Victoria Cool Aid Society | News & Info Archives - Victoria Cool Aid Society

Winter Craft Fair for Emerging Artists

Victoria — Cool Aid, in collaboration with Our Place and the First Metropolitan Church, invites you to the Winter Craft Fair for Emerging Artists, this Saturday, November 17th, from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm, at the First Metropolitan Church Hall, located at 932 Balmoral Road.

The Winter Craft Fair is designed to highlight the talents of both low-income and emerging artists, many of whom have never had the chance to sell their creations to the public before. Every artist in attendance is below the low-income cut off or faces substantial barriers to participation in society, and many have often never participated in a craft fair before or even shown their work publicly!

This unique Craft Fair started last year with 30ish vendors and a few hundred guests – this year we have over 45 vendors, many from Cool Aid buildings, and are hoping to match the increase in vendors with an increase in guests.

This year there is also a “music corner” for some amateur performers to add texture to the Craft Fair.

Admission is free, the event will be cash only, and refreshments and a raffle are available by donation.

For more information find us on Facebook: “Winter Craft Fair for Emerging Artists” (, email or call 250-595-8619.

Volunteer Physiotherapist Joins Health Team

“I had just come back from a physiotherapy conference where the main speaker spoke about the opioid crisis and how physios should be at the forefront of this fight. It felt like it was so important… that there was a practice like physiotherapy to treat pain and try to help these patients in a way that didn’t require drugs,” says Beth Bates.

But in the current system, access to physiotherapy is, “typically more for people that have jobs and extended health benefits and have a higher income to help pay for those things,” says Beth, who owns a private practice (Lab Health in Vic West) with six practitioners.

So when she returned from the physiotherapy conference she began to research where she could work in cooperation with other healthcare professionals to help people on low incomes. Her search led her to Cool Aid’s Access Health Centre on Johnson Street where she met with program director Grey Showler.

Beth didn’t need to convince Grey of the value a volunteer physiotherapist could add value to the large caseload of the Health Centre and its 50 medical professionals. “But who will volunteer their valuable time?” he asked.

“That’s why I’m here,” she explained. “My profession is altruistic and I believe everyone should do volunteer community service.”

Beth has now been volunteering twice a month for a year and a half. “Everybody has been very welcoming and pleasant, easy to interact with, and super accommodating and flexible. The medical staff are definitely open to helping you understand the different needs and demands of this population.”

“The doctors here also value my opinion and expertise, which I so appreciate, and they will do things like a ‘corridor consultation’ with me. So we’ll stand in the hallway and talk about something, or interact with a patient on the way out. I will assess the patient with a doctor and we’ll come up with a good plan of how they can sleep well at night, even if they are sleeping in a tent.”

“Because I have a full half hour with each patient, they feel so heard by getting to tell their story… and after that experience, they want to hug me… There are also patients that I have treated that are coming off pain medications because they don’t need them any longer.”

“When you don’t have secure housing, and you don’t have a secure food source, and you are potentially self-medicating… and you find the time to do something that I’ve said, that’s huge. I made an impact for someone.”

“I also helped Grey write a grant last summer to apply for public funding for a physiotherapy position… and we got that funding! So hopefully we will soon have a physio here one day a week,” she concludes.

“We are so lucky and thankful to have Beth volunteering,” says Grey. “I hope she stays forever!”

It’s Never Too Late To Change

“The most amazing thing is that I have lived until now,” says Stephen, 69 years old. “Just to have survived is really a miracle… and I have a real sense of gratitude that I am still alive.”

Born in Victoria in 1950, Stephen has lived here most of his life. In fact, he walks by the house he was born in several times a month and had a friend who worked at the original Cool Aid Streetlink shelter nearly 50 years ago.

Stephen’s life changed dramatically on his 19th birthday. A friend offered him a “hit” of drugs, which he tried. He immediately became addicted. “I started narcotics at a really young age and they have been with me my whole life,” he explains matter of factly.

When his son Mark was just eight years old, in 1990, Stephen asked his own mother to look after him, fearful not only that he was killing himself with drugs, but that he would be unable to care for his son. As Stephen points out, “the whole family is addicted because they are living with a drug addict. It’s just that they don’t get the drugs.”

Today, his recovery is strongly motivated by his son and two grandchildren whom he loves dearly. “That’s a big part of it,” says Stephen, “sticking around for my son and my grandkids. And I’m able to do that now,” he says with a smile on his face (and tears on ours). They talk over the phone now every week.

As a result of addiction, Stephen has been homeless off and on over the years, and has had several stays at Cool Aid emergency shelters. “I became homeless earlier this year, and then I became sick and was in the hospital for a really long time.” During this time in Stephen’s life, “most of my thoughts were occupied with suicide… fortunately, I didn’t want to hurt my family.”

Stephen moved from the Rock Bay shelter to Cool Aid’s Mount Edwards Court (affordable seniors homes) in August 2018 and is now in addiction recovery. “When I came here I wasn’t very happy about anything. But in a very short period of time it has allowed me a place to fight for my life. And it is a fight.”

Stephen is thankful to now have a lot of support around him. “Cool Aid starts to open doors; it starts to open hearts to people.”

“A place like Mount Edwards, for me, is one of the main building blocks of recovery. Having a place of safety and security are two major foundations that you need to have before you can do anything.”

“You need to get some people behind you. Start to utilize some of the services downtown where people are willing to help you.”

Friends he has known most of his life are also part of his recovery team. They meet every day for coffee at Tim Hortons.

“For me, all the people I want in my life are right here in Victoria.”

“I would like to stay at Mount Edwards for quite a while,” he says. “I’ve got a ten-year plan that I’d like to follow. My health is the most important thing. So I’m going to eat well.”

He encourages the rest of us to, “come on down and meet the people that work at Cool Aid and see what is going on. You’d be amazed how much good they do.”

It’s never too late to change and start a new life. Let Stephen be our inspiration.

Every Toonie Counts!

Paula Ferris is a single mother, Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers recipient and Cool Aid Wonder Woman. In just the past month, Paula’s “Toonie Group” has rounded up a stove, hygiene products, turkeys, clothes and, of course, toonies.

Paula Ferris and the Toonie Group  have been helping support the women of Sandy Merriman House and the tenants of Next Steps transitional shelter for the past 10 years. The donations they raise fund arts programs, community lunches, family visits, bus tickets and much more.

They’ve also been able to prevent homelessness by providing emergency funds to help pay rent or electricity during a personal financial crisis.

Paula started the Toonie Group a decade ago by collecting toonies from, friends, family and colleagues every month. Altogether, the Toonie Group has raised an astounding $20,000!

“A toonie a month is all I asked for from each person. It seemed more likely that everyone could afford this and, if I collected the toonies and dropped them off monthly, I felt the consistency might help to make an impact.”

What inspired Paula to create the Toonie Group? It started with her family.

When she’s not busy helping Cool Aid, Paula plays a key role in the family businesses: Ferris Oyster Bar & Grill and Perro Negro restaurant. Her generous parents, Tom and Sandy Ferris, have donated turkeys and ham at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter for a decade.

Paula is calm and focused and yet a bundle of energy for all things Cool Aid. She is patient yet refuses to let obstacles get in her way.

Paula inspires us. But what inspires her?

“The very first time I dropped by I was so impressed with Sandy Merriman House,” she explained.  “It is a warm, welcoming place for women who are homeless, that is well organized and structured. The staff are incredibly caring, compassionate, firmly loving and professional,” Ferris told us, “and I wanted to help them do more.”

Paula teaches all of us that even the little things can add up to make a huge difference in the lives of people in our community who are disadvantaged.

She is the embodiment of the principle that together we can accomplish much, much more.

Sandy Merriman House and Next Step shelters, along with other Cool Aid programs, help people who are homeless stabilize, improve their health and find a home. These small programs are often their first step towards recovery, home and community participation.

Join Paula’s Facebook group to learn more about the Toonie Group and how you can get involved – or make a donation to Sandy Merriman House and let us know Paula inspired you! It’s amazing how those toonies add up to so much love and practical help.

Kendra Wong/Victoria News

Burnside Gorge Community BBQ Sept 22

Let’s Do Lunch!

Let’s do Lunch invites you and your group of friends, family or colleagues to volunteer and serve a nutritious meal to Cool Aid clients during the lunch hour. The meal service will take place at the former Tally Ho dining room at 3020 Douglas and will serve lunch for up to 50 clients.

For people living in poverty, simply knowing where their next meal is coming from can be a huge relief. While Cool Aid is proud to be able to provide our clients with a light breakfast and supper, we are not funded to provide lunch. Unfortunately this means many of our residents go hungry until evening as they are unable to afford the cost of groceries and food bank availability is limited.

That’s why Cool Aid is launching Let’s do Lunch, a new pilot program to create opportunities for members of the community to connect with our clients and provide a much-needed mid-day meal.

The Program

The meal will be prepared by the Cool Aid kitchen and your group of 4 or 5 people will arrive at the Tally Ho shortly before noon to plate and provide table service.

The cost is $200. This covers lunch for 50 people.

Lunch is served from 12:00-12:45. It is recommended you arrive 15 minutes early.

Please wear comfortable footwear. You will be provided with clean aprons.

Location is 3020 Douglas (former Tally Ho). Parking is free.

To book your lunch please contact Lori Angelini at 250-414-4799 or


Love-In Revival: Sunday, July 22

Join us at Centennial Square (Spirit Square) on Sunday, July 22, from 12-4 pm for live music, food trucks, face painting, arts and more! Free.

Benefit: Victoria Dance Instructors Helping to Undefine Beauty

The Secret Language: Charity Partner Dancing Workshop and Social raising funds and awareness for inclusive-focused programs in Victoria through Salsa, Ballroom, Westcoast Swing, Blues, and Country dance styles

Thank you to the fabulous crew of volunteers who made this possible, and in the process raised over $600 for Sandy Merriman House emergency shelter for women!

News Release – July 13, 2018 – Victoria, BC – Instructors from Victoria’s leading dance studios have planned an evening social to raise funds for the Sandy Merriman House emergency shelter for homeless and at-risk women. The event, coordinated by Nimmi Augustine, Victoria’s representative in this year’s Miss Universe Canada pageant, is intended to dispel many of the mistruths and assumptions about traditional beauty, while providing much-needed support for the Victoria Cool Aid Society shelter.

This is the first time the dance instructors from studios across Victoria have come together on a shared cause, bringing a variety of dancing styles and genres for participants to see, learn, and practice. Guests will be able to observe and learn the dancing styles of Tatiana Hassan, Victor Golubkov, Meaghan Efford, Jay Holman, Dean Stroeder, Rick Clark, and other local professionals.

“My mission is to undefine the word beauty and empower people to embrace their unique identity,” shared Ms. Augustine. “True empowerment comes from standing behind others rather than in front of them, and this is what I hope to accomplish through my journey to the stage and beyond.”

“Sandy Merriman House was conceived and initiated in 1994 as part of a life-skills project by the Greater Victoria Women’s Shelter Society,” said Kathy Stinson, Victoria Cool Aid Society’s CEO. “Sandy Merriman House has an inclusive definition of ‘woman’ and ‘female’ – we welcome CIS, trans-women, gender-fluid, and non-binary people. We are excited to support Nimmi at this event and look forward to her efforts to change perceptions around the way we label ourselves and others.”

The evening event will run from 6:30pm – 9:30pm on Friday, July 27 at Cool Aid’s Downtown Community Centre, located at 755 Pandora Ave. Tickets are available at the door through a ‘Sliding Scale’ donation. Bring a dance partner or come alone – just be ready to dance and have a great time.

About Nimmi Augustine:

Nimmi Augustine was raised in Toronto as a first-generation Canadian. Her love for diversity fostered an appreciation for global food, art, and travel. She enrolled as a Marine Systems Engineering Officer in the Canadian Armed forces and graduated First-Class in Electrical Engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Today, she’s a health and fitness advocate, fitness competitor, and dancer pursuing a Masters of Global Affairs to build her knowledge and awareness of international security and development.

About Victoria Cool Aid Society:

Homelessness and poverty are issues that touch many of us and impact more lives than you may realize. As the largest provider of services for people experiencing and at risk  of homelessness in Greater Victoria, the Victoria Cool Aid Society is a key player in the work to end homelessness.  Cool Aid advocates for and provides emergency shelter, supportive housing, integrated healthcare and other support services to the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals in the Capital Regional District. Each year, Cool Aid serves over 12,000 adults and seniors facing multiple challenges of poverty, unemployment, mental health and substance use, chronic health issues, brain injury and aging.

Media contact:

Nimmi Augustine,, 613-483-3621

Kathy Stinson, CEO,, 250-383-1977


Sisters of St. Ann Donate $450,000 To Affordable Housing

Victoria – On the day that marks their 160th Anniversary of service in Victoria, the Sisters of St. Ann and Cool Aid (whose 50th Anniversary is on June 10), are pleased to make a significant partnership announcement about the proposed redevelopment of 210 Gorge Road East (Cedar Grove).

“During the last 50 years, the Sisters of St. Ann have worked with Cool Aid on many social services and initiatives for the most marginalized members of our community,” said Sister Joyce Harris, Province Co-Leader. “Today, we are announcing the expansion of our work together, with a major gift to help build more affordable and supportive housing in Victoria.”

“The incredible generosity of the Sisters of St. Ann will invigorate our whole organization and inspire others,” said Cool Aid CEO Kathy Stinson. “In the midst of this housing crisis, we all need to work together to ensure that everyone is safely housed and supported in homes they can afford.”

The transformative $450,000 contribution has helped leverage government funds towards the redevelopment project, which will allow for the housing of an additional 71 people on the underutilized site, with the addition of 50 units of affordable housing and 11 more units of supportive housing. The proposal goes to Victoria Council in the fall for a rezoning hearing.

All tenants will be offered alternative housing options during the redevelopment and all will be offered a new apartment in the new building, at the same low rent, after construction is complete. Tenants at the new 210 Gorge Road East will be a mix of people with low incomes such as seniors, students, single-parent families and minimum wage workers, along with others who have been homeless.

This gift is the largest ever received in Cool Aid’s 50-year history, which began on June 10, 1968.

Additional funding for the redevelopment of Cedar Grove includes a $5 million capital investment from the Regional Housing First Program, a partnership between the Province, the Capital Regional District (CRD) and CMHC; and a Regional Housing Trust Fund grant of $600,000 grant. Island Health is also a partner in the program by committing to providing health supports to tenants, where required.

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Sister Joyce Harris, Province Co-Leader, Sisters of St. Ann, 250-592-3088,

Kathy Stinson, CEO, 250-414-4792,

The Sisters of Saint Ann have served in the Pacific Northwest for 160 years, providing quality education and health care, regardless of ability to pay. Founded to educate children in rural areas, especially those excluded from education and whose parents suffered from exploitation, The Sisters of Saint Ann chose to educate children so that they could become agents of their own lives as adults and challenge the oppressive forces affecting their lives. They believed that each person has the dignity of a child of God and deserves to have the opportunity to develop to her/his full potential. These same motivations impel the Sisters of Saint Ann today to provide resources to help individuals to attain the fullness of life and foster communities that support the dignity of all persons. They are especially concerned for women, children and youth and those who experience economic and social exclusion.

Homelessness and poverty are issues that touch many of us and impact more lives than you may realize. As the largest provider of services to the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness in Greater Victoria, the Victoria Cool Aid Society is a key player in the work to end homelessness. Cool Aid advocates for and provides emergency shelter, supportive housing, integrated healthcare and other support services to the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals in the Capital Regional District. Each year, Cool Aid serves over 12,000 adults and seniors facing multiple challenges of poverty, unemployment, mental health and substance use, chronic health issues, brain injury and aging. Cool Aid was founded on June 10, 1968 and is celebrating 50 years of community service in 2018.

Cool Aid Celebrates 50 Years of Community Service

On June 10, 1968,  Cool Aid began with the installation of a youth hotline to help transient youth in need. Later that year, the Cool Aid Hostel opened its doors.

Our mission was to provide short-term, emergency shelter to transient youth travelling the country. Quickly realizing the increasing local need for further shelter and health services, we established the “Cool Aid Free Medical Clinic” in 1970. In 1972, we launched our first dental clinic. By 1976, the Victoria Cool Aid Society was formally established.

In 2018, Cool Aid is celebrating 50 years of community service with a number of very special projects described below.

Love In

The first official Canadian “Love In” was held right here in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park back in 1967. The founders of Cool Aid Society were an integral part of this celebration, bringing together people of all ages and social stature to share music and compassion for others. As Cool Aid celebrates its 50th Anniversary in Victoria, we would like to once again create a place where all people can gather and celebrate our shared humanity. Join us on Sunday, July 22nd, from 12 to 4 pm, in Centennial Square for this family-friendly event. An afternoon of music, food, art, face painting and of course peace, love and flower power!

Homecoming Presented by Knappett Projects logo

Homecoming 50th Anniversary Gala

Saturday, May 26 was a special night of celebrating Cool Aid’s 50th Anniversary and the community’s generosity, raising over $140,000 for Cool Aid programs, featuring comfort foods with a twist and fine local beverages, live music, an auction and a chance to double donations thanks to the generosity of Andrew Beckerman and Waste Connections.

Stay tuned for details on Homecoming 2019.

Indigenous Carving

Cool Aid acknowledges and is honoured to build homes, lives and community within the traditional territories of the TEECHA

MITSA and SWENGWHUNG (Songhees) and KOSAMPSON (Esquimalt) Nations of the LEKWUNGEN and WSÁNEĆ Peoples. This 50th Anniversary year we honour our connection to Indigenous peoples. Master Carver Carey Newman who was the creator of “Dancing Wind”, featured at the 2010 Olympic Games, will mentor Cool Aid Indigenous tenant carvers in creating a public art installation. This public art installation will be created in order to showcase the artistic abilities of the First Nations population in Victoria and to thank the community for 50 years of support. The ten-foot totem carving will be placed in a highly visible public site to be viewed by locals and visitors alike and become a point of interest in the Victoria cultural landscape.

Cool Aid thanks the British Columbia Arts Council, the Government of British Columbia and master carver Carey Newman for their generous support of this project.

Outdoor Mural

In early August, a professional mural artist will paint a 40’ X 25’ mural on the side of Swift House, Cool Aid and the Province’s first supportive housing building (1991), in the downtown core, which faces the new Pandora Street bridge. The mural will be a celebration of hope and the journey toward peace for all people. As a way to give back to the community 50 years of support, this public art piece is for everyone; a form of collective community expression. As we celebrate Cool Aid’s 50th anniversary in Victoria our hope is that this mural will be a lasting testament to the importance of wrapping our arms around the most vulnerable to create a safe, welcoming environment for all.


Open Houses

On June 1st from 1:30 to 6 pm, Cool Aid Society welcomed the public to open houses at four of our 18 properties. We showcased these special programs that are such an integral part of Victoria’s solution to house and support the most vulnerable people in our community: Sandy Merriman House for women, Mount Edwards Court’s seniors housing, the Downtown Community Centre and the Community Health Centre.


Play on 50s

Cool Aid has an interesting and deep 50-year history serving the Greater Victoria region. In honour of this history we developed a project to showcase the history of Cool Aid and its accomplishments through a collection of visuals including historic photographs and posters. This project is shaped to be of interest to a broad audience of varying ages and socio-economic backgrounds. From June 14 through August 20 the Downtown Community Centre at 755 Pandora Avenue will host an exhibition with 50 historical framed photos and Cool Aid client art. Stop by the Community Centre (755 Pandora Avenue) to enjoy some of Victoria’s most unique history and don’t forget to purchase some original art or an old, framed photo when you’re there.

Pride Parade

On Sunday, July 8th, Cool Aid Society will take part in the Victoria Pride Parade and celebrate not only our 50th Anniversary, but the inclusion and empowerment of all people. Say “hi” when we make our way past you walking along with our Cool van and 50 balloons. It’s going to be a fun, creative and inspiring day!

Those Cool Years At The Old Cool Aid Hostel

by Mark Idczak, Cool Aid resident

When the plans for the new shelter Rock Bay Landing were announced tears and cries of outrage were heard from some of the immediate neighbours.

When the old Cool Aid Hostel opened over 40 years ago in the quaint bohemian Fernwood neighbourhood there were similar fears. Back then the street population was comprised of a dozen older alcoholics and winos that had fallen from grace while sporting apparent gin blossoms on their face.  Some of them had fascinating lives and tales to tell.

There were other people that may have been hard to house. And surprisingly enough, travellers from all around the world stayed there, as the Cool Aid Hostel at the Belfry was the only functioning Hostel in Victoria until the Canadian Youth Hostel opened up in the 1980s on Lower Yates Street.

When I was in need of shelter, it was a positive experience staying there. Some of the out-of-towners referred to the Belfry Cool Aid Hostel as “The Villa.”

Victoria and the neighbourhood was home to many colourful Dickens-like characters and special memories. Most of the original staff have left to pursue careers elsewhere including some of those Cool Aid golden oldies I remember on staff like Tom and Shelia, Craig Butler, marvellous “Marni,” Flying Phil Ward, Lauri, Big Mike and Jim Beaubian.

