My Habitat Experience: Matthew Burgess
I never imagined myself working at a non-profit organization. Before this summer, my work experience had been exclusively at for-profit businesses. Looking to enter the business world after graduation, charities haven’t been on my radar in the past. While I have always supported these organizations, I wasn’t aware of how they worked and what opportunities they could offer. This summer, I found myself working at the Burlington ReStore completely by chance.
Throughout May, I had been applying for summer positions around Burlington. At the time, I had been filling in for temporary positions around the city and wanted something more concrete. I stumbled across a posting for the position of ReStore Associate at Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga online. I gave it a shot and applied. While the name ‘Habitat for Humanity was familiar to me, I wouldn’t have been able to detail the operations of the charity. I thought about housing and construction, and that was about it; I was going in mostly blind.
My time in the Burlington ReStore began in early June. Immediately, the ReStore seemed to be more of a community than a warehouse outlet. I began putting the pieces together and understanding how the nonprofit operated. As staff in the ReStore, our objective is to ensure that the warehouse flows properly. This includes taking new donations out onto the floor, as well as loading sold items into vehicles and interacting with customers. By the end of my first week, I was recognizing customers and becoming familiar with the staff and frequent volunteers. As my experience grew, so did my connection to the store.
What stood out the most is the people at Habitat. The relationships that I have developed with staff, volunteers and regular customers make the Burlington ReStore more than another summer job. Being volunteer-based, people are happy to be there. This positive atmosphere eliminates the far-too-common Monday morning dread that is a weekly routine for many working people. While I love the work that the ReStore has to offer, the people are what make it a community. With my contract ending in August, I plan on becoming a volunteer to continue my time with Habitat for Humanity.
Whenever I tell someone that I’m working for Habitat for Humanity this summer, the response is overwhelmingly supportive. There is a sense of undeniable good that comes along with the charity, and that’s exciting to be a part of. Following this support, I realized the importance of being proud of where you work. Like how an employee represents the brand of a company, the company’s image becomes a reflection of the employee. Knowing that the effort that goes into every day in the ReStore contributes to this positive image makes even the tedious tasks meaningful for me. That’s what differentiates this job from other work. There’s a worthwhile end-goal at the end of a shift other than the pay cheque.
Spending the summer in the ReStore has allowed me to grow as a person, develop leadership and problem-solving skills, as well as advance a cause that impacts my community. Personally, this position has expanded my future career possibilities to strongly consider charity work.
If this is what working at a non-profit organization is like, sign me up!