Volunteering became a topic of conversation for Lisa Simmonds-Kim when her son Justin was going into Grade Nine as he contemplated how to fulfill his community service requirement. The plan was to find something interesting and more long-term where he could complete the full 60 hours required by his high school.

“Initially we looked at Habitat for Humanity GTA from a build perspective,” says Lisa but since Justin was only 15 at the time he had to wait until he was a bit older. “That’s when we realized that ReStore in Newmarket – where I had been a couple of times in the past – was connected to Habitat for Humanity GTA and that we could start there. So we decided to volunteer together.”

“What I found is that going together as parent and child is rewarding in a number of ways,” says Lisa. “You get to experience helping others together and talk about it later. It’s a great learning opportunity.  We had deeper discussions that we probably wouldn’t have had otherwise about why volunteering matters, how you can really get to help people in your community, how you get to meet a bunch of new people that haven’t met before, and you can learn new skills.”

Justin hadn’t held a part-time job before so the ReStore team taught him about customer service and Lisa shared her own experiences and tips she had learned while working part-time as a student.

“We had a great management team at the store, they made it easy to learn,” says Lisa adding that she and Justin really liked the interaction with the customers.  “You get regulars and you get to learn more about them and their life, why they enjoy coming into the store, and the value it means to them and their families.”

Justin’s volunteer work led to a paid summer student job last July and August, and a few weeks ago, he was hired as a part-time associate at the Newmarket ReStore.

As an added bonus, Lisa’s employer Desjardins donated $500 to Habitat for Humanity GTA in recognition of the 60 hours of community service she completed last year – part of the company’s program supporting employee volunteerism.

What started as a community service requirement ended up becoming an experience that the family really enjoyed, so they have continued with it.

Justin, who just turned 16, is getting ready to sign up for a Habitat for Humanity GTA build and he plans to bring along his grandfather, a talented handy man. There’s talk of a Global Village build in the future.

As for Lisa, she’s looking forward to continuing this family tradition volunteering at ReStore with her daughter Meghan who will start high school in the fall.

To learn more about Volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity GTA, visit habitatgta.ca/volunteer