As the wind blew and the fresh green grass grows, so came the wandering travellers, residents and hobos. If those walls could only talk in the present Belfrey Theatre you would hear the delightfully sarcastic Wilma Sempson, Old Joe and Shannon, Jeremey Leudon and that loveable Kiwi Lioness, Clair Ferrar with her mane of golden hair and her roaring warm laugh. Whether you were in the dorm or dining room, the wind would briskly blow the trees along the window panes. People’s needs sent the Hostel downtown and an expanding need to progress to its present location.

The green grass still grows near the old and present shelter and the wind blows as the Cool Aid Hostel and its residents needs continually grows.

Legacy Golf Tournament Raises Over $26,000

July 18, 2017 – This year’s Legacy Golf Tournament raised over $26,000 last Friday, thanks to our sponsors, auction donors, players and the hard work of the organizers from Hatch & Muir, Raymond James and Cool Aid. (The Legacy Golf Tournament brings together advisors in the financial industry with their clients and Cool Aid supporters for a fun day of golf and feasting at Bear Mountain.)

50% of the proceeds will help pay for new housing for people without homes and the other 50% will be invested in Cool Aid’s Endowment Fund to help pay for support services for our clients in perpetuity.

A huge thanks to Dave Fracy who organized the tournament and whose firm Hatch & Muir was the Presenting Sponsor, and a special shout out to tournament founder and sponsor Raymond James and Brad Clark.

Visit our Facebook photo gallery to see all the pictures.


A big thank you to all our generous sponsors:

Presenting Sponsor

Hatch & Muir

Platinum Sponsors

Raymond James
Dynamic Funds

Gold Sponsors

United Rentals
RBC Foundation

Hole Sponsors

BMO Asset Management
Ely & Associates – Raymond James
Field and Company
Homes & Buyers (Mark McDougall)
Mackenzie Investments
Natixis Global Asset Management
NEI Investments
Royal Oak Burial Park
Sentry Investments
TD Asset Management
Vertex One Asset Management
Invis (Hein Moes)

Sandy Merriman Open House & Garden Reveal

May 24, 2017 — Sandy Merriman House, Cool Aid’s emergency shelter for women, had an extensive interior renovation this last year and this week a transformation of the landscaping is being completed. The public is welcome to our Garden Reveal and Open House this Friday, May 26 from 1:30 to 4 pm, with the official garden opening by Mayor Lisa Helps at 2 pm. (Sandy Merriman House is located at 809 Burdette Avenue, across from the courthouse.)

“We feel very lucky to be able to provide our residents with the improved environment they so deserve,” said Sandy Merriman House Manager Christine O’Brien. “We are especially grateful that our beautiful new garden is a major gift from local businesses. We were first approached with the idea by Red Door Landscape Services and Heritage Masonry, who have led the landscaping team.”

“Red Door is pleased to have partnered with Sandy Merriman House to bring about a garden that will provide a calming sanctuary for its staff and clients,” said owner Logan Thomas. “In our eyes, the challenge to running a successful business is how to make an impact in the community on top of the services we deliver for our clients.”

“Every company has unique resources and we believe they should be put to use by actively leading volunteer initiatives,” said Gavin Chamberlain, owner of Heritage Masonry. “This project is the culmination of various individuals and businesses working together to produce a space that symbolizes elements of transition, peacefulness and shelter.”

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Christine O’Brien, 250-480-1408,

Logan Thomas, Red Door Landscape Services, 250-217-9920,

Gavin Chamberlain, Heritage Masonry, 250-812-4499,


Homelessness and poverty are issues that touch many of us and impact more lives than you may realize. As the largest provider of services to the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness in Greater Victoria, the Victoria Cool Aid Society is a key player in the work to end homelessness.  Cool Aid advocates for and provides emergency shelter, supportive housing, integrated healthcare, the Downtown Community Centre and other support services to the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals in the Capital Regional District. Each year, Cool Aid serves 10,000 adults and seniors facing multiple challenges of poverty, unemployment, mental health and substance use, chronic health issues, brain injury and aging.

Nance’s Salute to Sandy Merriman House

Walking into Sandy Merriman House, the day we were to interview Nance, we were instantly greeted with the sweet melody of a guitar and an unknown singer. Once led down the stairs into a quiet room, there was Nance though, with a guitar on her lap and a note on her tongue — we had found the source of that sweet melody!

Nance is a well-known singer in the online world. Having recorded multiple songs to the virtual world over the past several years, and written hundreds of songs as well, she is a lover of all things music. Ironically, Nance has never sung here in Victoria. We hope that you will take a listen to her song and share it with everyone too.

Besides her phenomenal singing voice, Nance has a warmth and kindness that reaches out from her the moment you meet. She is currently staying at Cool Aid’s women’s shelter, Sandy Merriman House, and has made connections not only with the staff, but with the people living there too.

“The staff here are so friendly—they are amazing and that is why I wrote the song. The word Merriman, Merriman kept tumbling through my head so I started writing. The song came together in less than ten minutes and it became a kind of salute to the staff. It is the least I could do to thank them and all they have done for me during this difficult time in my life.”

Nance and her partner found themselves unexpectedly evicted when some unforeseen medical complications left them with some large bills. They had a short time to collect their things, pack up, and found themselves on the street. However, through a friend of a friend, they were put in touch with Kim at Our Place Society. Kim knew instantly that the best place for them to be at was Sandy Merriman House. Quickly putting things into action, Nance and her partner gained shelter, resources and a community in a very short period of time.

“We are so grateful… we have a community here.”

To hear more from our interview with Nance, check it out her story  along with our other client stories. Plus, don’t forget to check out our social media feeds and share her song!

Cool Aid’s Winter Coat Giveaway at the Downtown Community Centre

mcgregor_instagramThe chill of winter can be felt by all of us in Victoria, and it is especially chilly for those struggling with homelessness. To help people stay warm the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Casual Labour Pool has been accepting donations of winter coats and other cold weather gear.

Items can be dropped off this week from 9 am to 3:30 pm at 465 Swift Street through Thursday, or at 755 Pandora on Friday.

This Friday, Cool Aid staff will start spreading that warmth by giving away over 300 winter coats and other warm gear in all sizes for men, women and children.

The giveaway is open to anyone in need of warm clothing, and will be held at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue, Friday, January 6, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Media are welcome.

Clothing and other kinds of donations of goods are needed throughout the year. Anyone wishing to make a donation after this week can visit or contact Cool Aid at 250-383-1977 to find out more.

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Wendy Stone, Casual Labour Pool

Urban Barn “Blanket the Country in Warmth” Campaign

Urban Barn Shares Winter Warmth

urban-barn-blanketUrban Barn customers have come through once again with their “Blanket the Country in Warmth” campaign.

Throughout the month of November, Urban Barn at Uptown Shopping Centre invited its customers to join them for the fifth consecutive year to blanket the city in warmth. For every $5.00 donation collected by the Canadian furniture and home accent retailer, a brand-new Urban Barn fleece blanket was donated to the Victoria Cool Aid (VCA) Society to provide warmth for those seeking comfort in one of their three emergency shelters.

“Our initial goal for the year was 364 and we ended up getting close to 500” said store manager Kristy Pellew. “We got really pumped up this year; we even set up a table outside. We love doing it. This time of year can be so chaotic; it’s nice to focus on something that can actually change someone’s life.”

The donated blankets have been a welcomed gift for those seeking refuge at the VCA Society’s Rock Bay Landing emergency shelter, which provides 84 shelter beds.

“I love that the community gives back and continues to give back year after year,” says Joann Connelly of Rock Bay Landing. “People love the blankets. They are red and Christmassy and provide so much warmth.”

Cool Aid provides the blankets to those that move out of the shelter as a parting gift or to those who remain outside and need extra warmth.

The initiative ran across all Urban Barn retail locations in Canada, providing a grand total of 15,000 blankets to the cause. Cash donations were also accepted and provided to the VCA Society.

To learn more about ‘Blanket the Country in Warmth’, please visit

In Victoria, Urban Barn is located at 3450 Uptown Boulevard. To find out more, visit

Learn about the Victoria Cool Aid Society at


Shoe Box Project provides hope to Victoria women in need

shoeboxFour years ago, Linda Ferguson went to Vancouver to visit her daughter and came back with a vision that would help change the lives of several Victoria-area women in need.

“My daughter told me about the how the Shoe Box Project was providing these wonderful boxes to women in Vancouver and I thought it was an easy way to give so I became a co-ordinator here,” says Linda.

Linda took the idea to her colleagues at the Westshore Women’s Business Network and The Victoria Shoe Box Project has been steadily growing each year, providing boxes of hope to women in shelters throughout the region.

“It resonated with me,” Linda explains. “Going to a shelter is a last resort for these women. They are feeling lost and ashamed. No matter what has happened in their life, they need to feel special. This gives them a leg up and often becomes a turning point.”

The boxes are certainly filled with those things a woman would find special – gloves, a scarf, an inspirational note, books, jewellery, lipstick, movie tickets and a hair salon gift certificate. With no funds for marketing and advertising, they rely strictly on word of mouth, and word has certainly spread.

“We have over 1,000 boxes this year from our drop off locations from Sooke to Sidney and they’re still being delivered,” says Linda proudly.

Linda doesn’t ever get to see the reactions of the recipients, but always receives letters of thanks from the shelter administrators. One of those individuals is Christine O’Brien of Sandy Merriman House, Cool Aid’s women’s shelter. Each person coming to their program is gifted with one of the boxes.

“The shoeboxes are a treasured gift,” says Christine. “It’s pretty awesome when they see that the boxes are full of such wonderful items and packed so beautifully. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement watching someone go through everything. It means a great deal to us to be able to give people a cheery Christmas, to have wrapping paper all over the house, people laughing and smiling.”

For more about the Victoria Shoe Box Project, visit their Facebook Page.
To learn about the Victoria Cool Aid Society and the programs they support, please visit

Carl Young Estate Creates Pets In Need Endowment & Much More

December 16, 2016 – Victoria – In March 2015, Carl Graham Young passed away in advance of his years in an car accident. Although he had never held a job in his life due to a disability, he was in possession of a life insurance policy and had inherited the family home. As well, he had a generous spirit. Victoria Cool Aid Society was the sole beneficiary of Carl’s entire estate, and from this unlikely donor, our biggest gift ever has been received. In total, about $388,000 in net proceeds are expected from the estate and life insurance gifts.

A news conference will be held today at Mount Edwards Court (1002 Vancouver Street) at 2 pm to explain how Carl Young’s estate and life insurance gifts will be used. Attending will be representatives of Cool Aid; a friend of the Young family; SAFARS, a local organization which provides pet food and other pet assistance to Cool Aid clients; and a dog named Electra who recently received a needed operation thanks to Carl Young’s generosity and love of animals.

  • The bulk of Carl Young’s estate and life insurance gifts, about $250,000, will be used to help develop additional pet-friendly housing for people who are currently homeless. This will help build a dozen apartments.
  • $50,000 has been used to establish the “Pets In Need (Carl Young) Endowment” at the Victoria Foundation and a Cool Aid operating fund for pets in need. Any member of the public may contribute to this endowment to help pets in need, in perpetuity.
  • $50,000 will help clients of REES Program, including the Every Step Counts running program and other services and support for people who are living with mental health and addiction challenges.
  • $38,000 will be invested in fund development to leverage additional donations for Cool Aid housing and other services.




The front page Times Colonist article about Carl Young from April 2015 appears below.


Alan Rycroft, Community Relations, 250-414-4781, (only until Friday @ 4:30 pm)

Kathy Stinson, CEO, 250-383-1977,

John Sherratt, Mount Edwards Court, 778-265-3456,
Lori Ritchie, family friend, 250-871-1150,
Margarita Dominguez, SAFARS, 778-352-2999,

Saanich man who died in crash donates home to Cool Aid

Katie DeRosa / Times Colonist

April 8, 2015 06:00 AM

A 60-year-old Saanich man who died in a single-vehicle crash last month has left his house to the Victoria Cool Aid Society, ensuring that, in death as in life, he will help the homeless.

Carl Graham Young was the passenger in a van that crashed into trees on Old West Saanich Road on March 21.

carl-young-rocking-chairYoung died at the scene and his dog, Turbo, was taken to a veterinary hospital and put down a few days later. Saanich police are investigating whether the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

Young lived all his life in his parents’ modest bungalow at 3937 Grange Rd. He never married and never had kids. His parents, Edward and Diane, and his brother, Andrew, have died, leaving Young with the property.

About 18 months ago, Young approached staff at Cool Aid and said he wanted to make the non-profit organization, which runs homeless shelters and low-income housing facilities, the sole beneficiary of his estate, said Alan Rycroft, the society’s spokesman.

“He was a simple man but obviously a very caring person. He asked that some of the proceeds in the estate also be used to help homeless pets,” Rycroft said.

“He loved his dog very much and he also wanted to make sure pets of the homeless are also looked after.”

In an obituary provided by a family friend to Rycroft, Young was described as an avid fan of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Blue Jays and car racing.

“Carl had an unusual memory for sports statistics and birth dates,” the obituary says.

“He could be found many times a day walking his dog Turbo in the Marigold area while socializing with his neighbours.”

The obituary says instead of a service, his friends will hold a barbecue to celebrate his life.

Donations in his name can be made to Cool Aid or the SPCA.

At the time of his death, Young was on a disability pension.

“Carl had a heart of gold and his door was always open to those who needed a safe haven … coffee or a meal,” his friend wrote.

There were two trailers sitting in the side yard of the home and Young would often let friends who were at risk of being homeless stay there, which at times caused problems with neighbours in the quiet residential area.

“He hung out with a group of people who could well be Cool Aid clients,” Rycroft said, adding that he spoke with one man who lived in the trailer.

“[Young] did help out people who he knew were in dire circumstances.”

No one is currently living on the property and Cool Aid staff have cleared out the house.

It is assessed at $392,100, according to B.C. Assessment records. There is a small mortgage outstanding, but Rycroft said after the probate process is completed and the property is sold, Cool Aid will likely receive a six-figure donation.

The property is not large enough to build a low-income residential facility, so the cash will go toward funding housing for the homeless and supporting their pets.

“Even though he didn’t have very much, he is going to make a difference,” Rycroft said. “One of the lessons Carl can teach us all is that we all have something to give.”

© Copyright Times Colonist


Fred Is Giving Back

Some of you may recognize Fred — he is the always smiling, cheerful Megaphone Magazine salesman and the “Hope From the Shadows” calendar salesman. You may also see him toting a camera with him at all times. Fred is quite the talented photographer, even receiving an honourable mention in the Hope For Shadows Calendar (check out his picture below!)

Fred Willingdon Honourable Mention Photo Fred embodies what Cool Aid is about—focusing on the future and where he is at today, not where he was in the past. With that in mind, when we sat down with Fred, he focused on something a bit different in front of the camera: He focused on the Cool Aid staff:

“When I first came to Cool Aid, the thing that stood out, and still does stand out-are the people! The staff here are wonderful.”

Fred went on to tell us a bit about his history, but was soon showing his photos off, explaining more about the Megaphone Magazine, and filling us in on the calendar. He also talked about Project Connect 2015, in which he was given the wonderful opportunity to sell the magazines and has been doing so ever since to assist with extra income.

Another favourite moment with Fred was the heartwarming story he told us  about a new staff member to Cool Aid’s Mike Gidora Place. We would encourage you to take a few moments to watch it by clicking here.

As Fred said it best right at the beginning of the video clip “Cool Aid is a great organization—they give hope.”

To watch more of our clients stories, visit our YouTube channel and stay tuned for more pictures and photos on our Facebook Page from Fred in the future! You can find links to all of Cool Aid’s social media channels on this web site.

Fred Willingdon photos

Fred Willingdon photos

Fred sells Megaphone magazine and Hope in Shadows calendars

Fred sells Megaphone magazine and Hope in Shadows calendars

What I Learned From Carl Young

carl-young-rocking-chairby Alan Rycroft

I met Carl Young just once. But he made a strong impression on me. When he and his dog Turbo died in a car accident a year later, on March 21, 2015, I was amazed at what this simple, caring man had accomplished.

Carl Young lived his whole life in the family home near Spectrum school. Due to a disability, he was unable to hold a job. He never had a girlfriend nor fathered any children. But he was a happy man.

Neighbours described Carl as a softspoken man with a heart of gold. He had a keen memory for names and numbers and always greeted everyone by name. If you shared your date of birth and phone number, Carl would call you every birthday to wish you well.

He was generous with his friends, some of whom were homeless. Even though he himself lived in poverty, he allowed many people to stay on his property. His home was a safe haven for those who needed a coffee, a meal, a Lucky or a warm and dry couch to sleep.

Most of all, Carl loved his dog Turbo. He is most remembered in his Saanich neighbourhood as the nice fellow who walked his dog several times daily. Or, as I was told, that Turbo, a large, strong dog, was fond of walking Carl!

When I met Carl he had no living family left. His brother had died several years ago, and Carl inherited the family home, after his parents both passed away.

Thankfully, at the suggestion of a friend, Carl Young found a lawyer and had a will and life insurance policy drawn up. He left the family home, his only asset, to Cool Aid, and named the society as the sole beneficiary of his life insurance.

Carl specified that he wanted to benefit homeless pets, as well as people like his friends. So this is what Cool Aid is doing:

  • Most of the funds from the property sale will contribute to building eight or more apartments for people, like his friends, who are homeless.
  • A sum of $50,000 will endow two Pets in Need Funds, one with the Victoria Foundation and one at Cool Aid, to provide food, medicines, and medical procedures, etc. for pets whose owners can’t afford these for their beloved companions.

I learned something deep in my heart from Carl Graham Edward Young that I had only known as an intellectual concept: Everyone can make a difference.

Rest in Peace, Carl Graham Edward Young. We have much to learn from you.

Saanich man who died in crash donates home to Cool Aid

A 60-year-old Saanich man who died in a single-vehicle crash last month has left his house to the Victoria Cool Aid Society, ensuring that, in death as in life, he will help the homeless.

Carl Graham Young was the passenger in a van that crashed into trees on Old West Saanich Road on March 21.

Young died at the scene and his dog, Turbo, was taken to a veterinary hospital and put down a few days later. Saanich police are investigating whether the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

Young lived all his life in his parents’ modest bungalow at 3937 Grange Rd. He never married and never had kids. His parents, Edward and Diane, and his brother, Andrew, have died, leaving Young with the property.

About 18 months ago, Young approached staff at Cool Aid and said he wanted to make the non-profit organization, which runs homeless shelters and low-income housing facilities, the sole beneficiary of his estate, said Alan Rycroft, the society’s spokesman.

“He was a simple man but obviously a very caring person. He asked that some of the proceeds in the estate also be used to help homeless pets,” Rycroft said.

“He loved his dog very much and he also wanted to make sure pets of the homeless are also looked after.”

In an obituary provided by a family friend to Rycroft, Young was described as an avid fan of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Blue Jays and car racing.

“Carl had an unusual memory for sports statistics and birth dates,” the obituary says.

“He could be found many times a day walking his dog Turbo in the Marigold area while socializing with his neighbours.”

The obituary says instead of a service, his friends will hold a barbecue to celebrate his life.

Donations in his name can be made to Cool Aid or the SPCA.

At the time of his death, Young was on a disability pension.

“Carl had a heart of gold and his door was always open to those who needed a safe haven … coffee or a meal,” his friend wrote.

There were two trailers sitting in the side yard of the home and Young would often let friends who were at risk of being homeless stay there, which at times caused problems with neighbours in the quiet residential area.

“He hung out with a group of people who could well be Cool Aid clients,” Rycroft said, adding that he spoke with one man who lived in the trailer.

“[Young] did help out people who he knew were in dire circumstances.”

No one is currently living on the property and Cool Aid staff have cleared out the house.

It is assessed at $392,100, according to B.C. Assessment records. There is a small mortgage outstanding, but Rycroft said after the probate process is completed and the property is sold, Cool Aid will likely receive a six-figure donation.

The property is not large enough to build a low-income residential facility, so the cash will go toward funding housing for the homeless and supporting their pets.

“Even though he didn’t have very much, he is going to make a difference,” Rycroft said. “One of the lessons Carl can teach us all is that we all have something to give.”

© Copyright Times Colonist

Celebrating Ten Years of Eric’s Chili Bandit Supper

Bandit Chili SupperTen years ago, Eric walked into the Downtown Community Centre with a vision. A vision of offering entertainment, a warm meal, and an evening to remember to those who otherwise wouldn’t get to experience anything like it. Donna, our Community Centre Coordinator listened to Eric and took his idea and helped him grow it into the event that we are gearing up for this December 10, 2016:

The Bandit Benefit Chili Supper & Concert!!

This dinner is a chance for anyone and everyone to get a warm meal, listen to some fantastic music, and to enjoy — at no cost to them! But that’s not the only thing that makes this dinner special. The humble beginnings and the back story of how this event came to be are truly inspiring.

