put in sweat and labour.

“There were a lot of weird snags,” said Blair Spencer, a provincial probation officer and who speaks for the team. “There is kind of an underground stream here. You dig holes and they fill with water. There was a lot of trial by error.

“It was an ongoing joke about six white-collar workers choosing a gritty construction project,” he added. “It definitely took us out of our comfort zone, but part of the program was meant to push our comfort zones.”

Residents at the complex supported the project and were keen to have gardening tools available, but the uptake on borrowing has been slow. Dawn Kennedy, a resident and one of the four people who volunteered to oversee tool checkout, expects when and if warmer weather arrives, people will start doing more home and garden projects.

“It’s really good for the people around here who don’t have a lot of stuff.  I don’t carry a lot of tools in my house ,” Kennedy said. “It helps fosters a sense of community. And my kids love digging in the gardens, digging for the worms.”

Amy Jaarsma, a senior manager with CRHC, said community tool sheds is something they’d like to see at other housing sites.

“This is the first tool shed for our properties,” Jaarsma said. ”We might try it again once we get a feel for it. It would be great to try out in a different location.

“We need to have a site that is big enough that people will use it. It’s got to be something driven by tenants. It’s got to be something they want to do.”

Other Leadership Victoria teams also completed community projects, including healthy cooking classes with youth connected to Big Brothers Big Sisters; a Stigma Stomp Day with Bipolar Disorder Society of B.C. at Centennial Square on May 14; a program to teach youth the sources of food, how to purchase healthy food from grocery stores and how to prepare it, in collaboration with local chefs.