One Thunder Bay family has started posting ads on social media offering to do odd jobs for people. In return, they are asking people to pay what they can — then “pay it forward.”

Geoff Sutton said he and his wife Cynthia have plenty of skills to share.

"I've done a couple computer repairs. Cynthia's done a few house cleanings … lawn mowing,” he said.

“Cynthia got a call to go to Burger King for a lady. ... [There have been] quite a few lawns and garbage runs, of course."

The Suttons said they love helping people, and giving their time and skills to others makes their own lives richer.

sutton family thunder bay

Cynthia Sutton and her seven-year-old son, Josias, use a grass trimmer on a lawn on Shuniah Street. (Heather Kitching/CBC)

Helping others helped their low-income family to stop focusing on what they didn’t have, Cynthia Sutton said.

‘Let’s get up off our butts’

"You stay in that comfort zone of 'I don't have anything, well OK, I'm just going to sit here and ... sulk, moan, complain,’” she said.

“Then we realized it's not helping, it's not getting us anywhere so let's get up off our butts and do something." 

A stroke survivor who asked the family to drive some junk to the dump for him said he really appreciated the help.

“Because I'm on a fixed income and there was no shame attached, it was just really accommodating,” Don Young said.

Faith motivates them

Geoff Sutton said he learned skills from his dad, who was the consummate handyman.  He also did a variety of odd jobs when he worked for a fly-in fishing resort and took a welding course years ago.

Cynthia Sutton said she has a background in restaurants and cleaning and used to help a friend's dad lay floors.  She said her dad was a handyman so she also helped build houses and fix cars.

    Giving Family3:45

    If there's a task they can't help with, Cynthia said, they'll try to find someone who can. 

    "What we don't know, we know people who do," she said. "We go to a church where we've got lawyers and doctors and airplane pilots and whatever. And a lot of people in our church have the same mindset: help people."

    The Suttons' Christian faith is part of what motivates them to help others, she said.

    "We don't Bible bash people," she added. "By doing good things for other people and sharing with them love, they can see what Jesus would be [doing] if he was here."

    Changing focus

    God and community service, she said, also helped lift the couple out of what the Suttons call "the low-income mentality" that left them focusing on what they didn't have.

    "And as soon as you can break out of that mentality, things start to change. That's what happened with us," she said.

    “We started to realize, you know what, we don't have very much, but what we have we're willing to give away.  And then the ball just started rolling and we started having more to give away."

    Geoff Sutton is currently working in the software field, and his job affords him quite a bit of free time, he said.

    "Our basic philosophy is 'we've been given so much, what kind of people would we be if we weren't willing and able to give some back?'" he added.

    Cynthia noted their project has helped instill a good work ethic in their children.

    "Josias and I, we went over to a lady's house last week and we mowed her lawn.  Seeing him [at] seven years old, pushing a lawnmower along … not doing that great a job but … he's loving it, and he's learning," said Geoff.

    "There's no phrase I love more to come out of a kid's mouth than 'daddy how can I help?'  That's just something you don't hear enough of.”

    The Suttons call their initiative "Family Assisted Services of Thunder Bay."

    Anyone wanting to contact them can find them on Facebook.