The first year Eric planned this dinner he himself was homeless. Eric had unfortunately, been a car accident that year and was out of work. He came to the Downtown Community Centre looking for help and assistance in getting his life back. Donna and the team stepped right up, and with the help of Cool Aid and the resources offered he overcame every challenge that he faced. To top it all off, he gave something back to Cool Aid and the community Centre, in the form of the Chili Bandit Supper & Concert.

Eric, with the help of the Downtown Community Centre, and multiple sponsors around the greater Victoria area, have been able to keep this dinner going for ten straight years! It has become a staple and tradition once December hits and we have been able to watch him turn it into something far greater than just one dinner — it’s a stepping stone in creating community!

We are thrilled to be able to work with Eric year after year to continue on with this wonderful event and invite you to check out his video about what the dinner means to him:

Beard On or Beard Off Raises $6,435!

Brian Bates Beard On Beard Off posterFinal Update, Monday, January 16, 2017

Five gentlemen who offered their glorious manes for a good cause – helping people who are homeless and vulnerable through the Victoria Cool Aid Society, last night made the “ultimate sacrifice” of their beards. More dollars were voted towards shaving the beards than towards saving them. In total, $6,435 was raised for REES Support Services through this unique and fun initiative. Final tally:

Beards Off: $3,565 ($2,535 online + $1,030 at Saint Franks)

Beards On: $2,870 ($2,370 online + $500 at Saint Franks)

Cool Aid is very grateful for the four men (formerly with beards) who live in Victoria: Brian Bates, Braeden Papp, Nick Johnson and David Mitchell, and Frank Motschko in Kelowna.

There was a packed house at Saint Franks last night and literally standing room only and celebrity energy surrounding the Victory Barber Shop at the back of Saint Franks when their amazing beards were shaved off after voting closed. A big thank you goes to these businesses and the event sponsor Driftwood Brewery.

Both online and Saint Franks voting ended Sunday night. Members of the public who wish to show their solidarity for their sacrifice can still make a charitable donation at Please note your gift is in support of “Beard On – Beard Off”.

Visit to watch the dramatic videos and learn more.

Update – Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tonight’s the night when the big decision is made. Will the five gorgeous, long beards be lopped off or will they remain? Only you can decide.

Vote online until 8 pm tonight. Or live 4-8 pm to witness the drama and chaos:

Saint Franks, 1320 Broad Street, Victoria

Save them!

Shave them!

Victoria – December 1, 2016 – Two years ago, Brian Bates offered up his glorious mane to help people in need by supporting the Victoria Cool Aid Society. Bids to shave the beard off or save the beard (on) came in at over $2,700, with the “Beard On” forces winning by a whisker. This year, Brian has convinced two other men (Nicholas Johnson and Braeden Papp) to join him and offer up their glorious beards in the name of a good cause. They are hoping to raise $10,000 for the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

Come meet these gentlemen and learn what motivates them to offer up their most precious beards. “Beard On/Beard Off: 2” launches this Friday, December 2, at the Victory Barber Shop in the back of Saint Franks, 1320 Broad Street at 9 am.

If you love bushy beards, or even if you hate them, now is your chance to have your say. Visit to watch the dramatic video, learn more and contribute. All proceeds will help the Victoria Cool Aid Society programs.


Vote with your donation to keep the beards on.

Or vote here to shave them off!

– 30 –


Brian Bates,

Alan Rycroft, Cool Aid, 250-414-4781,

Braeden, Brian & Nick sporting their beards

Braeden, Brian & Nick sporting their beards


An article about the first “Beard On – Beard Off” appeared in the Province in January 2015 and follows:

Everyone wins (except mom): Beard stays, Cool Aid Society gets $2,740
The Province
January 16, 2015 09:42 PM

The people have spoken: Brian Bates will keep his beard, which he has been growing for about a year.

The beard abides.

The fate of Brian Bates’s facial hair has been decided by family, friends and complete strangers in an Internet competition designed to raise money for a Victoria-area charity.

brian-bates-cam-shot-2015In early December, Bates launched a crowdfunding campaign on CauseVox asking people to donate to one of two sites — Beard On or Beard Off — with the proceeds from both going to help the homeless.

With $1,485 raised, the Beard On campaign squeaked out a win, and Bates’s glorious blond mane — a year’s work — will remain. The Beard Off campaign, strongly supported by Bates’s mother, came close with $1,255 in donations.

“I had resigned myself to shaving it,” Bates said Thursday, a few hours before the campaign’s midnight close. “I was expecting a landslide, so I was shocked to see it come this close.”

Bates will donate all the money to the Victoria Cool Aid Society, which runs several supportive housing buildings and shelters, in addition to a health and community centre, helping about 9,000 Victoria homeless each year.

The society is planning a “decorating event” in the beard’s honour.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Leonard Is All Smiles Thanks to Cool Aid Dental

Some of you may recognize Leonard James; he is an established public speaker within the Greater Victoria area, and partners with the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. Leonard is a keynote speaker who shares his experiences in hopes that he can stop from others from making some of the mistakes he has made.

But Leonard has been able to overcome his challenges and adversity—and has stable housing, stable work and a set of shiny pearly whites to boot—thanks to the Victoria Cool Aid Society Dental Clinic!

Mr. James first came to the dental clinic when he had abscessed teeth.

“My friend told me how harmful they were—and recommended I come here. I was hesitant as I don’t like dentists… but everyone here was so caring and gentle.”

Leonard not only had his abscesses taken care of, but he also now sports a set of brand new set of dentures that keep him smiling from ear to ear. To some a full smile may seem small, and is something many take for granted, but as Leonard pointed out during our interview, people don’t realize how important having a full set of teeth and an attractive smile can be for someone’s confidence-it can make a world of difference in one’s life.

Good teeth can also be an important factor in obtaining an apartment or work.

Leonard now has no shortage of confidence and as he tells us he has to remind himself: “Head up Leonard — show off that smile.”

Watch Leonard’s full interview below. Check out Cool Aid’s YouTube Channel to see more videos.

Jerry’s Journey to Swift House

Within the first few minutes of conversing with him, you instantly know that you can tell him anything and there will be no judgement, no criticism—only support and someone who is willing to listen.  What makes Jerry so easy to talk to? Perhaps it comes from the openness in which he shares his own story.

Mr. McBride was kicked out a recovery house in 2010—and suddenly, as many Cool Aid clients will tell you— found himself homeless in an instant. That’s where Cool Aid stepped in. Jerry partnered with Larry Stevens at REES Support Services and started off with stays at Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing Shelter.

“It built up… I was homeless and I had to figure out how to get by. [Larry] would sit down and talk with me about solutions to combat my homelessness.”

From Rock Bay, Jerry continued to work with Larry and a client service worker named Veetus, who helped him to move onto a transitional shelter, and then finally an apartment at Swift House!

Jerry was able to able to increase his income, work on overcoming his addictions, and has gotten his life back.

“Today I am still at Swift House—I still meet with Larry Stevens because I can connect with him. Larry Stevens, Veetus, and the staff of Cool Aid, have been a huge part of my journey!”

Check out Jerry’s full interview on Cool Aid’s Youtube Channel!

Provincial Employees Are Charity Winners With PECSF

Provincial employees learn about local charities at PECSF picnic

Provincial employees learn about local charities at PECSF picnic

Provincial employees, through their Community Services Fund (PECSF), have been supporting Cool Aid and over 100 other local organizations, since 1965! For the past five years, the Provincial Employees Community Services Fund has stepped up to become one of the key partners of the Downtown Community Centre, which focuses on healthy living, health promotion and social diversity. The Community Centre provides free, healthy, recreation and life skill programs for adults and youth living and working in the downtown core with a special focus on helping people who are homeless, street involved and at-risk.

In November, following a nomination from Cool Aid, the Community Services Fund was awarded “Outstanding Philanthropic Service Club Award” by National Philanthropy Day. A well-deserved congratulations and thanks to the many caring public servants throughout Victoria and their dedicated staff!

PECSF logo

Blaine Sparvie Works Hard

blaine-wendy-labour-pool-web-2016-septWendy from Cool Aid’s Labour Pool would like to introduce you to Blaine Sparvie.

For the past ten years, Blaine has been finding work using Cool Aid’s Labour Pool; earning income, learning new skills and building confidence.

Blaine has been able to secure near full-time work through the Labour Pool, and in an interview jokingly stated that, “I am so busy now… maybe it’s time for a vacation!”

But joking aside, Blaine has worked hand-in-hand with Cool Aid to get off the streets and into safe housing, build a steady stream of employment, and find a community that cares and supports him.

Blaine has gained skills and experience that he would not have otherwise received had it not been for the work he has found through Cool Aid’s Labour Pool these last ten years.

When asked what he would say to those at Cool Aid who have helped him, he replied:

“What would I say? Oh gosh—THANK YOU! Thank you for listening, thank you for helping, and thank you for just being there. Cool Aid has helped a lot – hundreds of people – not just me.”

Check out Blaine’s Video Interview on Cool Aid’s YouTube channel.

Learn more about the Casual Labour Pool at or call Wendy at 250-388-9296 to book a skilled or general worker for your business, garden, home or move.

Cool Aid Hosts Project Connect Next Wednesday

October 6, 2016 – Project Connect creates a celebration of giving for many of the Capital Region’s most vulnerable and poor citizens, by providing “one stop shopping” for a wide variety of needs: from personal portrait photos to ID replacement, food to hygiene items and gift bags, and includes live music and an open mic. An initiative of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, and a partnership effort, this year’s Project Connect will be hosted at Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing shelter and transitional housing, 535 Ellice Street from 10 am to 3 pm, next Wednesday, October 12.

“This is an important annual event for members of the community experiencing homelessness and also for organizations providing much needed services,” says Don Elliott, Executive Director of the Coalition to End Homelessness. “Project Connect gives everyone the opportunity to access a range of services and information in one place – something that cannot be underestimated – and is an important part of coming together as a community in support of one another.”

Cool Aid’s volunteer coordinator, Erin Gallagher, iProject Connect Needs Your Helps excited, but needs the community to step up more to donate needed goods and services, and volunteer to help out on the day. “It’s been fantastic to talk to all the caring Victorians who are giving and helping,” send Erin. “But we still need another 30 volunteers for Wednesday and a variety of clothing, hygiene items and food, or cash donations, to provide for our guests.”

One of the key organizers this year is Anawim House’s executive director, Terry Edison-Brown, who says: “Project Connect is a unique and exciting opportunity where all the service providers in Victoria come together to provide for those in need offering information and services.  This is a time where instead of representing individual organizations, we are all able to come together and do what we do best, which is help the homeless and in a direct and tangible way. We are able to connect with each other and connect with the individuals we serve as a whole. This is about meeting the needs of poverty, and together working to eradicate homelessness and provide social justice in the way it was meant to be.”

Our Place Society has also been active lining up donations for our clients, as well as volunteers. Community relations coordinator Tracy Campbell added that, “It is a delight for all of us to work together as service providers to make sure none of our ‘family members’ falls through the gaps. It takes a community to help those who are most vulnerable among us.”

To make a donation to Project Connect or volunteer on the day, contact Cool Aid’s Erin Gallagher at 250-383-1951 extension 4 or Rock Bay Landing is located at 535 Ellice Street in Victoria.

Media are also invited down to Rock Bay during Project Connect next Wednesday.

– 30 –


Erin Gallagher, Volunteer Coordinator, 250-383-1951 ext. 4,

Terry Edison-Brown, Anawim House, 250-382-0283,

Tracy Campbell, Our Place, 250-388-7112 ext. 259,

Don Elliott, G.V. Coalition to End Homelessness, 250-415-1717,



The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 15 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build or repurpose an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home. #buildhomes

Thomas Keeps Things Spic-and-Span at Desmond House

Step into Thomas’ room at Desmond House, and one can see this former Navy man’s attention to detail shines. The bed is made to perfection, the bookshelf organized immaculately, and then there is Thomas, reading from his expansive library.

Thomas has been at Desmond house for the past nine years and has become an integral part of the community that lives there. In Thomas’ words, “Desmond house is a community – we are all there to support each other. Whether it’s a can of beans, or what have you, we always try to help each other out.”

Thomas once served in the Navy, but like many veterans, he fell on hard times and challenges. He was on and off of the streets for a few years, but Thomas worked with Cool Aid to face these challenges head on.

With support from his housing worker Mike (on the left) and resources from Cool Aid, Thomas has had stable housing, a strong support system, and works every week at Desmond house to keep it spic-and-span.

Check out Thomas’s video interview on Cool Aid’s YouTube channel:

Learn more about Cool Aid housing or call Alan at 250-414-4781. Tours are available.

Cool Aid To Operate Cottage Grove in Saanich

June 28, 2016 – Today, levels of government and partners gathered for the “Celebration of Construction” for Cottage Grove supportive housing (3207 Quadra in Saanich), being built for 45 seniors and others who have been homeless. Victoria Cool Aid Society, which originally purchased the property in 2014, will be the operator.

“Cottage Grove is an excellent example of Cool Aid’s long-term thinking and work towards permanent solutions to end homCottage Grove Artist's Renderingelessness,” said Kathy Stinson, CEO. “Ten years ago, we first had the vision for this property. In the last two years, all levels of government have stepped up to make this new apartment building possible.”

Capital funding has been provided by the Province, Canada, CRD, Saanich and Victoria. Initial funds that started the project were provided by Cool Aid and generous donations from individuals, businesses and foundations who contributed to the Help End Homelessness capital campaign.

Cool Aid’s Help End Homelessness capital fund was used to kickstart Cottage Grove through the initial property purchase, and was also used to complete due diligence work on Mount Edwards Court. Thanks to the Province all these funds are back in Cool Aid’s control to create more supportive housing.

Cottage Grove is expected to open early in 2017, and is part of the solution towards ending homelessness in the Capital Region.

“Collectively, we have tremendous momentum towards ending homelessness in the Capital Region,” said Stinson. “Cool Aid will continue to work with all levels of government and other community partners on permanent housing solutions that will improve hundreds of lives, more effectively  utilize taxpayer dollars, and build a better quality of life for everyone who lives in Greater Victoria.”

Cottage Grove Celebration of Construction 2016 June 28 web

– 30 –


Kathy Stinson, CEO, 250-414-4792 or

Don McTavish, Director of Residential Services, 250-888-7103,

The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 15 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build or repurpose an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home. #buildhomes

We Welcome Supportive Housing at Central Care Home

Today, BC Housing announced their acquisition of the Central Care Home on Johnson Street and their intention to quickly renovate it to provide up to 140 units of supportive housing so that the remaining InTent City campers can be properly housed and supported.

“Cool Aid has long advocated for the conversion of Central Care Home into supportive housing with ancillary health services,” said Kathy Stinson, CEO. “Naturally we are delighted that the Province was able to purchase the property for this use.”

“As well, Cool Aid would like to take this opportunity to formally welcome Vancouver’s Portland Hotel Society to the community,” said Stinson. “We look forward to working with them to house and support up to 140 people who are today homeless in the Capital Region.”

Cool Aid also looks forward to continuing to work with the Province, BC Housing, Island Health, CRD, City of Victoria, municipalities and other local service providers to continue our momentum towards ending homelessness in the Capital Region; an outcome that will improve hundreds of lives, save millions of dollars for taxpayers annually, and build a better quality of life for everyone who lives or visits Greater Victoria.

– 30 –


Kathy Stinson, CEO, 250-414-4792 or

Don McTavish, Director of Residential Services,


The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 15 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home. #buildhomes

2016 AGM with Kishone Tony Roy

On June 22nd, BC Non-Profit Housing Association’s CEO Kishone Tony Roy will be the keynote speaker at Cool Aid’s Annual General Meeting. Cool Aid CEO Kathy Stinson and Board Chair René Peloquin will also be showcasing some of the work Cool Aid has done to Help End Homelessness in the past year and introducing some of the people whose lives have been touched by that work.

  • Wednesday, June 22 at noon
  • Downtown Community Centre – 755 Pandora Ave.
  • Doors open at 11:30 am – Refreshments served
  • RSVP to Beverley Renny, 250-414-4783 or

CEO BCNPHA Kishone Tony Roy 2016 JuneKishone Tony Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association where he and his team serve and advocate for the affordable housing sector in BC.  Its members provide more than 60,000 units of affordable rental housing aimed at serving BC’s most disadvantaged populations. BCNPHA is currently overseeing a sector wide transformation that has seen it expand its offerings in education, research, procurement programs as well as advocacy.

In addition to the essential duties of an Annual General Meeting, we will also be taking the opportunity to express our gratitude for the generosity of the many volunteers, private donors, funders, community partners and our dedicated staff. The overwhelming support of these people and organizations enable Cool Aid to provide essential support through shelter, housing, health and other services to those most in need in the Capital Region.

Seniors Inspire Local Legend

If you already know about Olympic Vista and the talented seniors living there, you might already know about Yvonne and the amazing song she wrote for their jam sessions. You can watch her perform it with fellow tenants Tony (in orange) and Louis (in the wheelchair) and Cool Aid seniors programmer Robert Dunsmuir (in the back), or click here to listen to the original recording of Yvonne’s My Arms Are Empty Without You.

You can also read the original web story right here.

The original recording made its way through the grapevine to local blues legend Bill Johnson. Bill liked it so much that he recorded a full studio version with the Bill Johnson Band!

BJ BandClick here to listen to the incredible Bill Johnson Band performing My Arms Are Empty Without You.

We would like to send a huge thanks to Bill Johnson and his band for making this possible. It means a great deal to Yvonne and the other seniors who have overcome personal tragedy, stigma, and homelessness and achieved a high quality of life at Olympic Vista.

This was all possible in part thanks to the generous support of BC Housing, Island Health and the Victoria Foundation, providing funding for Cool Aid’s Seniors Recreation Worker, Rob Dunsmuir to host regular weekly activities and special seasonal outings year-round at Cool Aid’s three supportive housing facilities dedicated to seniors.

Hundreds of Paintings Donated

February 27, 2016 — Today, Cool Aid received one of the most interesting donations we have seen in several years – literally hundreds of artworks were delivered to Cool Aid’s newest apartment building, Mount Edwards Court, from a consortium of donors:

2 Burley Men help Cool Aid staff and residents move hundreds of paintings.

2 Burley Men help Cool Aid staff and residents move hundreds of paintings.

A donation of this magnitude is only possible with the cooperative efforts of hundreds of people, including the buyers whose purchases benefited Victoria Hospice.

These paintings will soon be adorning the walls of Cool Aid’s 15 buildings throughout the Capital Region, and some will be held in reserve for future buildings, such as Cottage Grove for seniors. Literally thousands of Cool Aid clients will benefit from the more beautiful surroundings where they access services every day.

A big thank you to the donors, Order of St. John, Victoria Hospice and 2 Burley Men for making the lives of some of Greater Victoria’s more vulnerable citizens a little brighter today – and every day. Your generosity is inspiring!

Just some of the artworks ready for hanging in Cool Aid’s 15 buildings.Just some of the artworks ready for hanging in Cool Aid’s 15 buildings.

Meet Darcy Shier, Housing Resident

Sometime after the age of 21 years, I had a problem with schizophrenia and this changed my life. About a decade had passed by, and gratefully the Mental Health Region offered to help me. I had a good follow up and now take medication daily which seems to work.

It is not a fun memory; having depression and knowing I could not manage a home as an adult. With the proper health workers and the support of Cool Aid, I have now been residing at Pandora Place apartments since 1997.

The housing staff have a friendly and comfortable relationship with all the tenants and they know how to do their job maturely and efficiently when solving a problem.

In the late 1990s, I was capable of entering school and this experience gave me the option to get work in the retail field. The courses I have taken over the years have included: St. John Ambulance First Aid Response, Typing/Keyboarding, Food Safe Sanitation, Community Housing, Retail Industry Training, Superhost Customer Fundamentals, English and Basic Skill Training.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince taking the classes the learning was applied and I found a position I perform daily at The Bay Street Broker/ Venture Vending Company. I started with them in December 2000, and the employment has not changed very much over the last 15 years.

As well, I arranged a job at my home with Cool Aid and this honorarium allowance did help out in tough times.

It has been nearly two decades ago since I started with Cool Aid. I appreciate the generosity of being employed by a local non-profit organization, who have been working together with the Capital Region and Downtown Mental Health.

The Housing Manager John Crean has given me a few opportunities over the years. I have been eligible for maintenance control of the block in front of our building since 1997. I also have an obligation since 1997 to take on the responsibilities of a custodian janitor. I am part of a crew where we are each given our tasks to complete one day of the week.

Continuous job-related programs had been offered by the Downtown Community Centre. They created a janitorial position that can be done after the doors have closed to the public and regular members have left the building. This position included sanitation to areas being cleaned and controlling matters in the atmosphere which can bring many hygienic problems. Mostly the duties were common office cleaning, cleanliness throughout washrooms, outdoor courtyard maintenance and kitchen cleaning. My responsibilities later included sweeping the gymnasium and mopping 3-4 times a week.

John Crean has allowed for my skills to grow and for me to become useful at 753-755 Pandora Avenue, while seasonal duties were performed outside the YMCA Youth Residential Occupancy Apartments in the building.

I am available for new jobs and my skills are transferable to any company.

