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Tradespeople donate time to help in-need Calgarians catch up on home renos

This article by Jennifer Friesen was funded by PatreonContribute now to help build a wider range of voices and stories covering our city.  – LiveWire Calgary: Run by Journalists, for the community.

For years, Calgarian Shannon Wilson has kept a glass jar filled with slips of paper in her kitchen. Each piece of paper has a household project written on it so she can pick out one at a time and get the next job done.

She’s dubbed it her “happy jar,” because every time she gets the next task done she feels relieved. But, after facing a few tough years since the economic downturn, coupled with recovery from a major hip surgery, she found it difficult to keep up with the renovations.

However, while her own personal “job jar” stacked up, a local start-up company named JobJar came to the rescue on Friday with their community outreach campaign.

Shannon Wilson has had her own personal “job jar” for years, which she calls her “happy jar.” JENNIFER FRIESEN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

By creating an online database of tradespeople, JobJar has been connecting “handymen” with homeowners in need of help with small projects for the past two years. This spring, they launched a monthly “Job from the Jar Day” campaign, where volunteer JobJar tradespeople offer a day of free labour to two Calgarians in need of a helping hand.

A different neighbourhood is selected every month, and two residents are chosen to receive the day’s work. Wilson was one of the residents chosen from Thorncliffe Greenview for the month of September, and said she couldn’t believe it when she heard she won.

“I was quite shocked,” she said.

“It’s been a rough couple of years and I haven’t been able to do a lot of the things in my house that really need to be done. I was sitting there fretting, wondering what I was going to do, and it just came at the perfect time. I’m just so appreciative.”

The average homeowner has at least nine projects that require attention around the house, according to Kenzie Dutka, marketing director of JobJar.

“So for someone who can’t afford (these projects), or who can’t physically do it themselves, fixing the problem was a huge thing that we wanted to focus on,” she continued.

“It also gives the community around us the opportunity to go out and learn more about the people in need around them. These days, we’re in our own bubbles, and we often have no idea if someone across the street could use our help.”

Dutka added that JobJar has accumulated a waiting list of five tradespeople who want to volunteer their time for “Job from a Jar Day,” and the company has already expanded to Edmonton and Winnipeg. They’re hoping they can bring the initiative to those two cities to help neighbours build community.

The sentiment of building community through the literal act of building was echoed by the tradespeople offering up their own time.

Ethan Borlé cuts trim for kitchen cabinets. JENNIFER FRIESEN / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Bothers Conner and Ethan Borlé were the volunteers who spent Friday working with the homeowners chosen for the campaign. Their company, Borlé Brothers Contracting, only recently moved to Calgary and quickly came on board with JobJar.

“For a service company like us, we could never succeed without or community,” said Conner. “We need them. So giving back to the community feels right. Just seeing the joy with Shannon, having her thank us so profusely, it feels really good.”

On Friday afternoon, Conner and Ethan went Wilson’s home, where they ripped up carpet and installed trim along the kitchen cabinets. While the brothers worked around her home, Wilson reiterated how much the experience has meant to her.

“I do what I can, but there’re just some things I don’t have the skills for,” said Wilson.

“I can’t even explain how appreciative I am that these two came in to help me. I always try to help out others, and after seeing this, it really goes to show that you should care for others in your community.”