*Photo taken pre-pandemic
“The power of one, the value of many”.
This is the theme of 2021’s National Volunteer Week, and here at Habitat Hamilton we take that to heart. To us, it means that one person can make a huge difference in our day-to-day work, and when we come together as a whole, great things can be accomplished.
Habitat Hamilton is very fortunate to be able to work with volunteers in almost every aspect of the organization’s activities. On the build site, volunteers are working hard to see a house built from start to finish. In the ReStore, volunteers help to sort through product, keep the store tidy, and help customers find what they’re looking for. In the office, our Board of Directors is made up solely of volunteers. To say we are thankful for everyone who donates their time to Habitat Hamilton would be an understatement, volunteers are the heart of our organization and are integral in running all our programming.
To honour this year’s National Volunteer Week, we sat down with two of our current volunteers to hear from them about their experience as a volunteer. Read our interview below, edited for length and clarity.
Cheryl Hill has been volunteering with Habitat Hamilton for many years now and works in both the Hamilton ReStore as well as on the build site. Kevin Whyte, the Director of Government Relations at Sutherland Corporation, serves on our Board of Directors. He has been involved with Habitat since 2013, and joined the Board in 2020.
Habitat Hamilton: What made you want to get involved in Habitat Hamilton’s work?
KW: I started my career at Habitat working for the Habitat Halton-Mississauga affiliate. I was responsible for government relations, which means building partnerships with various levels of government to help further Habitat’s mission of building affordable housing. Although I left Habitat to work for a government relations firm, I wanted to continue working with Habitat in a volunteer capacity to assist with the amazing work the organization does. I was born, raised, and still reside in Hamilton, so volunteering with Habitat Hamilton was the perfect opportunity for me to continue to use my knowledge to better my city and help hard-working, deserving families move into safe, decent, and affordable housing.
CH: Habitat’s mission statement (to bring communities together to help families build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter), vision and values.
HH: What does it mean to volunteer on the Board of Directors?
KW: I strongly feel that those who can help, should help. I joined the Board to help build up the Habitat Hamilton affiliate and find solutions to the city’s affordable housing crisis. For me, volunteering is both a duty and a fulfilling experience.
HH: What does a typical shift in the Hamilton ReStore look like?
CH: Helping customers locate items, assisting in loading items into vehicles, stocking the ReStore as new items come in, and cleaning.
HH: How about on the build site?
CH: Spending the day assisting the volunteers with the tasks at hand, that could mean siding, blocking, flooring, or several other tasks, and also jumping in where needed. I also get to know all the volunteers, what their interests are, and how they enjoy spending time on the build site.
HH: What is the most meaningful part of your volunteer time?
KW: Despite being remote, I’ve had an excellent opportunity to meet and work with both employees and Board members, all of whom strongly believe in the Habitat mission and want to better the city. Meeting like-minded, genuinely decent people, makes the volunteer experience very enjoyable. Working towards the mission to build more affordable housing to give deserving families a hand-up and assist in making Hamilton a better city gives the volunteer experience meaning for me.
CH: Knowing that we are making a difference for families within our community that otherwise would not be able to afford a house.
HH: Cheryl, you started volunteering with us in the ReStore, and then expanded to also volunteer on the build site. What made you want to increase your time with us?
CH: I love the build sites! Being able to be involved in a house being built from the ground up and then handed over to a family is a great feeling of accomplishment and warms the heart.
HH: Do you have a favourite memory of your time so far with Habitat Hamilton?
KW: I enjoy the problem solving and collaboration with other Board Members and staff in looking for ways to provide more affordable housing. It’s a real challenge, but one worth working towards.
CH: Every key ceremony is a favourite memory. It’s why we volunteer – to see those happy faces and broad smiles.
HH: What advice would you have for someone who would like to get involved with the Board of Directors?
KW: It’s a challenging role, especially now with a housing market that’s leaving many behind. My advice would be to keep an open mind and be creative in building out solutions. Use your expertise in your field to help Habitat make new connections or foster new ideas on how to get more housing built. It’s worth the work.
HH: Anything else you’d like to add?
KW: Habitat Hamilton is an excellent organization with incredible staff and volunteers. Everyone is actively looking to change people’s lives for the better and build a better city. I encourage you to get involved by donating, volunteering, and shopping in the ReStore!
CH: The best part of every shift is spending time with other volunteers and staff that share the same philosophy regarding Habitat for Humanity!
Although COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into some of our plans over the past year, one thing that hasn’t changed is our appreciation for every volunteer who has spent some time with us. Thank you, for taking time out of your busy life to support affordable housing initiatives in our community.
Although the Hamilton ReStore is currently closed, we are accepting new volunteers at this time as we plan to hit the ground running as soon as we are given the greenlight to reopen by the Ontario government. Consider signing up below: