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Changing the face of women’s makeovers

‘That old rug stunk,” said past Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre board member Roslyn Woodcock.“It had to go.

‘That old rug stunk,” said past Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre board member Roslyn Woodcock.

“It had to go.”

But ripping up the carpet was only the beginning.

On Tuesday evening, after an “extreme makeover,” the centre unveiled its new look.

Standing on gleaming flooring, attendees enjoyed snacks prepared on sparkling countertops, leaned against freshly painted walls and admired new light fixtures.

“The building was tired,” said acting program co-ordinator Cynthia Kearns.

“It was falling down — it was really dated.

“It wasn’t really the warm and welcoming atmosphere that we wanted to have.”

A little over a year ago, Kearns and Women in Trades founder and program co-ordinator Betty Irwin started talking about how to get the centre painted.

“We’d watched that show, The Extreme Makeover, and we thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do something like that?’” said Kearns.

The two women fleshed out the idea, examined the Community Development Fund application requirements and realized their project fit the bill.

“And at the same time, we recognized the need for skilled trades people, because there is such an extreme shortage in the Yukon right now,” said Kearns.

So, pairing with Women in Trades and Technology, Kearns and Irwin decided to hold a series of workshops that would teach women how to handle tools and do some work in their own homes.

“And through this process, the women’s centre would get a face-lift,” said Kearns.

“It was one of those win-win situations.”

This particular experience was unique, said Irwin.

“And it happened just the way we’d envisioned it.”

Five workshops were held during the renovations involving 54 women interested trades.

“The workshops filled up so quick — I mean the women were dead keen on taking them,” said Kearns.

Run by women instructors, the workshops offered experience and expertise in window installation, wiring, plumbing, flooring and carpentry.

The women just loved taking the classes and, obviously, the women’s centre was the beneficiary, said Kearns.

“I know some women who took the workshop on changing lighting fixtures and were absolutely delighted,” she said.

“It enabled them to go home and change their own lighting in their homes and made them comfortable with the use of tools.

“They laid the laminate floor, tore up the old carpet, applied the crown moulding around the doors and the baseboards, and learned all these things they could do in their own homes.”

A year and $70,000 later, the renovation process is complete.

The centre boasts new countertops, flooring, windows, blinds, paint, wiring, fixtures and a bigger bathroom.

The only real reminder of what the women’s centre used to be is a worn, L-shaped couch sitting in the corner.

“We have a plea out for a new couch too,” said Kearns.

But a new couch is not all Kearns is seeking.

“We’d like to find another venue and do this again,” she said. “The more of these we run, the more skilled women we get out there.

“It gives women a taste of the trades and maybe some of these women would like to pursue that as a viable option for employment.”

“It’s so exciting that so many women were involved in the project,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, who attended the makeover unveiling.

“In periods of transition, this is one of the places people go — it offers hope for women who need it,” he said.

Before the renovations, centre staff began to notice there was less walk-in traffic than they’d hoped, said Woodcock.

“But over the last few years, drop-ins have increased by 50 per cent.”

And the women who worked on the renovations, and their friends, have also become acquainted with the centre, which is great, she said.

The renovations have made the centre open and safer for kids, said prenatal nutrition program co-ordinator Prima Ladchumanopaskeran.

“There are no more barriers,” she said.

And although the curtains and carpeting are gone, it still feels cozy, said Ladchumanopaskeran.

“The space has been well-utilized, it has become both office-like and homey,” she added.

The women’s centre, established in 1974, is a non-profit, charitable organization that supports women in the community regardless of race, ethnicity and economic and social background.

The centre offers a safe, accessible drop-in for women, provides self-help and recreational programs, assists in referrals to appropriate organizations and service providers and offers emotional support and lay counseling.

This fall, with $20,000 in funding from the Women’s Directorate, the centre is planning to develop a new strategic plan.

“We want to create a vision for the next three years of what is possible,” said Ladchumanopaskeran.

“And the sky’s the limit.”

The Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is located at 503 Hanson Street. Drop-in hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday.