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Farewell from Neil

Yes, I’m retiring.  We are moving back to Saskatchewan to be a part of our grandchildren’s early years, a slower lifestyle working in my woodshop, camping and real winters.  Still not sure why on that last one, but time will tell. 

When I started with Habitat it was to be short term, 3 months. An affiliate needed someone to manage a ReStore while the current manager was off for medical leave. What could be hard about that? For starters, I had never been in a ReStore, though to my credit, I had heard of Habitat for Humanity. It was President Jimmy Carter’s housing organization. It didn’t take long to truly understand the mission as I attended my first key ceremony less that 2 weeks into the job. The new build was open to dignitaries, and everyone was celebrating so I did what most would do in a situation where you truly don’t know anyone; I sat on the floor in the living room with a 6-year-old eating cake with our fingers as I listened to where he was planning on hanging up a Spiderman poster in his new bedroom that he didn’t have to share with his baby sister. Something clicked and everything just fell into place. 

At that time, ReStore was still evolving, deciding what it was supposed to be. From my viewpoint it has always been about retailing and presenting a dog’s breakfast of product in a manner that can be easily shopped by those hunting for a deal. I knew ReStore could be more and that vision was shared with others in both our national and international offices. We were talking, but no one was really stepping outside of the current boundaries, so I started stepping and the results were immediate. At the same time, I was in contact with the Okanagan affiliate as they juggled the how’s of opening a ReStore and, long story short, I ended up in the Okanagan with a wish list from the board and a market that was literally a blank canvas.

Here we are 10 years later and my time commitment to the board is now complete with both the affiliate and the ReStore program well established. Since the announcement of my retirement, many people have reached out with well wishes and accolades on the work I have accomplished. Let’s put that into perspective. The results I have achieved are due to the amazing people that have surrounded me and shared in the vision and mission of Habitat. My work is done by many hands and thousands of hours of volunteer help. My work is your work. My accomplishments are your accomplishments. Nothing could have been done without our amazing volunteers. I am humbled.

With my departure, Habitat Okanagan will not skip a beat. The talent and skill of those leading the charge will not falter and our growth will continue as will our building programs helping families that need a place to call home. Innovation, partnerships and honest hard work have got us here and will continue to propel us forward. Time will naturally erase my name which is just fine. My pride comes from knowing that there are families now and generations to come whose lives have been dramatically altered for the better due to the opportunity that I had to help them.  And, if you ever doubt that what you do doesn’t matter, take time to sit on a floor and eat cake with a new homeowner. Plastic fork is optional.

Thank you, Habitat. Thank you.