I courageously have been developing a trust with this local non-profit society and am still employed as a custodian and care for an entire building block in downtown Victoria. I am interested in other janitorial activities for another company. I have earned many job skills, and know how important it is to have cleanliness within a productive company.

Sandy Merriman House Celebrates 20th Anniversary


December 16, 2015 – Cool Aid’s Sandy Merriman House emergency shelter for women has been serving the most vulnerable women in our community for 20 years. The shelter opened its doors for the first time on December 19, 1995. It had 15 beds for women in need and the length of stay for each resident was seven days.

Supporters and the public are welcome to join us this Monday, December 21, from 1 to 4 pm, to acknowledge the past, celebrate the present, and cheer for the future of Sandy Merriman House, 809 Burdette Avenue, across from the courthouse. Activities:

1:15 pm Cakes and speeches
1:30, 2:30 & 3:30 pm Tours

Sandy Merriman House was built by women for women and continues to be operated by women. Its construction was documented in a Knowledge Network movie available on Cool Aid’s YouTube channel. The construction provided employment for disadvantaged women who were interested in being trained in construction skills. The shelter and drop in space is named after one of the trainees involved in the project: Sandy Merriman died of an accidental drug overdose; in honour of her memory the building now bears her name.

Today, Sandy Merriman House has 25 beds and its daytime drop-in program serves over 800 hot, nutritious meals each month. The 24/7 shelter serves self-identified women of all cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation and religious beliefs, 19 years and older. Many are managing difficult circumstances including mental health, addictions, poverty, homelessness, hunger, sex trade work, abuse and isolation.

“Sandy Merriman House’s history is one of vision, strength, heart and courage,” said shelter coordinator Christine O’Brien. “Twenty years have passed but the message remains the same: Cool Aid is here to provide the support and services that people need and deserve.”

– 30 –


Christine O’Brien, 250-480-1408 or

The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 14 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home. #buildhomes

Medicated – A Cool Night of Comedy with Mike MacDonald

poster-Medicated-Victoria-2015Medicated Raises over $1,400 for Cool Aid’s REES Programs

Hecklers Comedy Club
Tuesday, October 13th at 8PM

Mike MacDonald came to Victoria on October 13th for a sold-out night of comedy for a great cause. Mike has appeared on HBO, Showtime, the Comedy Network, and Late Night With David Letterman. He holds the record for 25 appearances on CBC’s Just For Laughs and has also starred in three critically acclaimed television specials, and his full talents were on display this Tuesday as he inspired support for a cause that is close to his heart.

Mike has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and hepatitis C, and in 2013 underwent a successful seven-hour liver transplant operation. Besides trying to entertain and educate audiences about the prevention of liver related illnesses he has also spoken out from personal experience about addiction, and the stigma attached to mental illness.

Melanie Rose, Mark Robertson and Paul Oppers also took the stage to support Cool Aid’s REES program and fill the room with laughter.

Melanie Rose has been performing since 2007, and in 2014 was featured on the APTN show She Kills Me. In addition to her standup comedy, Melanie is dedicated to working with mental health organizations to remove the stigma of mental illness. She works for a community housing and shelter society in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and has performed for Pacific Blue Cross, Correctional Services and numerous medical health professional associations.

Mark Robertson has been performing standup comedy for 7 years, currently producer as and host of his own weekly show, RATFISH.

Paul Oppers can be seen all over town performing comedy, music and theatre. He finds time around his busy performance schedule to work with the Victoria Cool Aid Society. Last august he performed at the 2014 Canadian Comedy Awards, and Paul Co-Produces a number of comedy shows in Victoria working hard to build a sense of community through collaboration and mutual respect within disenfranchised groups. Paul is grateful to be a part of such a worthwhile show and hopes to see you all there!

This very special event benefits the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s REES Program, supporting people struggling with mental health and addictions challenges. It was also a terrific night of entertainment for everyone.

Thank you so much Mike, Mark, Melanie, and Paul for this great event!


Three Apartment Buildings Planned to House 185 People

The Society’s “Help End Homelessness” campaign is working to build 360 more supportive housing apartments for people who are homeless in the Capital Region. We are currently developing three properties with room for 185 people to live (51% of the campaign target of 360).

“This is a very exciting time for Cool Aid and the community, as we work towards actually ending homelessness, with Victoria and the Capital Region potentially leading the country in a new direction,” said executive director Kathy Stinson. “The fact that ending homelessness costs less than leaving people to suffer in our streets and parks can give everyone great hope and confidence that together we will succeed.”

“I am delighted that Victoria’s Planning & Governance committee has recommended taking its bold plan for funding the construction of 367 apartments to the CRD,” she continued. “As well, we will need to secure ongoing, operational funding to ensure adequate support services are in place.”

Cool Aid recently had its conditional offer on an unoccupied building accepted. If the deal can be completed by mid-November, 101 people who are homeless could be housed in the “Dr. Joe Haegert Centre”, which will also offer support and health services on site for tenants. The Society is currently undertaking engineering, architectural and fundraising work before it can sign off on the deal.

Cool Aid also plans to redevelop its Cedar Grove property, with the goal of adding an additional 39 apartments to the 21 currently on site. Pre-development work is currently underway.

City-of-Vic-Campaign-Gift-2015-main-page-BannerThe CRD’s Regional Housing Trust Fund added the final $675,000 in funding for Cottage Grove – a multi-million project to house 45 seniors in Saanich who are currently homeless. With this final piece of funding, Cool Aid hopes to break ground before the year’s end with its partners, including Victoria, Saanich and the CRD.

“Taken together, these three properties, if acted upon quickly, could house 185 people who are currently homeless, by the end of 2018,” said Kathy Stinson. “Cool Aid continues to actively look for other suitable properties, funding to support the ongoing operations, and $5 million in gifts, to build a total of 360 apartments during our campaign.”

Interested persons, businesses and organizations who wish to get involved in the Help End Homelessness campaign are invited to contact Kathy Stinson at:

  • or 250-414-4792
  • Or #buildhomes and VicCoolAid on social media

– END –


Kathy Stinson, 250-414-4792,


The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year, at 14 locations in Langford, Victoria and Saanich. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home. #buildhomes

Victoria Cool Aid Society currently operates 374 supportive housing apartments, in ten apartment buildings, for people who have been homeless. Each property has on-site housing support workers to ensure that the tenants succeed in staying housed and healthy.

Additional Information:

Victoria & Saanich Partner on Supportive Seniors Housing

In a historic decision, the City of Victoria has decided to support Cool Aid’s next apartment building, located in Saanich, near Quadra Street and Tolmie Avenue, one block outside the Victoria boundary. When completed, Cottage Grove Apartments will house 45 seniors who are currently homeless.

“Victoria’s Mayor and Council voted to match the $112,000 grant which was pledged last year by the District of Saanich,” said Kathy Stinson. “This is not only a prudent investment by Victoria, where most of the future tenants (who are homeless) currently live, but it is an encouragement to all local municipalities to work together to end homelessness in the Capital Region.”

“The City of Victoria is thrilled to partner with the District of Saanich, the Cool Aid Society and other funders to make Cottage Grove become a reality,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “Homeless seniors are among the most vulnerable people on the City’s streets. This innovative partnership will address the housing needs of 45 of them.”

“The District of Saanich is proud to show its continued support for affordable housing in the community,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell.  In September 2014, Saanich Council approved a grant from the Saanich Affordable Housing Fund for Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Cottage Grove project located on Quadra Street, in the District of Saanich.  “Recognizing that housing affordability is not only a local, but a regional issue, Saanich is pleased to work in partnership with the City of Victoria in providing funding to this important housing initiative,” continued the Mayor.

Cool Aid currently operates 374 apartments for people who have been homeless. Cottage Grove will be the Society’s 11th apartment building and its fourth building devoted to seniors. It is anticipated that the partners will break ground on the new property in the next few months.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society is committed to creating 360 apartments for people who are homeless in the Capital Region and is on the lookout for additional properties and buildings suited for re/development.

Interested persons, businesses and organizations who wish to get involved in the Help End Homelessness campaign are invited to contact Cool Aid at:

Over $30,000 Raised to End Homelessness!

Web-side-page-Golf-2015 The dedicated team from Raymond James once again organized an amazing afternoon of golf and prizes this August to help end homelessness in Greater Victoria.

On Friday, August 28th at Bear Mountain over 100 local business and community leaders joined us for the most successful Drive to End Homelessness yet!

Please join us in thanking all of our amazing sponsors:United Rentals


DynamicWestJet cropped

Sponsor List




Seniors sing out at Cool Aid Housing

Rob-Yvonne-Tony-2014While the blues might conjure images of sadness and depression, at Olympic Vista they are something to look forward to every week. There, seniors who have struggled with homelessness, addictions, and poverty can relax, make friends, and discover hidden talents and passions that were impossible to pursue on their own.

For Yvonne, that means the chance to write and perform her own music at regular jam sessions.

Click here to listen to the live recording from Olympic Vista of Yvonne and four fellow Olympic Vista residents having fun with one of her original songs, My Arms Are Empty Without You.

Playing on the recording are:

  • Yvonne (Lead Vocals), pictured center.
  • Tony (Rhythm Guitar), pictured right.
  • Rob (Bass Guitar), pictured left.
  • Andy (Lead Guitar)
  • Louis (Acoustic Guitar)
  • Kingston (Bongos)

Thanks to the generous support of BC Housing, Island Health and the Victoria Foundation, Cool Aid’s Rob Dunsmuir hosts regular weekly activities and special seasonal outings year-round at Cool Aid’s three supportive housing facilities dedicated to seniors.

As well as his musicianship, Rob uses his talent for gardening and his background as a professional cook to host garden-to-table workshops, outdoor activities, and a host of activities that encourage new and long-term residents to stay active, make friends, and take an active role in each building.

Support Every Step Counts at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon 2015

Bottle Depot Customers Support REES in May

Bottle Depot's Charity Donation Bin“Every day we see people in need at the Bottle Depot,” said Kelly Gorman, Operations Manager at Bottle Depot. “In addition to accepting empties from these hard-working men and women, we wanted to do something more to help.” Throughout the month of May, Bottle Depot will donate all refunds from bottles placed by the public in the large yellow charity donation bins to the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s REES Program.

Every month Bottle Depot supports a local charity through these charity bins, which have raised over $120,000 since they started the project in 2010. “These donations mean we can continue to help women and men who are living with a mental health or addiction challenge,” said Lori Ferguson, Coordinator of REES (Resources, Education, Employment & Support). “We provide employment opportunities and help with housing, income supports, volunteer opportunities and more, for about 100 people every day.”

Other charities supported by Bottle Depot include CFAX Santas Anonymous and the Mustard Seed. “Our staff and management team are 100% behind the charity bottle drive,” says Gorman “If it weren’t for our customers and staff backing it, we wouldn’t have $120,000 to give.”

Bins are available 24 hours a day outside at two Greater Victoria locations:

  • 4261 Glanford Avenue
  • 3961 Quadra Street
  • and at 655 Queens Avenue

Bottle returns can also help Cool Aid throughout the year, simply by delivering them to Bottle Depot and letting the teller know you wish your refund to be donated to Cool Aid.

Thank you Volunteers!

We couldn’t be more proud of our volunteers and the work they do each year to help thousands of people overcome homelessness.

This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we are so excited to say a big thank you for all the support they provide. Volunteers help Cool Aid clients:

  • Stay healthyderek-ford-volunteers
  • Make a friend
  • Start healthy habits
  • Have someone to talk to
  • Find the supports they need
  • Find clean clothes and do laundry
  • Receive a Christmas present
  • Feel like someone cares about them
  • Make new homes and services possible
  • Have a second meal that day
  • Learn to express themselves through art
  • Feel included and welcome in our community

And so much more.

Volunteers, whether you give an hour or a month, know that all of us at Cool Aid are profoundly grateful for your help in ending homelessness.

Together, we come a little closer every year!

A good will makes all the difference

To everyone reading this, the Victoria Cool Aid Society wants you to lead a long, happy life. As part of Make-a-Will Week in British Columbia (April 6-12), we also urge you to reach out to your professional advisor and write or update your will. Having an up-to-date will is the best way to protect the interests of your children and loved ones, and to ensure that your favourite charities receive the bequest you may wish to give.

If you have never considered a will, it’s the perfect time to start! There are some easy resources to help you planning:

Cool Aid cannot provide legal advice on how to write your will although we are happy to talk to you about our work and your wishes. If you are considering a bequest to Cool Aid, talk to your lawyer, notary or financial advisor about the right method of giving for you. For more information about leaving a bequest in your will for Cool Aid, click here or contact Alan Rycroft (250-414-4781, or Kathy Stinson (250-383-1977).

If you do decide to leave a gift in your will to Cool Aid, we appreciate hearing about it. Knowing your wishes will help ensure that your gift is used as intended. Knowing you personally allows us to thank you today for your future generosity.

Online gaming never felt so good!

Local gaming company Codename EntertainmentBushwhacker2Puppy just helped end homelessness in a creative new way.  Between March 25-27, players of Bush Whacker 2 and Egg Breaker Adventures could purchase limited edition in-game items and support the Victoria Cool Aid Society’s Help End Homelessness Campaign. In 48 hours, $2,250 in worldwide sales from these items coming to Codename Entertainment was donated, helping Cool Aid to build 360 apartments for people who are homeless in Greater Victoria.

Thank you Codename Entertainment, and gamers everywhere who supported this project!

“In Victoria business and community are two sides of the same coin,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “I’m thrilled to see tech – Victoria’s largest private sector industry – stepping forward and taking leadership to help solve Victoria’s most pressing social problem.”

Eric Jordan, Codename Entertainment’s CEO and a lifetime gamer, is also a former Cool Aid Director and former Co-Chair of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Homelessness is an issue very close to my heart,” Jordan said. “I wanted to break new ground by providing an opportunity for our players from around the world to make a real contribution towards ending homelessness in the Capital Region. I hope we’ll also inspire other local tech companies to create equally fun adventures for this great cause.”

“As a former software developer I have a soft spot in my heart for geeks and gamers of every flavour,” said Alan Rycroft, Cool Aid’s community relations officer. “I was excited when Eric approached us with this novel idea, because I believe the region’s biggest industry can make a huge difference and help end homelessness.”

Codename Entertainment is a company built around making games that our studio employees want to spend time playing. Between periods of intense coding and arting, you’ll find us dodging nerf darts or cursing each other out (in jest!) in the latest multiplayer battle.

Granola That Counts raises $3,700 in one month!

granola logoWe know what it’s like to eat something that makes both body and spirit stronger.

Each week at Every Step Counts, people experiencing tremendous personal challenges come out to win one more success on their journey to wellness. Over 600 runners and walkers have returned to dig into a tasty and nutritious bowl of granola, made with love from one grandmother’s recipe.

Between January 8 and February 6, 11 Thrifty Foods locations in Greater Victoria carried Granola That Counts. We sold over 150 pounds each week, generating $3,700!

Every pound sold is a step towards ensuring a sustainable future for Every Step Counts, and we are delighted by the feedback and support we received from purchasers during the month.

Where was Granola that Counts sold? Click here for a handy map!

This would not have been possible without the generous support of these local businesses:

  • Thrifty Foods for taking a chance and listing Granola That Counts at no cost during the month
  • Jena Stewart, Team Chef, and The Truffles Group, who masterminded production of the Granola in the Truffles Catering kitchen.
  • Victoria Box & Paper,  which donated all packaging and display materials for the project.
  • McAllister Marketing which donated the packaging and point of sale marketing materials.
  • Vancity provided a framework and valuable tools to embark on a social enterprise.

“Thrifty Foods is proud to support the Victoria Cool Aid Society and the Every Step Counts program. This is a partnership that was a natural fit for us,” said Vivian Chenard, Manager of Community Relations at Thrifty Foods. “When we were approached by the Every Step Counts team to partner with them to sell a local product, which in turn supports a healthy program for people in need, we knew we had a winning combination. We’ve tasted the granola and it’s delicious. Our customers will love it.”

“January, when everyone is thinking about New Year’s resolutions and their health, is an ideal time to launch a new, local health food,” said Tracy McAllister, a principal of McAllister Marketing, who contributed the Every Step Counts logo, package design and marketing materials.

Granola That Counts is made by volunteers in the Truffles Group kitchen from a local recipe featuring oats, dried cranberries, coconut, sesame seeds, toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds and dates. It is the same recipe that feeds the runners and walkers in the program every week. Each package costs just $9.99 and 100% of the proceeds support Cool Aid’s Every Step Counts running and walking program.

“I’ve been volunteering with Every Step Counts since 2009,” said Karen Palmer, co-owner with her husband Kirk, of Victoria Box & Paper Ltd. “I know how the simple act of running, walking and eating together can profoundly help people improve their lives. When Gillie asked if we could help with packaging, it was an easy decision for us to contribute.”

“We took on the provisioning of delicious and nutritious food for Every Step Counts this year, out of our Canoe Brewpub,” said Truffles Group Vice President John Reese. “It was a natural next step for us to provide expert advice and our kitchen for the granola production. This is a great product, with a great future, for a great cause. Every Step Counts really changes lives.”

Homeless Partners Challenge Stigma and Grant Holiday Wishes

Since 2005, the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List program has brought thousands of gifts to the less fortunate at Christmas through Volunteers across Canada from partnering organizations like Catholic and Protestant churches and the BC Muslim Association interview local homeless persons, share their stories and wish lists on the website so that people in local communities can read them and send personalized gifts and messages directly to the homeless recipients through their shelters.

Homelessness in Canada has reached a crisis level with 200,000 Canadians experiencing it annually and 30,000 being homeless on any given night. Organizations who interact daily with Canadians who are less fortunate want to change the stigmas associated with the marginalization of the homeless. Once again this year, Cool Aid is partnering up with a Canadian non-profit and self-funded organization called Homeless Partners this Christmas to bridge the gaps between the public and homeless recipients and encourage personal connection.

“We have worked locally with Homeless Partners since 2006,” said Don McTavish, Cool Aid’s manager of shelters. “Their compassion and focus on providing the right gift for each individual brings great joy and practical help into the lives of our residents at an emotionally difficult time of year for many.”

Last year, the program generated almost 1,200 pledges to homeless recipients across Canada in 7 different cities and 20 different shelters.

“When the homeless feel cared about, they have a little more strength to move forward in their lives,” said Jennie Keeran, who founded in 2005 with her husband Daniel. “There’s something powerfully bonding about sitting together, and listening to someone else’s story, that promotes trust, empathy and compassion,” said Jennie. “This project provides a safe way for the community, including people of all faiths, to use their strengths and shared value for helping those in trouble. The process supports understanding and respect between different religions while they contribute to a more compassionate community that cares about the homeless.”


Visit to hear personal stories or contribute a gift.

Thank you McGregor Socks!

mcgregor_instagramOn Thursday, December 11 at 8:30 am, Rabbi Harry Brechner, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Cool Aid’s Don McTavish, and Michael Bloomfield and other Congregation Emanu-El volunteers distributed socks to people at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue.

The socks are the latest in a long line of very generous gifts from McGregor Socks (Toronto) now totalling over 60,000 pairs since 2007, thanks to a partnership begun by Avodah, the social action group of Congregation Emanu-El. Shipping of this gift was generously sponsored by La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries.

All 6,000 pairs of socks will be given away to people who are homeless and at risk by dozens of local social service agencies that work together to help people who are or have been homeless.



Agencies Who Will Distribute Socks:

AIDS Vancouver Island

Anawim House

Beacon Out of the Rain Youth Shelter

Boys & Girls Club

Burnside Gorge Community Association


Congregation Emanu-El

Cool Aid Community Health Clinic

Dandelion Society

Mustard Seed / Hope Farm

Human Exchange Society

James Bay Community Project / Youth Clinic

Kiwanis Emergency Youth Shelter

Native Friendship Centre

Our Place

Out of the Rain Youth Shelter

Pacifica Housing Services


Rainbow Kitchen

REES Network (Cool Aid)

Salt Spring Island Community Services

Salvation Army

Single Parent Resource Centre

Sandy Merriman / Next Steps (Cool Aid)

Seasonal Shelter

Rock Bay Landing Shelter (Cool Aid)

Threshold Society

VARCS Mobile X Van

Victoria EWP Program

Boneless and Homeless

pet-food-drive-cool-aidWith a wholehearted mission to end hunger for the furry friends of people who are homeless this holiday season, Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society’s “Boneless Project” is launching its first ever Pet Food Drive on Monday, November 24th between 8am – 2pm at Rock Bay Landing at 535 Ellice Street.

“While Cool Aid shelters provides essential services like and meals a daily meal to people experiencing homelessness, we rely on donations to feed the little furry companions that mean so much to those who have so little,” said Erin Gallagher, Volunteer Administrator at Cool Aid.

