A crumbling building and equipment crammed in classrooms spurred a coalition between West Shore youth and a motorcycle club. The Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and Navy League Cadets of the area and the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers Chapter 065 will celebrate that collaboration this weekend.
“About a year ago we had to replace the roof on the stores building, which houses all the training equipment and uniforms,” explained Tina St. Hilaire, president of the Juan de Fuca Branch of the Navy League of Canada.
Once that roof came off, the cinderblock building started to fall apart, something St. Hilaire lamented to her cohorts of the CMC. The members decided to build it themselves, providing the labour and in some cases supplies.
“Over a period of eight months we demolished the old building … and built the new building,” St. Hilaire said. “A group of them just kept volunteering and volunteering, they just wanted to help out in the community.”
The building was finished, and passed inspections, in June and features a plaque to recognize the club’s contributions.
“I wanted to do something significant to recognize the chapter for the tremendous amount of work they did so we decided to have a building dedication,” St. Hilaire said. “At the same time, we decided to rededicate the main cadet hall to the seven individuals who sacrificed much in order to purchase the facility in 1988. Each made a personal, financial commitment that we felt deserved praise.”
The Juan de Fuca Branch of the Navy League covers the Navy League, which is for kids aged nine to 13 and Royal Canadian Sea Cadets for youth 12 to 19.
“It teaches them leadership, they learn social skills … and all kinds of training and fun activities for minimal cost,” St. Hilaire said.
Kids are safe, and on equal footing with the uniform provided, at a cost of $55 a year, she said.
“I watched one kid get turned around. That hooked me,” the 17-year volunteer explained. “This kid was on the path of drugs … hanging out with some bad people. I thought ‘There’s people out there willing to show him the wrong way. We need people who are willing to show him the right way’ and that’s why I stayed.”
The public is invited alongside current and former cadets, officers, a large contingent of the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers and a National Navy League of Canada representative to the open house and building dedication on Oct 6 at 11:30 at 948 Dunford Ave. in Langford.
Honouring the past
The new building will be called Shopa Stores, after John Shopa, a former Juan de Fuca branch president and one of the seven individuals who organized the purchase of the facility in 1988.