For just about the duration of the pandemic, Mike Humphries and a volunteer crew have been spending many of their Saturdays on renovations to the MacKenzie Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Woodbridge, Ont.
“It’s one of our older Legions that needs a little bit of a facelift and I wanted to do something to help them out,” says Humphries, a business representative of Carpenters’ Local 27 and the union’s liaison for the Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) program.
The initial plan was to replace a worn-out accordion-style moveable wall with a permanent 30-foot wall framed in steel studs and clad in drywall to separate the club lounge from the banquet room, he says. The project “morphed” into an upgrade, however, with the addition of wood baseboards, wainscoting, trim and two barn-style doors.
Humphries, a military veteran himself, got other carpenters from Local 27, two contractors, several members of H2H and painters from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Union to volunteer their time on Saturdays. Some of the drywall materials were supplied by the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario.
One of the H2H members working on the job is 35-year-old Brent Dewell, a long-time reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces. Dewell had worked in security for years before signing up as a first-year carpenter’s apprentice about a year ago.
He says the Legion project offers him an opportunity to learn finish carpentry skills.
“I haven’t had much exposure to that in my career,” he says.
He is currently employed at Buttcon Limited, where the work is mostly rough construction.
Dewell would have volunteered to help “give back” to the Legion regardless of the type of work required of him though because one of the Legion branches supported his family through a crisis about two years ago.
Woodbridge-based DMD Triangle Drywall & Acoustics Ltd. supplied the drywall, steel studs and related materials for the Legion renovation.
DMD’s owner Luca Di Marco says donating drywall materials for worthy causes such as the Legion is not new for the contractor.
“It’s not huge dollars for us, it is more about goodwill.”
Scaffolding contractor Northstar Access donated scaffolding for the Legion renovation.
Wali Mohamed, president of the Legion hall, says the Legion couldn’t have afforded to hire a contractor to do the work.
“Mike (Humphries) and his team have been doing fantastic work,” he says. “Hopefully our relationship can continue after this work is finished because the hall is old and will need more work done.”
The project, which has seen crews of up to six at a time on Saturdays, is expected to be completed by the end of April.