Donations of dry cat and dog food, along with flea treatment medications are most urgently needed. Coffee will be generously provided to volunteers and donors by Bows & Arrows Coffee.
– Poster art by Debbie Rhodes

Affordable Housing Best Investment for Feds

Wellesley Institute

Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

2015 Pre-­Budget Consultation Process

July 31, 2014

Increasing investment in affordable housing is good for the health of families and vulnerable Canadians, helps to build prosperous and equitable communities, and is good for jobs and the economy

Cool Aid's first supportive housing building -- Swift House



Executive summary

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance has identified six key themes for the current round of pre­‐budget consultations. An increased federal investment in housing and homelessness, as set out in our recommendations, will advance three of those themes:

  • Supporting families and helping vulnerable Canadians by focusing on health, education and training;
  • Ensuring prosperous and secure communities by providing support for infrastructure;
  • Maximizing the number and types of jobs for Canadians.

The high cost of housing is the single biggest expense for low, moderate and middle‐income Canadians. The lack of affordable housing is the largest component of precarious housing – which remains deep and persistent across Canada. On a personal level, housing is one of the most important determinants of health; and at a community level, an adequate supply of good quality and affordable housing is a key factor in ensuring population health.

The federal government, in response to deep and persistent housing issues across the country, has made certain housing investments – and has quantified the economic impact of those investments. After making a $2 billion, two-­‐year affordable housing investment as part of the 2009 stimulus budget, the federal government reported that the jobs and economic impact of the housing funding produced among the most significant jobs and economic impacts of all its stimulus measures. Jobs were generated directly in the construction trades, and indirectly in a range of other sectors. Income from those jobs was spent in food stores and elsewhere in the local economy (which boosts economic activity), and the workers paid income and other taxes (which raises revenue for the government).

Even as the federal government has made several investments in housing and homelessness since 2006, there has been a decline in overall investments as the government continues to withdraw from its long-­term commitment to affordable housing. The net effect has been a continuing decline in the number of federally-­subsidized homes at a time when housing need is growing in most parts of Canada.

We respectfully recommend that the federal government reverse the ongoing cuts to affordable housing investments, and increase funding for the two major national housing and homelessness programs. The increased investments will benefit individual Canadians and families with more healthy homes; communities and the economy will benefit from more jobs and other social and economic benefits; and, governments will benefit as the cost of housing investments is less than the estimated cost to the government of ongoing homelessness spending.


Read the full report online. Find out more about Wellesley Institute.


Homelessness Action Week 2014


We can tell you what can be done to end homelessness in Greater Victoria, but the best way to find out is to see it for yourself.

Join us for Homelessness Action Week as we open up the homes, services, and shelters that help people overcome the challenges of having nowhere safe to call home.

Rock Bay Landing Emergency Shelter
Open House 10 am – Noon
Tuesday, October 14th
535 Ellice Street

Sandy Merriman House Shelter for Women
Open House 1 pm – 3 pm
Tuesday, October 14th
809 Burdette Avenue

REES: Resources Employment Education and Support service
Open House 2:30 pm – 4 pm
Thursday, October 16th
465 Swift Street

All Candidates Debate on Homelessness
Downtown Community Centre, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Thursday, October 16th
755 Pandora Avenue

To read more about how you can take action on homelessness this week, visit the Coalition to End Homelessness.

All Candidates Meeting on Homelessness, Housing, and Poverty

All-Candidates-Debate-Web-squareJoin us at Cool Aid’s Downtown Community Centre for questions and debate between candidates in the upcoming Victoria Municipal Election.

Hosted by CBC Radio personality Gregor Craigie, candidates will answer questions related to the pressing issues of homelessness, housing, and poverty in our community.

The debate takes place between 6:30 and 8:30 pm on October 16th, at 755 Pandora Avenue. As with all the Downtown Community Centre’s activities, this event is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information on the election and an up-to-date listing of candidates, click here.

Saanich Council Backs Housing for Seniors

Saanich Council Supports Cool Aid’s 11th Supportive Housing Building. Campaign Cabinet Announced

Rob Reid thanks Saanich

At its regular Council meeting last night, the District of Saanich voted to provide an affordable housing grant of $112,000 to “Cottage Grove”, a new development of 45 supportive housing apartments for seniors who have been homeless, at 3207 Quadra, just north of Tolmie. (The development was approved unanimously on July 14th by Council.) A news conference will be held this morning at 10:15 am to show the property (just north of the Italian Bakery) and introduce the “Help End Homelessness” Campaign Cabinet.

The number of seniors who are homeless has been steadily growing in the Capital Region as has their ratio within the population of people without homes. Fully half of the 375 people presently housed by Cool Aid are 55 or older. 15% of the people temporarily staying at our emergency shelters, about 260 seniors last year, are also 55+.

Council unanimously supported this proposal, which is very similar to Cool Aid’s Olympic Vista seniors housing, that has operated successfully in Saanich for three years.

Cottage Grove is “shovel ready”. The Society has purchased the $1 million property, site architectural and landscaping plans are complete, and the development permit has been approved by Saanich. These apartments will be built quickly when the Province invests $4.8 million towards this $6.6 million building project.

“With the help of many generous donors, Cool Aid has purchased this $1 million property so that Cottage Grove can house 45 seniors who have been homeless,” said Cool Aid’s executive director Kathy Stinson. “It is a good start on ending homelessness for seniors in our community and it’s the first of several apartment buildings we will construct towards this end.”

Our campaign is called ‘Help End Homelessness’,” said Rob Reid, Campaign Chair and owner of Frontrunners and New Balance, “and we have assembled an amazing team of community leaders who are volunteering their time to raise $5 million from individuals, companies, organizations and foundations to build or repurpose 360 apartments to Help End Homelessness for 360 people.”

 The volunteer Campaign Cabinet members are:

  • Bradley Clark (Chair, Cool Aid; Financial Advisor, Raymond James)
  • Norman Gidney (Director, Cool Aid; retired business journalist)
  • Helen Hughes (Retired City of Victoria Councillor)
  • Ted Hughes, Q.C. (Consultant, Retired Judge,
    former Co-Chair, G.V. Coalition to End Homelessness)
  • Tony Joe (Realtor, Re/Max Camosun,
    former Co-Chair, G.V. Coalition to End Homelessness)
  • Rob Reid, Campaign Chair (Owner, Frontrunners and New Balance)
  • Kathy Stinson (Executive Director, Cool Aid)

The Advisor Council for the campaign includes: Maureen Duncan, Retired CEO, United Way of Greater Victoria; and Sandy Richardson, CEO Victoria Foundation. Letters of support for the campaign have been received from Downtown Residents Association, Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Cool Aid currently operates 374 apartments for people who have been homeless, in ten buildings in Langford, Victoria and Saanich – including three buildings dedicated to seniors. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 9,000 people in the Capital Region every year. The Society’s major new campaign is “Help End Homelessness”, to build an additional 360 apartments for people in the community who have no home.


Alan Rycroft, 250-414-4781 or


On October 1st Adam Kreek, Bruce Courtnall, Jeff King, and Lucy Smith joined us for an inspiring evening to support Every Step Counts, the walking and running program for people facing challenges with poverty, addiction, mental health and social isolation in their lives.

We raised over $4,000 in donations alone – please check back here soon for a final amount raised through donations, admission, shoe sales, and silent auction purchases.

Thank you for attending!

Wednesday, October 1, 6 to 9pm at The Atrium: 800 Yates Street, Victoria B.C.

Tickets: $70


Dr. Joe Haegert Retirement Celebration

P3060007-webWe are sad to see Dr. Joe Haegert retiring from our Community Health Centre – where he has worked for 44 years, starting as the first physician. At the same time, we’re delighted for the excuse to honour his lifetime of service. Please join us in the beautiful First People’s Gallery at the Royal BC Museum on Saturday, November 1.

Dr. Haegert’s practice originally grew out of a need for appropriate and professional medical care for people living in communes, the transient population and travelling students. Like Cool Aid itself, over the years, Dr. Haegert’s patient group evolved due to changes in the economy, an increase in mental illness, a rise in alcohol and substance use and an ageing population.

Today, the Cool Aid Community Health Centre at 713 Johnson Street provides a wide variety of health services to over 4,000 patients, many of whom are homeless. Over the years, other professionals have joined Dr. Joe in this work, including physicians, nurses, counsellors, pharmacists, dentists, dental hygienists, medical office assistants, an acupuncturist, nutritionist and other visiting specialists. We’ve come a long way since those early years!

We would be delighted to have you join us to honour Dr. Joe and share stories of his life and service.

Where: Royal British Columbia Museum – First People’s Gallery
When: Saturday, November 1 @ 6 to 10:00 pm – Dr. Joe speaks at 7
Cost: $100 includes drinks, Truffles Catering and a small tax receipt

Click here to Purchase tickets

The Victoria Cool Aid Society would also like to honour Dr. Joe’s lifetime of achievement by naming a new apartment building after him, which will end homelessness for dozens of Victorians, for generations to come.

All proceeds from this event will help Cool Aid build an apartment building named after Dr. Joe, for people without homes. Cool Aid needs to raise $1 million in total to attract sufficient government funds to build the new Dr. Joe Haegert Apartments. The Cool Aid family (our staff and directors) have already pledged the first $100,000. Another $211,000 has come in from other donations.

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, November 1, when together we will honour Dr. Joe’s lifetime of service. Whether or not you can attend, we hope you will also consider a donation towards the Dr. Joe Haegert Apartments.

2014 Funder and Partner Survey & Annual Report Released

As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency and collaboration, the Victoria Cool Aid Society is pleased to release our Annual Report, audited Financial Statements and Funder and Partner Survey to the public.

Our annual report provides a snapshot of our previous year, including major changes to operations, new initiatives, collaborations, and stories shared by the people we help:

Click here to read our 2014 Annual Report online
Our audited Financial Statements are also available

Our Funder and Partner Survey is a way of checking in with the people and organizations that are an essential part of our mission to end homelessness in Greater Victoria. Here’s what they said about Cool Aid:

Click here to read our 2014 Funder and Partner Survey


Join Every Step Counts this Sunday for the TC10K

After months of being cooped up indoors while avoiding grey skies and drizzle, it’s time to get outside and welcome a vibrant new season. Join us as we participate in a well-loved, local tradition—the Times Colonist 10K, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 27, 2014.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a laid-back walking enthusiast, this is a perfect opportunity to put your feet on the pavement for a terrific cause. You can still register until tomorrow to walk, jog, or run with the Every Step Counts team. And if you prefer not to walk or run, you can still play an important role by volunteering and cheering participants on from the sidelines.

For those facing mental health, addiction, or housing issues, daily challenges can feel like taking one step forward, two steps back. The Every Step Counts program offers the support and encouragement people need to keep putting one foot in front of the other – literally and figuratively.

Come celebrate the newness of spring by walking with us in the Times Colonist 10k on April 27. Together, we’ll take great strides towards better physical, emotional, and mental health—for ourselves and for those in our community!

Prevent Identity Theft and Support Every Step Counts



Thanks to the biggest turnout ever to the Better Business Bureau‘s shredder fundraiser, you raised over $3,000 to help keep Every Step Counts running and walking for another year! Thank you so very much.


As days grow longer and sunnier and fresh breezes herald the newness of spring, our thoughts turn to cleaning and the casting off of clutter. With this in mind, the Better Business Bureau is providing a convenient opportunity to shred your expired, sensitive documents.

Protect your identity and help a worthy cause by participating in “Secure Your ID Day” on Friday April 11 at Tillicum Centre. This secure service is offered for free or by donation, with all proceeds going to Every Step Counts, a fitness program created by Cool Aid and the Victoria Foundation.

As the skies clear, the grass turns a deeper shade of green, and cherry blossoms scatter their delicate petals on the streets of Victoria like so much fragrant confetti, it’s easy to forget that the streets are not always so idyllic for individuals who face identity theft, housing issues, addiction, and mental health challenges.

Every Step Counts lends friendly, non-judgemental support while facilitating fitness activities in a group setting. With the help of volunteers, recruits, and community participants, the group gathers four times each week for stretching, walking, and running for health; the sharing of healthy snacks and a safe, positive community goes even further to foster a sense of belonging, nourishment, and reward.

Visit us at Tillicum Centre on Friday April 11 (in the parking lot outside Old Navy) with up to five boxes or bags of confidential paper documents to shred between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. All individuals and small businesses are welcome. Celebrate spring by decluttering while helping people in need make strides towards wellness—because Every Step Counts!


Community Helps Women in Shelter

March 11, 2014 – The Bottle Depot and 107.3 KOOL FM have each held super fundraisers for Sandy Merriman House, Cool Aid’s emergency shelter for women, in the last month, raising thousands of dollars for vulnerable women.

Thanks to huBottle Depot's Charity Donation Binndreds of thoughtful recyclers in the community, $1,916.85 was raised through the “charity donation bins” in front of Bottle Depot’s three locations. During the month of February, Cool Aid supporters dropped off their beverage containers in the charity bins rather than waiting in line for their refund.

“It is so nice to see local businesses doing something to help end homelessness in our community” said Fiona Hyslop, a long-time supporter of Sandy Merriman House.

Every month, Bottle Depot supports a local charity through these blue and yellow bins, which have raised over $82,000 since they started the project in 2010. “These donations mean we can say ‘yes’ to women who come to us in need of winter coats, bus tickets, toiletries, and other necessities throughout the year” said Christine O’Brien, Shelter Coordinator at Sandy Merriman House.

Charities supported over the years by Bottle Depot and their customers include CFAX Santas Anonymous, Cops for Cancer, Cycle for Hope, and many more. “It’s a great project and we feel lucky to be a part of it” said Kelly Gorman, Operations Manager for Bottle Depot. “If it weren’t for the community being behind it, we wouldn’t have $82,000 to give”.

Bins are accessible 24 hours a day outside all three Greater Victoria locations: 655 Queens Avenue, 4261 Glanford Avenue and 3961 Quadra Street. Check out the charity of the month next time you are dropping off your bottles.

KOOL FM sponsored a s107.3 KOOL FM logoold-out comedy show at local club Hecklers Bar & Grill last month and raised $1,833 thanks to a very happy crowd of supporters. The KOOL Comedy Night featured James Ball & His Funniest Friends with all proceeds supporting Sandy Merriman House for women.

Who says raising money for a good cause has to be hard and can’t be fun?!

Thanks so much to these wonderful businesses and all the people pitching in to make life a little better for women in our emergency shelter.

We wonder what will happen next…


Avenue Gallery supports art groups at Shelters


For people experiencing homelessness, opportunities to build positive self-esteem and self-expression are rare. That’s why Cool Aid Shelters include volunteer-run art groups.

This year, those programs receive a huge boost thanks to the generous support of the Avenue Art Gallery, a local business that donated over $900 to the programs this month! This gift will help the program purchase easels, frames, brushes, and replenish its supply of paints and mixed media materials of all kinds!

If you would like to join us in thanking the Avenue Gallery, please visit them on facebook, twitter, or in person at:

The Avenue Art Gallery
2184 Oak Bay Avenue
Victoria, BC.

Cool Aid’s Housing Development Plan

Click to find out the cost of ending homelessness in our community, and how you can help.Homelessness touches many lives at a significant cost to communities.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been a key player in the work to end homelessness in the Capital Region for decades and is taking a lead role in developing 360 more apartments for people who are currently homeless.

Every apartment we build will house someone who has been homeless, give them a place to grow, and save governments $18,000 per year, per person in costs, primarily by reducing expensive health care and emergency services needed by people who are homeless.

Building this new housing will save lives and save costs. It’s the right thing to do, from an economic, social and community perspective.

Read and share some of the brochures to learn more about how Cool Aid, with your help, will build 360 more apartments for people who have been homeless:

> One page brief
> Campaign Update, January 2015
> 14-Page Overview (Case for Support)
> Cottage Grove: 45 apartments for seniors in Saanich
> Dr. Joe Haegert Centre: 101 apartments with extra supports
> Cedar Grove: 60 apartments to Help End Homelessness
> Recognition Opportunities for major gift donors

Who supports Cool Aid’s building plan to Help End Homelessness?

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Downtown Residents Association
Downtown Victoria Business Association

The volunteer Campaign Cabinet and Advisory Council, who are leading the efforts to raise $5 million locally, include the following community leaders:

  • Rob Reid (Chair), Frontrunners, New Balance
  • Michael Bloomfield, Harmony Foundation
  • Frank Bourree, Chemistry Consulting
  • Peter Ciceri, Oak Bay Marine Group
  • Brad Clark, Raymond James
  • Maureen Duncan, retired CEO, United Way of Greater Victoria
  • Helen Hughes, retired Victoria City Councillor
  • Ted Hughes, retired Judge, former co-chair, Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Tony Joe, RE/MAX Camosun, former co-chair, Coalition to End Homelessness
  • Rev. Ian Powell, Inn at Laurel Point and Paul’s Restaurants
  • Naz Rayani, Heart Pharmacies
  • Sandy Richardson, Victoria Foundation
  • Kathy Stinson, Victoria Cool Aid Society

Since 1991, the Victoria Cool Aid Society has provided housing for thousands of people who have been homeless. In addition to its ten supportive housing complexes, Cool Aid operates three emergency shelters, the Access Health Centre which provides primary health and dental care to 4,000 patients, the Downtown Community Centre, and REES, a mental health support and employment centre.

In the past ten years, the Society has successfully opened nine new buildings whose programs are all fully funded and operating. With the help of the community, we are prepared to open another apartment building or two per year to help end homelessness by 2018.

While the exact number of people who are homeless is not known, there were approximately 1,200 individuals living in temporary accommodation in February 2012 in Greater Victoria and an additional 35 individuals turned away on the night of the homeless count. In 2012, by way of its Housing Procurement Action Plan, the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness called for the creation of new housing for approximately 1,000 people who are homeless.

Cool Aid is committed to responding to this call by providing housing for 360 men and women who are presently without homes in Greater Victoria.

To achieve this, Cool Aid’s plan is to raise $5 million from individuals, foundations and businesses to build and re‐purpose six or more new supportive housing buildings by 2018.

Coalition Report on Housing and Support

With Summer firmly behind us and winter fast approaching, now is a good time to remind ourselves of the resources, support, and unmet need of people experiencing homelessness in Greater Victoria.

Click here to read the latest report from the Coalition to End Homelessness.

Fall Session @ The Atrium

Every Step Counts has seen over 480 people through its doors since February 2009. This inclusive and powerful program, a community initiative of the Victoria Foundation, has played a vital part in the health, happiness and success of many men and women who experience challenges with mental health, addiction, poverty, social isolation and other barriers. Thank you for joining us at The Fall Session at the Atrium, our culinary and musical fundraiser to benefit this key community program last Friday, October 11th2013, from 6-9 pm.

Together we raised about $10,000 for Every Step Counts! Thank you.

This year we were thrilled to have guest speaker Dick Beardsley. He is the 3rd fastest American runner in the marathon distance and he touched us all with his inspiring, honest and very intimate tale of addiction and recovery.

Thank you so much to all of the participants and their families, as well as insightful donors, steadfast volunteers and friends, referring agencies and media guests for your consistent and enthusiastic support of Every Step Counts.

Legacy Golf Tournament: Drive to End Homelessness

 Thank you so much to Raymond James, our sponsors, and all of the great teams that came out to make the first annual Raymond James Legacy Golf Tournament a success!

Find out more below, or click here to visit the photo gallery on Cool Aid’s Facebook page.

Bringing estate planning professionals together to support:

Friday, September 6th, 2013
Cordova Bay Golf Course
12:00 pm – 8:00 pm (dinner included)


The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 10,000 people in the Capital Region every year.

A gift or bequest to the Victoria Cool Aid Society is one of the most effective ways of leaving a legacy for a better future for all of us who call this community home.

The Cool Aid Society Legacy Golf Tournament introduces professionals who assist people with financial planning, estate planning, and wills preparation to the Cool Aid Society, our bequest program, and to the Cool Aid Endowment Fund. The “Cool Aid Housing, Health, Shelter & Community Services Fund” is an Endowment Fund administered by the Victoria Foundation on behalf of Cool Aid. This Fund supports the work of the Society and is mandated to provide emergency shelter, supported housing and community health services for people who are homeless or poor in the region.

Those who wish to direct gifts to specific Cool Aid programs may do so. Undesignated bequests to Cool Aid are directed to three priorities:

2013 Annual General Meeting

Come and join us!

We are very pleased to invite you to join us for Cool Aid’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, June 26 at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue. Refreshments will be served from 11:30 am and the business meeting starts at 12:00 noon.

We look forward to sharing what we have done this past year to build homes, lives and community, but that’s not all. Artwork and poetry composed by our program participants and tenants will also be on display, with some of the artists in attendance to talk about their work.

This year’s Annual General Meeting will also feature a panel discussion by experts on the importance of housing people first and foremost as well as connecting support services to tenants. Our panel will include Louis Amadei, John Knappett, Trudy Norman and Rob Reid.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to, or call 250-414-4783.We look forward to seeing you there!

National Case Study Highlights Cool Aid

June 12, 2013 – The Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN), supported by the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat, has developed a framework to identify and share promising practices to support communities in the development of effective solutions to preventing and reducing homelessness. The Victoria Cool Aid Society’s holistic approach to providing housing and support services geared for specific needs is highlighted in a new case study released today.

