There are millions of ways the community is benefiting from the resourcefulness of a team working behind the scenes at the Trail Skills Centre.
Announced Thursday (Feb. 9) by the federal government was a $2.3 million investment for the Skills Centre Eco-Renovation Project.
This may be the first most readers have heard of this ambitious forwarding-thinking revamp. The green remodel will include features such as roof top solar panels and many other state-of-the-art amenities.
And this may be the first time locals will learn that the Skill Centre invested a pile of their own green last fall — $1.3 million — to buy the riverfront-facing property (listed as two buildings on BC Assessment) located at 1060 Eldorado St. in downtown Trail.
This is where the federal funds will be invested.
The structure, stretching almost half the block, is slated to become modern and welcoming space for community-based resources and services.
“The building will also house other organizations who will be delivering some or all of their programs in the building,” Morag Carter, Skills Centre executive director, told the Trail Times. “The idea is that the building will become a space where community members can access multiple programs and supports from a range of organizations.”
One of the new amenities Carter and her staff of 12 are anticipating to see — and put to appetizing use — is a new community kitchen.
For the past several years the Skills Centre has provided the opportunity for people living with a low income to join their community kitchen, run from the kitchen in Trail United Church, and learn about healthy food preparation on a budget, plus prepare enough food for participants to take home for their families.
Carter says the United Church has been very kind in allowing them to rent one of their kitchens, but having their own is a dream come true.
“Having one in the new building will allow us to build a more comprehensive set of programs to improve community food security and community inclusion,” she said. “The kitchen will obviously be available to our partner organizations as well, so we’re expecting it to be in pretty regular use.”
Besides the kitchen, Carter pointed to other key inclusive features that will greatly benefit Skills Centre patrons, staff and partners.
“Some of the more important features that we’re incorporating into the building are an elevator, from the basement to the roof, extra wide hallways and walkways, hand rails, and braille signage which will improve access for people with disabilities, the elderly and people with young children.”
There are a number of environmental upgrades as well.
“First we’re removing the asbestos, lead, mercury and PCBs that are in the building,” Carter explained. “Then we’re removing the gas and replacing it with electric heat pumps and electric boilers, upgrading doors and windows, improving the insulation and adding a 50kW solar array on the roof.”
She says energy upgrades will bring down fuel costs by 50+ per cent, and reduce green house gas emissions.
“That’s both buildings, even though we’re only renovating one of the buildings in this phase,” she clarified.
Carter said the tender went out last week, with the expectation to award it on March 24. The goal is for the job to break ground in April, with renovations complete in less than a year.
Until moving day, the Skills Centre will continue operations from the FortisBC building, located at 1290 Esplanade Ave.
After 20 years of running the WorkBC Employment Program for Trail, the Skills Centre was thrown a wrench in 2019 when this primary source of funding was given over to another nonprofit.
Under the leadership of a board of directors and Carter, the team dug their heels in even further and upped the nonprofit’s visibility as a key community-based resource offering services dealing with social challenges and real-life barriers such as poverty and trauma, while continuing to offer skills training and employment programs for youth, mature workers, and more. Most recently, for example, the Skills Centre piloted a program to train women ages 19-29 as medical lab assistants in six Kootenay and Boundary communities.
“We also believe in skills development throughout our careers,” the centre states. “So we’re constantly learning and passing these new skills on to our clients.”
This new building will serve as a healthy home base for the Skills Centre, the community, and community partners, to continue offering valued services and programs well into the future.
“The Skills Centre has developed a vision that will result in the greenest building in Trail and one of the most inclusive and accessible,” Mary Lawson, Skill Centre board chair, said in the federal announcement.
“The Skills Centre is achieving a dream it’s had for many years, and the community is going to be the benefactor.”