Mohawk students lend a hand to Theatre Ancaster

The Mohawk College Building Renovation program is taking on its biggest community renovation yet.
The Old Firehall Arts Centre, located on Wilson Street in Ancaster, has been home to Theatre Ancaster since 2005. (Lisa Polewski/CBC)

Mohawk students are tackling Theatre Ancaster for their biggest community renovation project yet.

On Monday, 100 students from Mohawk College's Building Renovation program joined forces with the Ontario Trillium Foundation to repair and renew the second floor of the Old Firehall Arts Centre on Wilson Street, home of Theatre Ancaster.

Brad MacDonald, Mohawk professor and supervisor of the project, says it offers students a great opportunity to gain experience while helping the community.

"Time, budget, everything - this is as real as a real job gets," said MacDonald. "We guide, we advise, but it's really nice to see the students take the project on and make it their own."

He added that the project became more complicated when they opened the ceiling and discovered structural issues that were previously unknown to them. The students have two weeks, as outlined in the program's curriculum, to finish everything. Due date is Friday March 22.

"We've done good work so far in the first week," said MacDonald. "I think we'll blow everyone's minds next week with the finished project."

Pete Kershaw, a second-year student in the Building Renovation program, is acting as a foreman for one of the groups of students. Kershaw said he loves doing this kind of community work, even while encountering unexpected problems.

"We started out with a plan," said Kershaw. "Obviously, things have changed over the last few days, … we've found a lot of surprises."

In a video published on the Mohawk Matters blog, Theatre Ancaster president Gord Conroy said he is delighted with the project and the groups involved.

"This is just a tremendous project," said Conroy in the video from day one of the project. "It's amazing the things that are happening upstairs. We've already filled one dumpster, which is probably good news for everybody."

In the past, the Building Renovation students - known as the Mohawk Community Builders - have worked on several other community projects, including a renovation project on Main Street East's St. Peter's Church, which is now home to the Hamilton Association for Residential and Recreational Redevelopment.

The Trillium Foundation has funded the project with $74,700 and other community groups have chipped in, with the Mohawk Students' Association donating $1,500 and Wentworth Disposal, Bruce Flooring and Turkstra Lumber have donated services and supplies to the project.