Habitat for Humanity – Building homes for hope

Drawer knobs of every style, cans of paint in all colours, bags stuffed with nails and screws; this is a small sampling of the treasures found in just one of the aisles at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Davis Drive in Newmarket. When you walk in the door, the row to your left is filled with kitchen cabinets, many of which have just been removed from someone’s home. The back of the warehouse is filled with furniture, from wooden chairs to dining room tables, as well as dressers and desks. The aisles across the middle are a handyman’s delight, stacked with lighting, including chandeliers and pot lights; flooring from hardwood to ceramic tiles; and even sinks, bathtubs and faucets.

The ReStore is run by Habitat for Humanity, a global shelter charity that began in the United States in 1976 when Millard and Linda Fuller came up with the idea of “partnership housing”. The socially and environmentally responsible retailer sells donated, new and gently-used home furnishing and renovation materials at 50 to 80 percent of the original retail price. Proceeds from the 10 ReStores across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – including the York Region branch in Newmarket – go directly to supporting Habitat for Humanity GTA’s mission for building safe, affordable homes for local, low-income families, in efforts to create a better life for parents and their children.

“ReStore is a great community story with many dimensions,” says Rob Lee, ReStore Vice President of Habitat for Humanity GTA. “It’s truly about helping families. It’s about enabling families to become active in home ownership, and all of the benefits of home ownership.”

Since its inception, Habitat for Humanity International has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 600,000 houses and provided shelter for more than 6.8 million people. Habitat GTA has enabled over 300 families to realize affordable home ownership across Toronto, York Region, Brampton and Caledon. Volunteers are the heart and soul of the organization, with up to 10,000 of them contributing over 100,000 hours each year to support Habitat for Humanity GTA. The ReStore also provides opportunities for employment for local youth.

This year, there are two home builds taking place in York Region, the first of which was completed in the spring and the other is set to begin this summer. “There are lots of ways for people to get involved,” says Lee. “They can donate, they can shop, they can volunteer in the ReStore.”

The majority of items in the ReStore are donated by families, who for example had renovations done and want their perfectly good kitchen to be reused. They also get donations from businesses and commercial properties. The organization takes pride in acting as an environmental steward for the community. “Last year alone, we were able to divert the equivalent of 87 trucks full of household items and building materials, such as windows, doors, kitchen cabinetry, counters, appliances and other items from landfill,” says Lee.

Families who benefit from the homes come from the GTA and to qualify they must be Canadian citizens, meet a minimum household income and contribute 500 hours of sweat equity. They must also be considered a good partner and agree to work with Habitat as ambassadors of the program.

“We’ve made some good progress in York Region,” says Lee. “The ReStore is key in that.” While the building on Davis Drive has been a success, the York Region ReStore will be re-locating to Yonge and Mulock later this year – a spot Lee believes will bring even greater outcomes for the community. Be sure to stop by and see for yourself.

Local Links
Habitat for Humanity GTA

Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness

The Salvation Army

By Denise Davy and Charlotte Ottaway

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