A Condensed History of GIRO

Sources: Steve Polzin, Michelle MacEwen, Dean Clark, Jacinthe Eastick
Depot building - Early 1990's
Depot building – Early 1990’s

GIRO exists today because of many days, months, and years of volunteer labour put in by a large cast of characters too diverse to name in this short article.

GIRO began in 1989 as a committee of the Ratepayers Association. It used various grants to build a building in 1990 on a site donated by Merv and Annette Sweeney located at the end of what became known as Tin Can Ally. GIRO opened to the public in 1991.

By April 1992 it was officially incorporated as a non-profit society. During the early 1990s, the facility expanded to include the jug bin and a loading dock. Funding became an issue in the mid-nineties. In 1996 the RDN turned down GIRO’s request for $10,000 per year. Fees were introduced for drop-offs of outside materials. Donations were encouraged for items taken from inside building. A pledge drive raised $5,000. In the same year the Thrift Store opened , and merchandise was tagged and priced for the first time. In response to the budget shortfall, staff hours were reduced and the administrator position was eliminated. In 1998 a 48-foot trailer was purchased and used for Thrift Store Clothing. In 1999 a 32-foot extension was added to the main building.

In 2003 the metal bin service was inaugurated. In 2007 a second baler was added, and the roofline was extended on the north and east side of the depot. The storage trailer was changed into a maintenance/tool shed that also supplied electronic testing. GIRO began accepting e-waste. Dean Clark was hired as the Recycling Manager in 2004. In 2008 the loading dock was extended and the back area was covered. The staff received Blue Cross medical and dental coverage for the first time.

In 2009, excavation and construction allowed the metal bin to be placed below grade. The cube van was purchased and a cistern was installed. In 2010 the paint locker was built and the battery receiving area expanded. Mike McMahon began working at GIRO as a volunteer.

In 2014 a significant debate occurred within the community about GIRO pricing and its future direction. Also in 2014, thanks to a federal grant administered through the RDN, work began for a large new addition to house the Re-Store and provide a meeting room and office upstairs. The new addition was open for business in 2016 after three years of  massive community support and donated labour. Michelle MacEwen, who had begun a recycling/rethinking program at the elementary school in 2013, joined the Board of Directors. She was appointed General Manager in 2016. Later that year, she and others helped over-haul GIRO’s website with a goal of making it an active hub for news about GIRO activities and related information that pertains to GIRO’s goals.

In 2017, a document management system (DMS) was developed for electronic storage of information used by the Board, and the paper files were organized into separate systems, one for operations and one for Board business. In 2018, several personnel documents were approved by the Board. These documents provide guidance about how to manage workplace conflict, articulate a code of conduct for workers, and outline discipline procedures related to the code of conduct. The job description for the general manager was also revised to clarify her duties and make it clear that she has operational authority to make decisions that follow GIRO Policy and the Board’s annual budget.

In 2019, the Board upgraded its website to support climate change education and action. The Board also purchased a significant solar panel project from Empower Gabriola to electrify GIRO and sell excess power back to BC Hydro.


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