Download the Study (PDF)

Description:The Victoria Cool Aid Society aims to end homelessness by working in partnership with others to develop community-based solutions. The organization operates a diverse range of social and health services for those in the community who are most vulnerable, through a wide range of programs including supported housing, community health and dental services, emergency shelter, mental health and employment services, and a community centre. Cool Aid works with adults who are homeless or at risk and provides assistance to over 10,000 individuals every year.

 Download the Case Study
Aussi disponible en français




Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) has developed a framework to identify and share promising practices in order to support communities in the development of effective programmatic solutions to homelessness in Canada. This case study is part of the promising practice framework “What Works and for Whom?”. You can access the framework and the other case studies here.

Rotarians Donate $100,000 to Community Centre Renovations

May 28, 2013 – The media joined members of the Rotary Club of Victoria for a pre-renovation tour of the Downtown Community Centre (755 Pandora) today at 1:45 pm. The Rotarians are celebrating 100 years of service in Victoria this year, in part through this lasting $100,000 capital contribution to the community. A post-renovation tour will also be open to the media in the fall to report on the transformation of the public facility, which provides critical services to people who are homeless and vulnerable in the downtown core.

Rotary Club of Victoria logo“The very generous support of the Rotary Club of Victoria has made it possible to make upgrades to the Downtown Community Centre that we have needed for many years,” said Kathy Stinson, Cool Aid’s executive director. “We have been seeking funds for these capital improvements for several years but it was only when Rotarians generously stepped up that we were able to proceed. I cannot thank them enough.”


The Provincial Government also provided a contribution of $34,600 for the improvements:

  • Increasing size and functionality of front entrance and lobby area including lighting
  • Replace noisy and energy-inefficient gymnasium lighting
  • Convert unused mini-stage to storage for sports and event equipment
  • Repair to gym walls and additional sound proofing
  • Complete reworking of men and women’s washroom areas including low-flush appliances, new shower facilities, baby change station, better lighting, flooring and sinks
  • Expansion of computer room and replacement of aged counters/desk structure
  • Larger janitor room
  • and more

“To honour 100 years of service in Victoria, local Rotarians wanted to make a significant contribution that would help others for many years to come,” said Rotary Club of Victoria President Rosalind Scott. “We chose the Downtown Community Centre because of its dedication to youth and adults who need help and are taking steps to improve their own health and situation.”

In the past decade alone, the Club has provided over a million dollars to a wide range of community groups and organizations touching every age group and social status. Whether it is a child requiring special medical care or equipment not provided for by health services or an organization looking for seed money to get established, the Victoria Rotary Club has been there to lend a hand.  A partial list of recipients of Victoria Rotary Club assistance includes: Read Victoria, Mustard Seed Food Bank, Rainbow Kitchen, the CNIB, Victoria Riding for the disabled, Victoria Police Victim’s Services, Esquimalt Neighbourhood House Assoc., Our Place Street Ministry, Victoria AIDS resource centre, Sooke Family Resource Centre, Fairfield Community Association, Vancouver Island Science Fair, Victoria Cool Aid Society, Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resource Society, The Prostate Centre and the Mount St. Mary Foundation.


The Victoria Cool Aid Society builds homes, lives and community. We create opportunities for people who are homeless or living in poverty. We make a difference through housing, health care, support and emergency shelters. Founded in 1968, Cool Aid helps over 10,000 people in the Capital Region every year.

Members of Rotary in Victoria are celebrating a century of “Service above Self” during 2013.  The Rotary Club of Victoria was established on Nov. 14, 1913 as the 90th club in the world.  Forty-one charter members joined Frank Higgins as the first president for the inaugural banquet at the Empress hotel.  The first secretary was Boer War veteran Capt. Tom Goodlake who held the post for 20 years before serving a term as president.  Over the years, club presidents included Victoria area mayors and several provincial members of the legislative assembly, some that were cabinet ministers.  Hockey legend Lester Patrick was president in 1921-22.

Now is the time to leave your legacy

Watch the Joyce Clearihue interview
Did you know that one of the most effective ways you can help end homelessness in Victoria is by leaving a gift to Cool Aid in your will?

If you have ever wondered how to leave a gift to your favourite charity while ensuring your life expenses and loved ones are taken care of, now is the perfect time to find out. Learn more at the Canadian Leave A Legacy web site.

What impact can your gift to Cool Aid have on homelessness, and how do other donors feel about their gifts? Click the video button to watch a short interview with Cool Aid supporter and noted philanthropist Dr. Joyce Clearihue.

Homelessness: What do Victorians think?

In our community, homelessness matters.Thanks to a recent survey commissioned by the Coalition to End Homelessness, we now have a good idea how much!


To learn more, check out what other people are saying about the survey at:

Free Retail and Cashier Training Courses

at Cool Aid’s Pandora Thrift Store
715 Pandora

Cool Aid and Beacon Community Services are offering a free training course at our downtown Victoria thrift store. These comprehensive courses are perfect for gaining experience and skills for your first job in retail.

The Retail Training takes place over 8 weeks, 3 days per week, from 10 am to 2 pm, and runs:

  • May 07 to June 27
  • July 02 to August 22
  • Sept 03 to October 24

The Cashier Course takes place over 3 weeks, 2 afternoons per week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm, and runs:

  • April 09 to April 24
  • April 30 to May 05
  • May 21 to June 05
  • June 11 to June 26

To register please call 250-388-3500.

Thank you Victoria businesses for spreading the warmth

A great big thank you to the Downtown Victoria Business Association who organized sweater and warm clothing donations for people living through these cold Victoria nights at shelters and on the street, as part of Turn Down the Heat Week. We are still bundling people up!

Thank you to the Business Association, local businesses, and all of you who donated a sweater, for spreading the warmth this year!










Some of the great local companies that participated were:

Good Planet Company
Full Circle Studio Arts 
Global Village
Habit Atrium 
Habit Chinatown
Hemp & Company  
KOOL FM 107.3 / C-FAX 1070 / CTV
Ocean River Sports
Robinson’s Outdoor Store  
Silver Threads Service

Annual General Meeting – June 26, 2012

Theme for 2012 AGM: Listening Learning Action

Victoria Cool Aid Society members and the general public are invited to the 2012 Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, June 26 @ noon at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue. Refreshments will be served at 11:30 am.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kelly Reid, Director, Mental Health and Addictions Services for VIHA. The theme is “Listening Learning Action”.

To join us please RSVP to Jeannette Wood, 250-414-4783,

Rotary Victoria Upgrades Downtown Community Centre

A special thank-you to the Rotary Club of Victoria for a $100,000 donation to the Downtown Community Centre – the largest service club donation in Cool Aid’s history. Their generous support has allowed the organization to make much needed capital improvements at the Downtown Community Centre – replace aging and worn linoleum throughout the Centre, purchase a new stove and replace kitchen countertops. A special thanks to all members of Rotary and the Community Needs Committee for making a difference!

Join us to celebrate this Friday, September 13th, at noon for tours and a barbecue.

Rotary Club members enjoy the courtyard with Donna & Miranda

Expanded supportive housing opens at Swift & Store

June 12, 2012 — BC Housing — People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Victoria have greater access to supportive housing with today’s official opening of the newly-expanded Swift House.

Located at 467 Swift St., the building originally contained 26 supportive apartments as well as shelter space. After opening Rock Bay Landing in 2011, and moving the emergency shelter beds to that location, Swift House was redeveloped and now offers 49 supportive housing apartments.

Swift House is managed and operated by Victoria Cool Aid Society.

The Province provided $2.45 million in construction financing for the renovations at Swift House and will provide annual operational funding of approximately $1 million for all 49 apartments.

This is the third and final project to open under an agreement between the Province and the City of Victoria to create over 170 new or upgraded units of supportive housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Entrance to Swift House supportive housing


Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head –“We have worked with the city to develop three new supportive housing projects for those who are homeless – Swift House, Rock Bay Landing and Camas Gardens. These projects show what can happen when we all work together and combine resources. In each of these developments are stories of transformation, strength and human resilience. They have had a remarkable impact on so many lives.”

Murray Coell, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands –“Swift House is a great example of how we can use existing resources to create housing for people in need in Victoria. Supportive housing offers people a safe home and the supports needed to change the course of their lives. We know the model works and it is making a real difference for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Mayor Dean Fortin, City of Victoria –“Ending homelessness in Victoria is one of our top priorities. Through strong partnerships with other levels of government and local non-profit housing operators, we can make a real difference for people in need in our community. With today’s opening of Swift House, we are one step closer to achieving this goal.”

Kathy Stinson, executive director, Victoria Cool Aid Society –“At Victoria Cool Aid Society, we truly believe that by working together, we can find community-based solutions to help end homelessness. Swift House is just one example among many of how we can build an inclusive, safe community for people in need.”

Quick Facts:

  • Under the provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters BC, the government has partnerships with eight communities. The municipal partnerships will build more than 2,300 new units of supportive housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in B.C. (Abbotsford, Campbell River, Kelowna, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.) Construction is now underway or complete at many of the 32 housing developments.
  • Over the last decade, the Province has invested $2.8 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families. This year, more than 97,000 B.C. households will benefit from provincial social housing programs and services.
  • In 2010/11, the Province invested approximately $29 million to provide subsidized housing and rent supplements for nearly 4,800 households in Victoria.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been building hope, lives and community in the Capital Region since 1968 through a wide range of programs including supported housing, community health and dental services, emergency shelter and a casual labour pool for adults who are homeless or in need of help.

Learn More:

Visit to learn more about provincial programs and services to address homelessness.

To learn more about programs and services offered by the Victoria Cool Aid Society, please visit:

Funder and Partner Survey 2012

On January 25, Cool Aid invited 120 individuals in Victoria to participate in Cool Aid’s second online funder and partner survey.

The attached summary of survey results is an easy and informative read. In addition to a synopsis of the survey results, it includes comparisons to our 2009 survey and a sampling of “take away” reflections and questions we are exploring as an organization. The report concludes with an outline of where to go from here.

The bottom-line: survey respondents gave Cool Aid a very strong rating on overall performance. We also received very favourable ratings on Organizational Leadership, Partnering & Collaboration, Client Advocacy and Client Service Experience (4 of the 5 survey themes). While respondents also gave a fairly positive rating for the Learning from Others theme, there is room here for Cool Aid to improve.

It is heartening to know that Cool Aid is well regarded by our key stakeholders. But regardless of how well Cool Aid scored in any category, there are always lessons to learn and improvements to make to ensure that we continue to meet the needs and expectations of our clients, partners, funders and other stakeholders.

A special thanks to those funders and partners who took the time to complete the survey and help Cool Aid improve its work.

May Bottle Depot Drive for Cool Aid

Bottle Depot's Charity Donation BinThanks to you and Bottle Depot we raised $2,000 together to help end homelessness in the Capital Region – thank you all very much!

May 1, 2012 – Everyone can do something to help those in our community who are homeless and vulnerable. The Victoria Cool Aid Society invites you to donate your empty bottles anytime in May 2012 at Bottle Depot outlets at 655 Queens Avenue, 4261 Glanford Avenue or 3961 Quadra Street.

Simply place all of your bottles in one of the yellow bins outside these Bottle Depot locations during May, and Cool Aid will receive the full refund.

Save time, save the environment and help end homelessness. Thank you.

Art Procession from Legacy Gallery to Access Health Centre

UVic_art_collections_logoMarch 21, 2012 – University of Victoria students will lead an art procession of works from the Legacy Gallery on Broad Street to the Access Health Centre on Johnson Street to kick off the second installment of art at the clinic. The installation includes landscape photographs, screen prints, drawings, and paintings by artists such as Courtney Milne, Torrie Groening and Roy Vickers from the University of Victoria Art Collection.

This two-year project began in 2011 by UVic History in Art professor Dr. Carolyn Butler-Palmer as an exercise in the development of art in community health and well-being. Dr. Butler-Palmer worked with more than 20 art history students, members of the Access Health Centre staff, and University Art Collection Staff to design an art installation for the clinic.

The Art Procession will leave the Legacy Gallery at 1 pm on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012, and will make its way up Yates to Douglas Street, then follow Douglas to Johnson St. Our destination is the Access Health Centre at 713 Johnson St., Victoria B.C., and our estimated time of arrival is 1:15 pm.

Media Contacts:

  • Dr. Butler Palmer (Williams Legacy Chair and Assistant Professor in Modern and Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest) at 250-721-7943
  • Irene Haigh-Gidora at 250-385-1466 or
  • Cheryl Robinson, Legacy Gallery Secretary, at 250-381-7645

Website for Access Health Centre: and

Website for the Legacy Gallery:

Executive Director Wins Collaboration & Partnership Award

United Way of Greater Victoria Award

Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Victoria Cool Aid SocietyFebruary 21, 2012 – Cool Aid’s executive director, Kathy Stinson, has been providing leadership in the not-for-profit and public sectors since 1989. As executive director of Victoria Cool Aid Society from 2005, Kathy’s work has helped to build the capacity of Greater Victoria to identify and confront some of the key challenges we face.

Whether leading initiatives like the creation of the Access Health Centre or working collaboratively with community groups like the Downtown Service Providers or theCoalition to End Homelessness, Kathy has a talent and passion for bringing people together and making good things happen, helping create a better future for our community.


From The Victoria Leadership Awards booklet.

Poetry Rocks / Peers Victoria Book Launch

Voices_from_the_edge_poetry_bookFebruary 2, 2012 – Come hear a group of poets from Peers Victoriaand Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing shelter; who write a unique visceral poetry from the banks of the mainstream.

Meet the poets, and hear their words, at the book launch of “Voices from the Edge”, at Mocha House, 1633 Hillside, on Friday, February 10th, starting at 7:30 pm. $3 admission. Books and CDs available.

All proceeds will support creative projects for Peers and Cool Aid clients.



Books available at Cool Aid’s administration office, 102-749 Pandora Avenue, 250-383-1977.

Dvora Levin, 250-595-2246,

Don McTavish, Cool Aid, 250-383-1951,

Megan Lewis, Peers Victoria Resource Society, 250-385-5325 x105,

Cool Views #5 – 2013

Meet some of the great people that live and work at Cool Aid’s buildings, see some fabulous artwork, and find out what’s in store for 2013 in this year’s edition of Cool Views!

Click the image to view the on-line version of Cool Views #5. To receive a printed copy, contact us at, or 250-414-4799.

Some stories include:

• Very Cool Events
• Giving a Way of Life
• Varied Voices
• Cool Aid’s New HOmes
• Healing of Jerry McBride
• Meet Cool Aid’s Red Seal Chef
• Art and Home




Cool Views #4 – December 2011



Issue # 4 features the voices of Cool Aid’s clients, staff and volunteers as it reviews some of the new and old housing buildings at Cool Aid and some of the services that help people stay in their apartments. Click on the cover to download the PDF for reading.

Email if you want to be mailed a printed copy or a stack to give away. Your location can also be added to our regular distribution list by request. If you have an idea for an article, photos or images that speak to Cool Aid and its services feel free to contact Alan Rycroft.

Stories include:

  • From streets and boats to Swift House
  • My REES experience: a volunteer’s observations
  • 225,000 nutritious meals served last year
  • Why I love Every Step Counts
  • Every Step Counts for women
  • Poetry Rocks the Landing
  • Sam Charlie – salt of the earth
  • Paula Miller and the Toonie Group
  • Leave A Legacy? I’m not a millionaire!
  • Facts and Figures, Special corporate gifts

Cool Views # 3 – Focus on new shelter & housing
December 2010

Cool Views # 3 front cover

Issue # 3 highlights the many new services that Cool Aid has launched this year and the hundreds of new patients served at the Access Health Centre. Click on the cover to download the PDF for reading.


Stories include:

* New Shelter Opens – Rock Bay Landing
* Access Health Centre Services 1,500 More Clients
* Voice Mail Service – Just $6/Month
* Health Centre Staff Build Patio Paradise
* Cool Aid Opens Queens Manor and More Housing
* Remembering Herman Rebneris
* Cool Aid Dental Clinic Gives Back Smiles
* Chronic Health Management Physician Volunteers
* Leaving A Lasting Legacy for Cool Aid’s Clients
* Cool Donations and Did You Know facts



Cool Views # 2, December 2009

 Cool Views # 2

Focus on mental health and employment

December 2009

The second issue of the new Cool Views journal focuses on the mental health, addiction and employment services of Cool Aid’s Rees program, located at 707 Johnson Street.

Click on the front cover or here to pick up the latest copy of Cool Views.

Articles this issue include:

  • Access Health Centre opens its doors
  • The Mentoring Project
  • Did you know? (Rees facts)
  • An oasis in the heart of downtown (community activity centre)
  • Fiona Hyslop – a woman of conviction
  • Extreme weather shelter
  • Community Casual Labour Pool
  • The unfolding story of artist Tony Van Deven
  • A brief history of Cool Aid
  • 40 Years of Cool Aid Culture DVD
  • New Thrift Shop downtown

Active Image

Cool Views # 1

Focus on the Access Health Centre
May 2009

A new periodical called Cool Views has just been published by the Victoria Cool Aid Society to highlight its many health, housing, shelter and support services for community members who are homeless and vulnerable. You can pick up Cool Views online orcontact our office to have one or many mailed to you or your organization.

The premiere issue focuses on Cool Aid’s community health services and the new Access Health Centre now under construction at 713 Johnson Street downtown.


Twestival Victoria 2011 Raises $7,700 for Cool Aid

March 31, 2011 – $7,700 was raised by the good people (tweeps) who attended this year’s Twestival Victoria at the Bengal Lounge. The money will be used to purchase five new computers, a screen and a printer for public computer and Internet access at the Downtown Community Centre and also to provide nutritious lunches for 45 women at Sandy Merriman House for five weeks. Thanks so very much to the organizers and donors!!!

If you would like to follow some of the tweople connected to this event, you can find them at:

Twestival Victoria 2011 – We want to thank you all for nominating so many of the amazing charities that can be found here in Victoria.  Our decision was very difficult, as there were so many deserving candidates.

After much discussion and deliberation, we chose to nominate the Victoria Cool Aid Society as the beneficiary of the funds raised for Twestival 2011.  Every dollar from ticket sales and donations will go directly to support two Cool Aid programs: public access computers and lunches for the women at Sandy Merriman House.

When: Thursday, March 24 @ 7-11 pm
Where: Empress Hotel – Bengal Lounge
Why: Meet social media aficionados, have fun, raise $$$ for Cool Aid

Support Public Access Computers & Internet

Public access computers and Internet allows people who are homeless and marginalized to stay in touch with friends, family and prospective landlords and employers. We have computers at three sites (Downtown Community Centre, REES Program for mental health and employment, and the new Rock Bay Landing emergency shelter). The funds from Twestival would be used to purchase new computers, new internet accounts, new software, and new hardware for the people we serve.

Here are some examples of costs to replace the very old computers with new equipment:

  • Software for a new computer – $75
  • Internet Access – $80 per month
  • New screen – $190
  • Public access printer (desktop) – $225
  • New computer – $600
  • Public access printer (network printer) – $1,800

Help Feed Hungry Women

Another possible focus is to help feed the women at Sandy Merriman House emergency shelter – which was the focus of our latest direct email to our supporters. You may have seen the @VicCoolAid Tweets about it:

Last year, Cool Aid provided 225,000 nutritious meals for clients at our shelters, seniors in supportive housing and participants in the Every Step Counts running program. Sandy Merriman House provides 45 women with a healthy lunch each day through their drop-in program, where many women with nowhere to stay have come to depend on the food, showers, laundry, counselling and more.

  • $75 feeds five women with a nutritious lunch for a week
  • $150 feeds ten women for a week
  • $700 provides all the food for all 45 women for seven days
  • $3,000 covers a full month’s food costs

We’re thrilled to be able to work with the amazing tweople here in #YYJ, and we’re proud to be able to support an outstanding charity like the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

If you would like to read more about this society, visit them at

If you would like to follow some of the tweople connected to this event, you can find them as:

Thank you again to all of the nominees for this year’s event.  Keep working with Twitter, and you never know – maybe next year your charity will be tweeting all about it.

Every Step Counts Marks 2nd Anniversary with TC 10K

Logo of the Every Step Counts running and walking program

TC 10K Charity Run

>> Are you ready for to make a healthy lifestyle change?
>> Are you struggling with the winter blues?
>> Are you feeling guilty about veering off track from your New Years resolution?
>> Do you want to contribute to a good cause and be a part of an inclusive and positive team?

If you have answered YES to any of the above questions, then it’s time to take that first step in making Every Step Count!

Join the Every Step Counts walking/running/skipping team for the TC 10K on Sunday May 1, 2011.

Let’s make Every Step Count by raising money to support this innovating walking and running program for marginalized people experience challenges with mental health, addictions and homelessness.

Register at under INDIVIDUAL REGISTRATION. Make sure to select EVERY STEP COUNTS on the pull down menu when asked for your Club/Team or School Name.

Once you have registered as an official Every Step Counts team member email Gillie at to receive your Pledge Package, and start raising awareness and funds for Every Step Counts.

