Creating a safe, welcoming space for children
The Comox Valley Rotary Club undertook to revitalise the children’s playroom at the Lilli House last year. Run by the Comox Valley Transition Society, the Lilli House is a place for women and children who are fleeing abuse, to come for safety and support and to transition into a life free from violence.
We voted to fund $5,000 towards partially renovating the playroom in March 2020, days before the first COVID shutdown. After much re-evaluation and planning, the club came up with an expanded vision to run a complete renovation ourselves, as the space had not been redone in decades and needed more work than we originally anticipated. That’s when we started reaching out to friends, local businesses and organizations to help us achieve this vision.
Kicking off construction
In the fall of 2021, we kicked off construction and took everything back to the walls in defined phases: new paint, flooring, electrical, lighting, heating, electronics, a custom art centre, built-in pony wall and cabinetry. Where we could, we repurposed items as well, such as refinishing a full cabinetry storage wall and refreshing window fixtures. We also re-styled the space with updated furniture, a ‘gift store’ (an organized donation area where residents can ‘shop’ for family presents and essentials), commissioned art pieces and accessories, and created special play and educational areas for the kids. Given supply chain issues and volunteer availability, it took until the summer of 2022 to complete the project.
In the end, we delivered a $15,000 project under budget for our club, as our members successfully rallied the community to further help out. We were overwhelmed by – and grateful for – their support. We received almost $9,000 in cash and in-kind donations, including a generous contribution from the Rotary Club of Comox. Our members spent more than 250 hours delivering this project: painting, planning, designing, building, and fundraising.
And it was all worth it! The space is now one of the most welcoming in the home, and residents often congregate there, even without kids. The Lilli House staff are also grateful, as they are chronically understaffed and would never have been able to manage the project themselves, even if they had had the funds.
Before and after photos:
Looking inward at project learnings
Other than the physical transformation of the space and benefit to some of the most vulnerable in our community, this project was also a great learning for our club. We learned to challenge our own assumptions and see things through the eyes of our community members. For example, seeing how overwhelming it can be for an organization to deal with well-meaning donations sparked new ideas, allowing us to propose different space solutions. We also learned just how much people are willing to step up to help those in need. We found new community partners and built new relationships around a common cause. Finally, we were left in awe of the unwavering commitment and support of the Lilli House leadership and staff. If ever we felt like our own project was daunting – we drew strength and inspiration from their mission and focus. This is why we do Rotary.