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Before
Over the summer, Writers' Room volunteers began transforming a regular-old classroom into the creative, imaginative, safe space that is the Writers' Room.

The renovation will be complete by the time tutoring begins on October 3 (among other tweaks, we're going to stick a gigantic, interactive "reading tree" to the wall), but we couldn't wait to share some pictures of the new space—and didn't want to wait to thank some of the wonderful donors who made the project possible.

By beautifying the space, we are showing the kids at Queen Alexandra Elementary School that they deserve something special, that their creative ideas are valuable—and so are they.

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After!
We value the environment, too, so we renovated the room as sustainably as possible by giving new life to many items that were once "one man's junk." The strong hands of Writers' Room volunteers cut and stapled more than forty old books donated by Langara College to form hundreds of flowers that now line the walls. Sample carpet tiles have found a permanent home on top of a once-monstrous stain on the floor, and most of the furniture in the room was salvaged and revamped, including chairs from the 70s that were headed to the dump before we snatched them up and repainted them with environmentally friendly paint from The Home Depot.

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The fantastic designers at False Creek Design Group donated their time and expertise to the project, which we could not be more grateful for. The Home Depot Canada Foundation donated an amazing $2,500, and The Home Depot on Terminal Avenue chipped in with $200 in gift cards just when we needed it most. And speaking of lifesavers, the wonderful generosity of Megan Abbott completed the funding for our whole fall term of programming!  

Our drape maker, Eric Chaing from Easy Drapery, not only gave us a huge discount on his services, but he also brightened our days with his smile. And the materials from J. Ennis Fabrics and Joanne Fabrics were all provided at discounted rates, too. We could not have done this renovation without the help of the Vancouver School Board, especially Tom Kavadias and Ian Wind, who coordinated the furniture, Catherine Feniak and Jamine Hickman, who first believed in the project, and Cheryll Matthews, Queen Alexandra's new vice-principal, who has carried on Catherine's excitement for the project.

We'd also like to thank the Queen Alexandra building engineers, Brian and Yat, for their support, patience and gentle teasing, and, of course, the Writers' Room volunteers who donated their last days of summer to sanding, painting, re-organizing and making a crazy amount of book flowers.

We'll leave you with one last image, but stay tuned for pictures of the completed room—coming soon! And don't forget to sign up to volunteer so you can see the room in person while helping kids read and write.

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More than 1,000 organic Nature's Path bars are stuffed into those six boxes!
Yesterday, Kristi, the KidSafe Program Coordinator, and I took a trip to Nature’s Path Foods to pick up half of the huge amount of organic granola bars that Nature’s Path has generously donated to the Writers’ Room after-school tutoring program and to the KidSafe winter break program. 

In total, Nature’s Path donated more than two thousand granola bars, which will feed 450 kids in the fall term alone. With these granola bars, the kids will now be able to concentrate on their homework at after-school tutoring—and not on their growling bellies. During the winter break, this healthy snack will give the kids the energy to participate in the active programming provided by KidSafe, as well as the fun literacy program the Writers’ Room will run.

Thank you so much, Nature’s Path! We can’t wait to see the kids dive into the organic deliciousness you have provided them.

—Sarah

 
When we tell people about the Writers' Room, they often say, "Isn't that idea a lot like that thing with Dave Eggers, and the kids, and writing, and pirates?"

They're thinking of 826 Valencia, a kids' literacy organization in San Francisco co-founded by Dave Eggers, and yes, we are inspired by the amazing work they do, making literacy exciting for kids across America and selling wacky things like pirate supplies to help fund their programs and draw kids (and kids at heart) into their writing centres.

To get inspired, too, check out this four-minute version of Dave Eggers's TED Talk about starting the 826 Valencia empire:
If you've got more time, here's the whole video (it's worth the extra 20 minutes!):