For more information check out our website at



February 22, 2010 – For over two years, Every Step Counts, a unique running program founded by the Victoria Foundation and hosted at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, has been helping people grow health, confidence and community participation.  Established as an opportunity for individuals who have experienced challenges with addiction, mental health, poverty, homelessness and other social issues, the program provides an opportunity to connect and take part in physical exercise. Since 2008, 42 runners have also moved on to educational programs and employment.

On Tuesday, February 22, Every Step Counts held a private TC 10K Rally with participants and runners from the Victoria Foundation and Cool Aid. The event will serve to celebrate two years of the program’s success as well as kick-off the 75th Anniversary running team of the Victoria Foundation. Local VIPs coming out to support the Victoria Foundation – Every Step Counts TC 10K running teams include:

* Jasper Blake – Canadian Ironman Champion

* David Calder – Olympic Canadian silver medalist – rowing

* Bruce Deacon – Olympic Canadian marathoner

* Jacqui Sanderson – TC 10K Race Director

Members of the public who would like to join the Victoria Foundation team and support Every Step Counts are invited to sign up online or call the Foundation at 250-381-5532.

Total individual runs have reached 5,000 by over 200 participants as Every Step Counts enters its third year. The program adds value to the runs through additional activities such as nutritious post-run snacks, nurse visits and monthly wellness talks.

This year the Victoria Foundation celebrates its 75th Anniversary. Since 1936 the generosity and commitment of donors has enabled the Victoria Foundation to fulfill its vision of connecting people who care with causes that matter®. The connections that the Foundation has with the charitable sector make us the go to resource centre for community philanthropy and they allow us to respond to the needs in our community through leadership, stewardship and granting.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been building hope, lives and community in the Capital Region for over 42 years, since 1968, through a wide range of programs including supported housing, emergency shelter, community health and dental services, employment services, mental health support and recreation and exercise programs for adults who are homeless or in need of help. For more information visit or call 250-383-1977.

Camosun, Conservatory & Vic High R&B Benefit for Access

For the second year in a row, the Victoria Conservatory of Music and the Vic High R&B band are teaming up with Camosun College students for the ACP Concert Series.

Friday, February 18, 2011 and Friday, February 25, Vic High and the Conservatory, respectively, will take the stage at Camosun’s historic Gibson Auditorium. Both nights will be videotaped by students of the Applied Communication Program, under the guidance of their instructor and program chair, Andy Bryce. After the final pieces are edited together, the DVDs are given to the performers to use as a keepsake or as demonstration pieces.

“All proceeds from the events will go directly to Victoria’s Access Health Centre, and we wanted a good local organization to support,” says Brett Blair, one of the event coordinators.“The Access Health Centre is a perfect example of collaboration and improvement to community services, and was chosen as our beneficiary for these reasons.”

Camosun's ACP Concert series benefits Access Health Centre

“This is a great opportunity for students from School District 61 and Camosun College to collaborate on an exciting and fun show,” says Bryce.

The doors open both nights at 6:30, with the show getting underway at 7:30. Tickets will be available at the door — $5 cash only — and can be reserved via the event’s Facebook page (ACP Concert Series — ).


For more information or to schedule an interview with Andy Bryce or another member of the concert series, please contact Amanda Richardson at 250-886-1668 or

3rd Annual Winter Coat Giveaway

Coat give-away Friday, January 21, 2011

This year marks the 3rd Annual Winter Coat Giveaway for Cool Aid’s Community Casual Labour Pool. Thank you for donating your winter coats, jackets and sweaters to those less fortunate. Mittens, gloves, hats, socks and blankets were also warmly received. A special thanks to the Hillside Centre and Cool Aid’s Labour Pool who accepted donations.

The next great coat and clothes give-away is on Friday, February 4 @ 1 pm – 2:45 pm at the Downtown Community Centre, 755 Pandora Avenue.

Cool Aid Receives Large Estate Gift “for Christmas”

To Support Endowment and Access Health Centre

Funeral card of Leslie Magill AndrewsDecember 21, 2010 – Today, the Victoria Cool Aid Society received a generous gift of $84,554.88 from the late Leslie Magill Andrews – who remembered people in our community who are homeless and marginalized in her will. Ms. Andrews was not known by the Society and had not previously donated to the organization. Cool Aid will receive an additional amount in a future year from her beloved pets’ trust fund after her dogs pass away. The gifts flow from a portion of the sale of her Shawnigan Lake home as well as other assets.

“We are genuinely surprised and so very grateful that such a generous woman – whom none of us knew – thought of Cool Aid’s clients in her will,” said executive director Kathy Stinson. “Leslie Magill Andrews’ thoughtful bequest, a portion of her overall estate, shows by example the true spirit of Christmas giving. She challenges all of us to think of others less fortunate at this time of year and at the end of our lives.”

According to her obituary: “Leslie Magill Andrews [July 5, 1956 to February 3, 2007], was born in Tokyo to Leslie Bratton Andrews and Richard Magill Andrews, Jr. Her maternal grandfather was Colonel Rufus S. Bratton, Chief of the Far Eastern Section of the Intelligence Branch of the Military Intelligence Division (G-2) in the US War Department, and was instrumental in deciphering the transcripts from the Japanese government to the Japanese ambassador on December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Her paternal great-grandfather, William Henry Andrews, was appointed American Consul to Hankow (modern day Wuhan) in 1890. Her paternal grandfather, Richard Magill Andrews, Sr., was an American trained mining engineer raised in Japan. The family company, Andrews & George, imported machinery from the US into Japan and it is purported that it imported the first motor vehicle into Japan.”

Her bequest will be spent in ways that enrich the lives of the poorest people in the region:

  1. $50,000 will help pay for the reconstruction of the Access Health Centre – a new community partnership that serves over 6,000 patients and clients annually. One of Cool Aid’s seven medical examination rooms will be named in her honour. Including other recent gifts of over $25,000 (and growing) in December from Cool Aid supporters, $20,000 from Coast Capital Savings, a memorial gift of $5,000 honouring Dr. Henry Ross from J.R. Shaw (Shaw Communications), and $2,000 from the Rotarac Club of Victoria (young Rotarians at the University of Victoria) – the Access Health Centre is now just over $800,000 short of its $5.3 million campaign goal.
  2. The Cool Aid Endowment Fund, managed by the Victoria Foundation, will receive $30,000 of the bequest – to support the Cool Aid’s housing, shelter, health care and other services in perpetuity.
  3. The remaining $4,500 will be invested in promoting bequests (a donation left in one’s will) and other gifts, such as appreciated stocks, to the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

“The unusually large estate gift inspired Cool Aid’s volunteer Board of Directors to establish a new policy for the investment of bequests and planned gifts,” said Kathy Stinson. Cool Aid will now utilize undesignated bequests over $5,000 as follows to ensure that life-end gifts continue to help the community for many, many years:

  • 30% or more will be invested in the Cool Aid Endowment Fund
  • 30% or more will help build capital projects such as housing and the
    Access Health Centre
  • Up to 10% will be used to promote others making planned gifts and bequests

The Victoria Cool Aid Society is among over 80 organizations which have entrusted their funds to the Victoria Foundation. “The Victoria Foundation is honoured to receive an endowment contribution from the Victoria Cool Aid Society through this generous bequest from the late Leslie Magill Andrews,” said Sandra Richardson, CEO of the Victoria Foundation.  “By adding to their endowment fund, organizations such as Cool Aid are investing in their future, building assets, moving towards greater strength and building capacity. We are proud to assist them in their efforts to make our community and our province the best it can be.”

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been building hope, lives and community in the Capital Region for over 42 years, since 1968, through a wide range of programs including supported housing, emergency shelter, community health and dental services, employment services, mental health support and recreation and exercise programs for adults who are homeless or in need of help. For more information visit or call 250-383-1977.

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Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Cool Aid

Shannon Drew-Burrows, Director of Communications, Victoria Foundation

McGregor Socks Gives Another 7,500 Pairs for Local Homeless

December 10, 2010 – Congregation Emanu-El’s social action group, Avodah, announced today that McGregor Socks (Toronto) has donated another 7,500 pairs of socks en route for homeless and poor people in the Capital Region.  This brings to 33,000 the total number of pairs of socks that McGregor Socks has donated to the Capital Region since 2005!

There are two opportunities for the media to cover this extraordinary commitment of a national company to people in Victoria who are homeless:
Volunteers from Avodah and Mayor Dean Fortin will make a short announcement at 2:30 pm about the socks to people attending the Our Place Christmas Party today at First Metropolitan United Church,  932 Balmoral Road.

The population groups served by the Access Health Centre are much more susceptible than the general population to foot-related diseases and ailments. On Monday, December 13 @ 2:30 pm, a nurse from the Cool Aid Community Health Centre (713 Johnson Street) will discuss the critical importance of healthy feet and quality socks for people without homes who are subject to the rain and cold and whom spend a great deal of their time standing.

The socks will be distributed to the following  social service providers, who will give them out to the people who need them most:  AIDS Vancouver Island, Out of the Rain Youth Night Shelter,  Burnside Gorge Community Association, James Bay Community project/Youth Clinic, Kiwanis Emergency Youth Shelter, Native Friendship Centre, Our Place, Pacifica Housing Service, PEERS, Rainbow Kitchen, REES Program, Rock Bay Landing, Single Parent Resource Centre, Cool Aid Health Clinic, Sandy Merriman Shelter, VARCS Mobile X Van, YM/YWCA Outreach and the Extreme Weather shelters.

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Michael Bloomfield, Avodah, Congregation Emanu-El, 250-380-3001,
Rick Hastings, McGregor Industries, 604-417-1226,
Irene Haigh-Gidora, Manager of Health Services, Cool Aid, 250-385-1466,


McGregor Socks is a subsidiary of McGregor Industries, Toronto.  McGregor was founded in 1928 by the Lipson family and today is still led by third-generation family members.  The companies’ major source of revenue is from developing and marketing better men’s and women’s socks.  The company distributes a wide range of products through an extensive international sales network, with 10,000 points of sale in over 30 countries.

Congregation Emanu-El, built in 1863, is Canada’s oldest synagogue in continuing use.  In 2003, Rabbi Harry Brechner created the Avodah social action group to turn Congregation Emanu-El’s beliefs into acts of loving kindness.  Avodah — working closely with social service agencies — has focused on serving its neighbours who are most in need in Victoria, particularly homeless youth and adults. In addition to the socks initiative, other activities include providing shelter and hot meals for the Out of the Rain youth night shelter, putting on monthly birthday parties at Our Place and supporting families at risk of homelessness through rent supplements.

Victoria Cool Aid Society provides primary health care services, supported housing, emergency shelter, mental health support and job placements to adults and youth who are marginalized.  Info:


A Few Socks and Health Facts

  • When you do not have a home, you spend much of your time standing in lines.  It is hard to keep your feet warm and dry and your feet suffer a lot of abuse.
  • Good clean socks help prevent both fungal infections and blisters.
  • Prevention of blisters prevents secondary foot infections that require antibiotic treatment.
  • A patient with a foot fungal infection is encouraged to change into clean socks frequently.
  • Good socks are more important for those who suffer with neuropathy in their feet, like diabetics, and those with AIDS neuropathy, as they have reduced sensation and cannot feel when they are developing sores and blisters.

Discover the stories and hopes of Victoria’s homeless this season

Shelbourne Street Church of Christ – Victoria – Giving the perfect gift is such a great feeling, and every year we rack our brains and scour the malls for this very reason.  It’s also a great feeling to help those who are less fortunate than us, and every year there are a myriad of wonderful ways we can make a difference.  Well this year, we all have the opportunity to do both, with the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List which is found

A toque, some socks, a moment of your time… these are some of the simple things that would warm the hearts of our city’s homeless. The Victoria Cool Aid Society and Shelbourne Street Church of Christ are joining forces on this project where we ask the residents of several shelters to share their experiences and hopes with us, and select a few items that they would appreciate as Christmas gifts. These stories and wish lists are then put on the web (under the residents’ first names), where people can read them and decide if they’d like to buy a gift for one of the specific shelter residents.  The gifts are then dropped off at the Church building and delivered in time for Christmas.

“The response last year was overwhelming,” said Monique Cummings, project coordinator from the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ.  “Everyone was so generous and understood not only how much it meant to simply read the stories or send an encouraging Christmas card, but also what an impact it would have on the residents to give their son or daughter exactly what they’d asked for, or to get a pay-as-you-go cell phone and be able to put a contact number other than the shelter on their resume.”

The purpose of this initiative is to show the homeless that they are not invisible, that they are loved.  It also allows people to see that the homeless are not a nameless, faceless, insurmountable issue, but individuals with different personalities and histories, that can be helped in this simple way.

Homeless Partners is a non-profit, self-funded program run entirely by volunteer efforts, in partnership with the staff at shelters where the program is offered. The program is coordinated by a small number of individuals, who assist volunteers from local churches in starting and running the program in their city. Since 2005, the project has brought thousands of gifts to the less fortunate and touched many more hearts in cities across North America.  This is the second year Victoria is participating, and we hope to serve the 100+ residents of Next Steps, Sandy Merriman House and the new Rock Bay Landing shelter.

“We are hoping to connect people personally and directly with the homeless, to raise awareness of both the problem and the vast amount of work going into a solution by wonderful associations like Cool Aid,” said Cummings.  “Even if we don’t collect a single present, we’ll have succeeded if people spend even five minutes reading the stories we’ve been fortunate enough to record.”

Members of the public can help by visiting to learn more, reading the stories, buying gifts or volunteering to interview shelter residents or update the website.  Due to the short-term nature of many shelter stays, we’ll continue to add stories to the site until mid-December, so please check for updates as Christmas Day approaches.

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Monique Cummings, Victoria Project Coordinator, Shelbourne Street Church of Christ

Jennie Keeran, Project Founder

Christine O’Brien, Victoria Cool Aid Society
Coordinator of Sandy Merriman House & Next Steps Transitional Shelter

Every Carb Counts Dinner with Grammy & Juno Award Winning Dan Hill

2nd Annual Every Carb Counts Dinner with “Sometimes when we touch”

Grammy and Juno Award Winning Singer/Songwriter Dan Hill

Active ImageOctober 5, 2010 – Victoria Cool Aid Society and Victoria Foundation are pleased to announce the Every Carb Counts benefit dinner this Friday at the Hotel Grand Pacific. Proceeds from the dinner and an auction will support the Every Step Counts running and walking program for people experiencing challenges with housing, mental health, poverty and other barriers.

As one runner said: “I heard about Every Step Counts when I was in Stabilization [withdrawal management]. I was physically debilitated – I had a couple of bad years. I gave it a try, and now I am training for my first half marathon. Thank you Every Step Counts!”

Hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy and Rob Reid from Frontrunners, Every Carb Counts will feature Grammy and Juno award winning singer/songwriter Dan Hill. The delicious buffet dinner is being held at the Hotel Grand Pacific this Friday, October 8th (6:30 pm reception, 7 pm dinner). The dinner will also help Every Step Counts runners and other participants “carbo load” prior to Sunday’s Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon events on Sunday. The event is alcohol free.

In addition to the buffet dinner, a silent auction will feature a wide selection of great, donated gifts and treats including:

  • Two nights and three days at beautiful Heron House on Quadra Island
  • 14K gold bracelet (value: $900) from Van Island Jewellers
  • Spa package with Fish haircut, body work, and Lush Cosmetics
  • Bosley’s gigantic gourmet doggie baskets
  • Golf package for four at Cordova Bay
  • Mini vacation on Salt Spring Island courtesy of Wave Hill Farm and Apple Tree Restaurant
  • Scrumptious meals from Devour, Foo Asian Street Food and others
  • Running clinic packages from Frontrunners
  • Much, much more

The Every Carb Counts buffet dinner and silent auction is a great way to meet and support the wonderful runners of Every Step Counts. Tickets are $45 each or $400 for a table of ten. Consider also buying a ticket for one of 30 runners attending. Tickets are available at:

  • New Balance (1205 Government Street)
  • Victoria Cool Aid Society Administration (102-749 Pandora in the walkway)
  • Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut (621 Broughton)

To reserve your space, or for information, call 250-383-1977, visit a location above, or . Tickets will also be available at the door.

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Information: * *

Brittany McConneghy, 250-882-5261,
Rob Reid, 250-216-2305,
Shannon Drew-Burrows, 250-381-5532,
Nikki Harris, (Dan Hill interviews)

Cool Aid Condemns Vandalism Against Mayor Fortin and Family

November 5, 2010 – Media Advisory – The Victoria Cool Aid Society unequivocally condemns today’s misguided attack against the car and home of Mayor Dean Fortin and his family. Mayor Dean Fortin is one of the best friends of people in our community who are homeless and poor.

The self-described “militant” protesters have personally attacked the Mayor who has done more than any other municipal politician to provide housing and shelter to those in our community who deserve this basic human right.

Cool Aid calls on the caring community of citizens in Victoria to support Mayor Dean Fortin, the City of Victoria and others who are working hard to build new housing and temporary shelter and to continue to work to end homelessness in the Capital Region. We ask citizens not to lose faith because of the misguided actions of a few.

Although 85 temporary shelter beds have been lost in the last week, there is in fact a significant increase of permanent services available in our community as of November 1. As well an additional 80 units of permanent supported housing will be available early in the new year thanks to the Province, BC Housing, the Capital Regional Hospital District and the City of Victoria  – all partners in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

Rock Bay Landing – Net increase of 4 permanent shelter beds, 23 modest transitional apartments and 2 units of family shelter. New service capacity = +32 sheltered and housed (assuming 5 people in the 2 family units).

Queens Manor – Net increase of 36 supportive housing apartments available for adults, couples and people with pets. Assuming 20% occupancy by couples, capacity = +43

Extreme Weather Protocol – Additional capacity of 165 temporary mats during very cold and wet weather. For details visit

Divine Shelter – Loss of 40 temporarily funded shelter mats.

Salvation Army – Loss of 30 temporarily funded shelter mats.

Streetlink Shelter – Loss of 15 temporarily funded shelter beds.

Altogether 59 units of housing (Rock Bay Landing and Queens Manor) plus 6 shelter beds (new permanent and family beds) are a significant improvement on the 70 temporary mats at Divine Shelter and the Salvation Army and 15 beds at Streetlink which have closed down except during extreme weather conditions. These permanent additions to house people who have been homeless in our community will accommodate 75 people*, including couples and families.

Additionally, up to 165 temporary shelter mats are available and funded in our community for the worst weather of the season through the Victoria Extreme Weather Protocol coalition.

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Kathy Stinson, Executive Director

* 59 apartments + 4 permanent shelter beds + 5 people in two family shelter units + 7 couples at Queens Manor

Downtown Service Providers Condemn Vandalism Against Mayor & Family

November 5, 2010 – Victoria – The Downtown Service Providers unanimously and unequivocally condemn today’s vandalism attack against Mayor Dean Fortin and his family.

The disturbing acts of the few self-described “militant” protesters are based on misinformation and have the potential to damage the work of everyone in the community working together to end homelessness.

The “militants” claim 72 shelter mats on the floor have been lost.

In fact, a net of 153 mats are gained whenever the Extreme Weather Protocol is in effect, during the worst of winter weather.

60 temporary mats on the floor have been permanently replaced by much better supportive housing and staffed shelter beds.

On days when the Protocol is not in effect, a net of 12 mats have been lost.

Additionally, 80 units of permanent supportive housing will also be available early in the new year thanks to the Province, BC Housing, the Capital Regional Hospital District, the City of Victoria, Pacifica Housing and Victoria Cool Aid Society  – all partners in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

The Downtown Service Providers ask that citizens support Mayor Dean Fortin, the City of Victoria, other levels of government and non-profit organizations who are working together to end homelessness. We must not be distracted in our important work because of the misguided actions of a few.

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Rev. Al Tysick, Chair

Zolabud CD Release Party & Benefit

with special guests: Children of Celebrities

  • Proceeds shared with Victoria Cool Aid Society
  • Thursday, November 11 @ 8 pm
  • Logan’s Pub, 1821 Cook Street
  • $8 at the door

Active ImageSumptuous songs swimming in beefy-tasty grooves…just what a listener wants and needs.  ZOLABUD is an essential part of a complete musically balanced diet. Containing 22 vitamins and minerals plus 10 different proteins in every delicious mouth-watering morsel.  No trans fats! Recipe: mix 2 cups of THINKING, add one cup of PUNISH, and a tablespoon of ROUGH EDGES and there you have it…one freshly baked ZOLABUD!  We are hot out of the oven and are best served fresh on a stage near you.  So come on by and sample our goodies…your ears will be glad you did.  You can’t deny the yummy sounds of ZOLABUD!!!

Hailing from Victoria, BC, Children of Celebrities offer an original acoustic music that draws upon folk, roots, country and bluegrass and presented in a unique and refreshing way.

“Long-time favourites in their native Victoria, BC, these fun-loving, self-described ‘pseudo-middle-aged guys’ play the kind of music tailor-made for the Canadian folk festival circuit. These are self-effacing acoustic tunes that are easy on the ears, with just enough hints of bluegrass to show off each member’s prowess on their chosen instrument.”

– Jason Schneider, “Wood, Wires and Whiskey”, (February, 2010)

 “Children of Celebrities inhabit that nebulous middle ground between country, bluegrass and whatever it is that Tom Waits does.”

