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Many Hands Project — Niagara College — Niagara Falls, Ontario

Many Hands Project — Niagara College — Niagara Falls, Ontario

“Everything the students learn is directly used to assist non-profit organizations. We meet real needs in the community and leave a lasting legacy.”
Shelley Merlo, coordinator for the Many Hands Project at Niagara College.


Non-profits get a helping hand from local college

Non-profit organizations often have little money in their budgets for major building repairs and upgrades. An innovative program by Niagara College provides much-needed renovations that enhance the delivery of essential programs and services. The Many Hands Project has helped 14 non-profit groups in the Niagara Region since 1998, with one applicant selected each year.

“It combines both academic and hands-on application. Everything the students learn is directly used to assist non-profit organizations. We meet real needs in the community and leave a lasting legacy,” said Shelley Merlo, coordinator for the Many Hands Project at Niagara College, of the innovative program.

The Salvation Army in Fort Erie was the project recipient in 2011. The organization is located in a high-needs area and provides family and community services to people in crisis. The building was constructed in the 1950s and was showing its age. And, several years ago, its basement flooded, making the need for renovations even more urgent.

Students in Niagara College’s one-year Event Management Graduate Certificate program assisted the Salvation Army by planning, coordinating and executing the renovation project. The renovations were completed by students in the college’s Construction Studies program.

Repairs to the Salvation Army facility included a new concrete floor, insulated waterproof walls, a new food bank area, office space and an upgraded kitchen and food preparation area. The exterior portico was also replaced with a pitched roof that reduced water infiltration.

Corporate sponsorships and donated building materials helped complete the project. All labour was provided by the construction students. “The building was dark and dowdy before,” recalled Donna Paterson, community and family services manager, Salvation Army, Fort Erie branch. “People thought the building had closed. The transformation is magnificent. It’s a lovely location for our clients: bright, clean, welcoming and dignified. The building now looks loved.”

As a result of the project, the Salvation Army also saw an increase in donations and volunteer support.

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