Monday Magazine

Both bands are loaded with Cool Aid talent and energy (some of their lead talent have day “gigs” with Cool Aid).

See them, hear them online first – see you there in person!

ROMS BC Charity Golf Tournament Raises $1,614

June 6, 2010 – Members of the Rental Owners & Managers Society of British Columbiaraised $1,614 for Cool Aid’s Next Steps transitional shelter this weekend in a golf tournament. Last year, ROMS BC members donated $860 and a $350 gift certificate from Empress Painting was donated by the winners, Phil and Lois Smith, during the golf tournament.

The money will be used to help the 15 clients of Next Steps transitional shelter Active Imageto access the resources and services they need to get their lives back on track.

Thank you everyone for brightening up the lives of our residents!

Oak Bay Tea Party’s Mad Hatter Fun Run

In Support of the Victoria Cool Aid Society

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We’re Going To Rattle Some Tea Cups!

The Victoria Cool Aid Society’s women’s shelter and  Every Step Counts running program have joined forces with the Oak Bay Tea Party’s Mad Hatter Fun Run to raise awareness of our region’s homeless community and their personal care needs.

The Mad Hatter Fun Run and Relay will take place immediately before the Oak Bay Tea Party parade on Saturday, June 5, starting at Windsor Park and ending at Willows Beach. The Fun Run is 3 K along the parade route and baby joggers are also welcome. Teams of up to four people are invited to participate as a relay.  Registration starts at 9:45 am with the Run starting at 10:15.

Registration forms can be picked up at Frontrunners or New Balance.  In addition to a small entry fee, participants are asked to bring personal care items to donate to the Cool Aid Society’s shelter program.

Registration forms are available at Frontrunners at their Victoria and Langford locations and at Bellla on Johnson. Registration fees and donations can be dropped off at these locations or at the registration desk on the day of the Fun Run.

The Mad Hatter Fun Run was started in 2003 by Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners, and typically attracts over 100 participants each year.


Victoria Cool Aid Society – Shelter Program

Cool Aid operates two front-line emergency shelters: Streetlink and Sandy Merriman House for women. Both shelters offer food and hygiene services designed to meet the very basic needs of the most marginalized members of our community: the homeless, homeless-at-risk, and the street-entrenched.

Cool Aid also operates Next Steps Shelter at 2317 Dowler Place which provides 18 beds for men and women wanting to take that next step out of homelessness. These shelters provide an important link between the homeless community and the resources they need, including specialized services such as mental health and addictions support, housing advocacy, and crisis and life skills counselling.

Visit for more information.


Victoria Cool Aid Society – Every Step Counts running program

Every Step Counts is a running and walking program for people experiencing barriers and challenges with housing, mental health, addiction and other related issues.  It is positive and innovative, drawing on the wide-reaching and long-lasting benefits of exercising and team work to foster self esteem, confidence, energy and positive growth.

Visit for more information.


Runners of Compassion

Runners of Compassion is a non-profit society whose members participate as a group in fundraising and volunteer activities, in order to provide support to a variety of charitable causes, organizations and non-traditional groups. We, as runners are doing something to improve ourselves. We have made the conscious decision to improve our athletic ability, health and well-being through running. If, in addition, we can help improve someone else’s life or advance the health of a community, be it local or global, then this is an added benefit we strive towards. So examples of our work projects that we sponsor locally are Shoes For Youth, Sandy Merriman House, Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Center and School Breakfast and Snack Programs.

To register, drop by Frontrunners or Bellla on Johnson:

  • Frontrunners – 1200 Vancouver Street, Harris Green Village (382-8181)
  • Frontrunners – 133-Goldstream Avenue, Goldstream Station (391-7373)
  • Bellla on Johnson – 104B-560 Johnson Street, Market Square (380-0994)


For more information contact:

Rob Reid

Karen Tannas

Access Health Centre Celebrates History & Heritage Award

Victoria – May 20, 2010 – The Access Health Centre celebrated its restored heritage building today with the mounting of a bronze plaque on 713 Johnson Street outlining the building’s history. Hallmark Society’s administrative director Helen Edwards presented the building’s owners, AIDS Vancouver Island and Victoria Cool Aid Society, with an Award of Merit for the building’s heritage restoration.

“The Hallmark Society was impressed not only by the quality of the heritage restoration,” said Helen Edwards, “but also because it was completed by non-profit partners actively engaged in improving the downtown core.” The project was managed by CitySpaces Consulting.

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“We are proud to have restored the deteriorated and underutilized building that formerly housed the bingo hall downtown,” said Andrea Langlois, AIDS Vancouver Island’s manager of communications. “Even more exciting is the fact that we are able to deliver better health and social services to many more low-income clients than in our previous cramped quarters.”

$4.4 million of the $5.3 million cost for the heritage restoration and reconstruction has been paid for by the partners, foundations, government, businesses and caring individuals. “We are still searching for a million-dollar donor to finish paying for the capital costs and help us establish a small building endowment,” said Irene Haigh-Gidora, manager of community health services for Cool Aid. “If desired, a building naming opportunity is available.”

Donations to help support the Access Health Centre’s reconstruction can be sent c/o Victoria Cool Aid Society, 102-749 Pandora Avenue, Victoria BC, V8W 1N9, 250-383-1977 or made online at

The Access Health Centre is a one-stop health and social services building downtown serving over 6,000 people struggling with homelessness, addictions and mental health issues.  Access is a joint project of the Victoria Cool Aid Society and AIDS Vancouver Island, and cost $5.3 million to reconstruct the heritage building at 713 Johnson Street. Services at the Access Health Centre include counselling, education and harm reduction, mental health, dental, pharmaceutical and primary health care for people who are homeless, poor and vulnerable.

The Cool Aid Community Health Clinic is located on the first floor, the Cool Aid Dental Clinic on the second floor, and AIDS Vancouver Island’s prevention, support, education and administrative services is on the third floor. Counsellors from Victoria Native Friendship Centre also operate out of the second floor and VIHA Mental Health & Addictions will be moving additional complementary services to the second floor in the coming months.

For more information please visit

– 30 –


Helen Edwards, Administrative Director, Hallmark Society
250- 686-0788 or

Deane Strongitharm, Senior Associate, CitySpaces Consulting Ltd.
250-383-0304 x22,

Irene Haigh-Gidora, Manager of Community Health Services, Victoria Cool Aid Society
250-385-1466 or

Andrea Langlois
Manager of Communications, AIDS Vancouver Island
250-384-2366 or

Ellice Street Knitters Receive International Support

Active  Imageby Lesley Crassweller – With the opening of the Ellice Street Shelter set for September 2010, the Centennial United Church/Burnside Gorge group of knitters is two thirds of its way to completing 106 afghans. And it’s not only the “locals” who have contributed to this project. Lil, who lives in Wales, sends wool and squares to her sister Marilyn in Victoria, who is aiming to complete 25 afghans. Sharon, a flight attendant, takes her knitting on international flights and tells crew and passengers of the project.

The Centennial United Church knitters receive wonderful help from the “Knitters and the Menders” group and from every United Church in Victoria. All this began with a suggestion from Lois that the church and community share in the project with the aim of  “a new afghan blanket on every bed” for the Ellice Street Shelter.

For pickup of completed squares, contact Lois at 250-385-1400 or Rosemary at 250-727-7339. The group hopes to complete the afghans within a few months. Donations of wool are still welcome. To make a donation please contact Lois at 250-385-1400.

Reprinted with permission from the Burnside Gorge Community News, April 2010,

36 Units of Seniors Housing in Saanich: Olympic Vista Breaks Ground

May 7, 2010 – The Victoria Cool Aid Society is pleased to announce that a ground-breaking ceremony was held today at 3814 Carey Road in Saanich for the “Olympic Vista” apartments – a supportive housing development of 36 units in Saanich.

“Olympic Vista is Cool Aid’s ninth supported housing building in the Capital Region and our first in Saanich, and will open early next year,” said John Crean, Cool Aid’s manager of housing. “With the addition of these 36 new studio apartments, Cool Aid will provide long-term housing and support services for a total of 292 people in Saanich, Victoria and Langford.”


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The Cool Aid Housing Program provides affordable, supported housing to the people who are most marginalized in our community and whom would otherwise most likely be homeless.  Tenant supports include life skills promotion, medication monitoring, volunteer opportunities, regular tenant gatherings and organized outings. Olympic Vista, like Cool Aid’s other two seniors buildings, will also offer nutritious meals.

Olympic Vista has been made possible by the generous support of our partners:

  • BC Housing is contributing the $7.2 million construction and assembly cost and will pay for the ongoing building maintenance and support services.
  • The Capital Regional Hospital District has contributed the land, valued at $1.15 million.
  • VANOC is to be commended for their thoughtful and careful planning so that Olympic athletes’ housing could be re-assembled in Saanich, and other communities in BC, as a lasting legacy to improve the community for everyone and help end homelessness.

Victoria Cool Aid Society provides supported housing, primary health and dental care, emergency shelter, mental health support and employment opportunities to adults who are marginalized in Greater Victoria. For more information visit or call 250-383-1977.

Cool Aid, BC Housing and CRHD are partners in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, whose mandate is to house and support those who are homeless; provide the necessary infrastructure to lead, coordinate, monitor and ensure results on Victoria’s homelessness crisis; and to prevent homelessness from occurring in the future.

– 30 –

Information:    and

John Crean, Manager of Housing, Cool Aid

Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Cool Aid


Speaking Notes: Olympic Vista Breaks Ground

Cathy Stigant, Board Chair

Every time the Victoria Cool Aid Society constructs a new building we feel renewed hope. Hope that together we can end homelessness. Hope that together we will end homelessness.

Thanks to our building partners – BC Housing and the Capital Regional Hospital District – we stand proudly here today to formally break ground on the Olympic Vista apartments. Thank you for joining us to celebrate this important moment for the community.

Olympic Vista represents hope for a better future for 36 adults who will soon have modest studio apartments in Saanich. We welcome these new neighbours whom we are privileged to serve. We welcome a better community for Saanich and the Capital Region.

At the same time, we must acknowledge how difficult is the struggle, in these uncertain economic times, to end homelessness in our community.

We have joined together in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness because we have hope. Because we know that solutions are better, and more cost effective, than the status quo.

This year, Cool Aid’s services are at capacity and beyond. In troubled economic times, the poor and marginalized are often hurt the most. Our employees see it every month in increasing demands for Cool Aid services – health care, emergency shelter, housing, and support for mental health, addictions and employment.

Olympic Vista is Cool Aid’s 9th supported housing building in the Capital Region and our first in Saanich. With the addition of these 36 new apartments, Cool Aid will provide long-term housing and support services for 292 people in Saanich, Victoria and Langford.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds more individuals who are homeless in the Capital Region. Many more projects like Olympic Vista are needed to create a better future for our communities.

The Cool Aid Housing Program provides affordable, supportive housing to the people who are most marginalized in our community, and whom would otherwise most likely be homeless.  Tenant supports include life skills promotion, medication monitoring, volunteer opportunities, regular tenant gatherings and organized outings. Olympic Vista, like Cool Aid’s other two seniors buildings, will also serve nutritious meals.

Olympic Vista would not be possible without the generous support of our partners.

BC Housing has contributed the entire $7.2 million construction and assembly cost for Olympic Vista and will pay for the ongoing building maintenance and support services for those who live here.

Thank you Murray Coell and the BC Government for your strong support of housing for citizens trapped by poverty and unfortunate circumstance.

The Capital Regional Hospital District has contributed the land upon which we stand, valued at $1.15 million. Without land there can be no low-income housing.

Thank you Graham Hill, and the Capital Regional Hospital District, for your continued care and generosity to our neighbours who need help and hope. And thank you Mayor Frank Leonard, and the District of Saanich, for approving the plans for Olympic Vista.

On behalf of Cool Aid, I would also like to thank our new neighbours, represented here today by Susan Belford and the Mount View Colquitz Community Association. We look forward to working with you to ensure that our tenants, employees and building, are a positive contribution to this neighbourhood.

VANOC is also to be commended for their wise planning. How farsighted that Olympic athletes’ housing will be re-assembled right here, in Saanich, as a lasting legacy for all British Columbians.

Cool Aid, BC Housing and the Capital Regional Hospital District, are all partners in the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness. Together, our mandate is to house and support those who are homeless; to ensure results on the Capital Region’s homelessness crisis; and to prevent homelessness from occurring in the future.

Together we have taken a positive step forward today – providing new hope for the future.

Together we will end homelessness.

Thank you very much.

Sleep Country Canada Donates 110 Beds

April 13, 2010 – Sleep Country Canada generously gave 110 nearly-new beds today with a huge truckload of bed frames and mattresses for Victoria Cool Aid Society’s supportive housing residents,  delivered free of charge by Transource Transportation. The beds are from the Whistler Athletes Village and are part of a sizeable Olympics legacy being left to the community in the form of supportive housing.

Delivery of 85 beds to Victoria Cool Aid Society from Sleep Country











Also, under construction at this time is the Olympic Vista supported housing building on Carey Road in Saanich. The exciting Olympic Vista project will create 36 new units of supportive housing for seniors who are homeless or at risk from re-assembled modular housing from the Olympic Athletes Village. Like all Cool Aid housing, staffing will be on site 24/7.

The new housing is scheduled to open in Spring 2011.

Cool Aid Volunteers Receive The Bay Centre’s Support

April 23, 2010 – The volunteer program of Victoria Cool Aid Society’s mental health and employment services will benefit from a $2,000 donation from The Bay Centre. The gift from The Bay Centre coincides with National Volunteer Week (April 18-24) – a celebration of volunteers and volunteerism in Victoria and across the country.

The Victoria Cool Aid Society thanks dozens of volunteers who are central to its REES (Resources, Education, Employment and Support) Program and thanks over 100 other volunteers who make a difference to clients’ lives every day at its emergency shelters, dental clinic and supportive housing programs.

“We are so grateful for our amazing volunteers, who enhance the lives of thousands of our clients every year – providing services that Cool Aid could not offer without them,” said executive director Kathy Stinson. “At our REES Program, volunteers mentor people living with mental illness and overcoming addictions, help our clients find housing, employment and supports, and produce a monthly publication to assist the many citizens and organizations working to improve mental health in our community. REES volunteers help over 100 people every day.”

“Victoria is fortunate to have over 138,000 volunteers who are committed to enriching the lives of others through volunteerism,” said Darlene Hollstein, General Manager of The Bay Centre. “It is because of these individuals that organizations such as the Victoria Cool Aid Society can deliver essential programs to thousands of people in need on an annual basis.”

The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been building hope, lives and community in the Capital Region for over 40 years, since 1968, through a wide range of programs including supported housing, community health and dental services, emergency shelter, mental health supports, and a casual labour pool for adults who are homeless or in need of help.

Covering one full city block in the heart of town, The Bay Centre has a mix of over 90 street front and interior shops where you’ll find great unique brands, diverse dining options and exceptional service in an urban shopping environment.



Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Cool Aid

Darlene  Hollstein, General Manager, The Bay Centre

Every Step Counts… Especially the First Step

Active ImageFebruary 18, 2010 – Today marks a year of success and the first anniversary of Every Step Counts, a unique running program founded by the Victoria Foundation and hosted at the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

Drawing on the benefits of running and team work to foster self esteem, confidence, energy and positive growth, the program is for individuals experiencing challenges with addiction, mental health, poverty, homelessness and other social issues.

“By committing to pilot Every Step Counts, our Board was confident it would be an excellent fit for Victoria,” says Sandra Richardson, Victoria Foundation CEO. “Today’s gathering not only demonstrates the support we have from our community partners but the faces around the room are proof of the positive impact we are having within our community.”

The program has provided a wide range of physical and mental health benefits to the participants, including weight loss, decreased body mass index and decreased waist size.  As Dr. David Bell, a physician of several of the runners, put it:

“I have patients involved in the Every Step Counts program. Their involvement in this program has had a very positive impact on their mental and physical health. I believe this program has done more to improve self-esteem and integrate these people into society than most of my medical interventions and will result in lower costs to the medical health system in general and the mental health system in particular.”

Almost two years ago, the Victoria Foundation brought forward the idea of Every Step Counts and with the support of Frontrunners, Vancity, United Way, The Jawl Foundation and the TELUS Victoria Community Board, funding was secured.  Victoria Cool Aid Society was then approached to develop, house and run this dynamic and positive health and wellness program.

Participants mark running milestones after demonstrating their commitment to keeping with the program.  Upon joining, they receive gently used running shoes. After five runs, they earn a water bottle, after 10, they receive a certificate and a technical shirt. After 15 runs, they are outfitted with brand new running shoes and at the 25 run mark they earn two running hats; one to keep and one to gift to an individual who has helped to make “every step count”.

“This program draws its strength and dignity from each individual who comes out to run or walk,” explains Gillie Easdon, Every Step Counts Program Coordinator.  ”We are all equals in our running gear which means we can leave our histories, diagnoses and financial situations at the door. That is powerful.”

Total individual runs have reached 2,500 by over 120 participants as Every Step Counts enters its second year. Participation growth levels have been steady and the program seeks to add value to participants through things like monthly wellness talks.  Both refreshing and empowering, Every Step Counts continues to inspire other communities and enrich its own mandate and potential. Some runners are now unable to attend, as they are in training programs or employment.   But they, like the rest of the crew, now have a deeper appreciation of just how Every Step does Count.


For more information, please visit:     and

Media Contacts:

Brittany McConeghy
Program Coordinator, Every Step Counts

Shannon Drew-Burrows
Director of Communications, Victoria Foundation

Just $900,000 Left To Raise for $5.3 M Access Building

February 1, 2010 – AIDS Vancouver Island and Victoria Cool Aid Society have announced that another $100,000 has been raised for the Access Health Centre. This $5.3 million building project is supported by the partner agencies, government, foundations, businesses and individuals.  Just $900,000 remains to meet the mortgage-free goal.

The building at 713 Johnson Street, occupied since September 2009, is now home to counsellors from the Victoria Native Friendship Centre offering renewed downtown access to urban First Nations services. Later in the year, VIHA will also be moving some of their mental health and addiction services onto the second floor. These valuable partners will add to the integration of services available at the Access Health Centre which provides primary care, dental care, counselling and mental health services to the homeless and other vulnerable, at-risk populations, with a team approach that has been applauded by government, health care professionals and the community.

Significant donations in the last two months include:

  • Over $25,000 – Individual Cool Aid donors, local physicians and dentists
  • $16,000 – BMO Bank of Montreal (BC Division)
  • $13,500 – The Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children to pay for dental equipment used in
    the treatment of children
  • $10,000 – CIBC
  • $9,000 – Gifts from Victoria Foundation donors
  • $2,000 – St. John the Divine Anglican Church members

Victoria Cool Aid Society and AIDS Vancouver Island continue to accept donations to retire the mortgage so all funds can be devoted to services.  A $1 million donor interested in naming rights or an anonymous gift for the downtown heritage building at 713 Johnson Street is also being sought.

If the capital campaign’s goal of $5.3 million is surpassed, an endowment fund will be set up in perpetuity at the Victoria Foundation to help pay for the annual costs associated with the Access Health Centre and its services.

– 30 –


Kathy Stinson, Executive Director, Victoria Cool Aid Society

Andrea Langlois, Communications Manager, AIDS Vancouver Island
250-384-2366 ext. 2268

Homeless Awareness Art Exhibition: Jan. 15 – Feb. 27

The Victoria Fine Art Festival Society presents its inaugural exhibition, in part sponsored by the Victoria Cool Aid Society:

Homeless Awareness:
an Exhibition of Art Work by People Who Have Experienced Homelessness
January 15 – February 27, 2010
705 Johnson Street, Downtown Victoria
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm

Opening reception with the artists January 15, 5-8pm. Free event and open to the public.

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Click on artwork for art exhibit poster .

Free Film events:

January 28, 7pm     Anne
February 25, 7pm    The Cats of Mirikitani

This juried exhibition features works for sale by: Vicki Bailey (painting/printmaking), Anne Campbell (drawing), Luke Garrison (digital collage), Jerry Hayes (painting), Paula Johnson (painting), Robert MacDonald (painting), Russell Maier (painting), Taras Masciuch (photography), Ian Morris (drawing/painting), and George Williams (wood carving).

Director and Curator for the Victoria Fine Arts Festival Society, Yuri Arajs, has a long history of producing social mission-based art exhibitions.

“I feel strongly about VFAF’s inaugural exhibit focus on one of the most tragic problems in Victoria – homelessness. This exhibition is a good example of something concrete that can be done to help people directly. The artists in the exhibit will have their work framed for them and receive 100% of sales. Homeless persons seldom are given the opportunity to have their opinions heard — much less have their art valued in mainstream society.”

For more information contact:

Yuri Arajs
Maureen Flanagan
Phone: 250.891.1901

The mission of the Victoria Fine Art Festival is to bring a better understanding of contemporary art to our community through the production of an annual, juried, contemporary fine art festival in September of each year. Beyond the annual festival, VFAF will produce other exhibitions throughout the year in various venues.