Jennifer Palacios isn’t just an inspiration thanks to her commitment to volunteerism and her love for animals, she’s also an integral part of the Julie Kinnear sales team. Jen is the Director of the Buyer Division working with buyers and sellers mainly in the central core and east end of the city.
But that's not all that Jen does. She is a world traveller, with a trip to the Galapagos Islands high on her bucket list. Despite her wanderlust, Jen’s commitment to charity and passion for helping others helps keep her grounded. Every year, Jen volunteers with The Northern Dog Project who are working to help with the over-population of dogs in the Northern Cree communities near James Bay. The Project also goes into the schools to educate the children on proper health care for their pets, and proper treatment. She and Julie also volunteer at Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for kids with cancer.
You began your career in corporate sales at Roots, what drew you towards a career in real estate? What advice would you give to someone looking to make a similar career change?
I had been in commission sales for my entire life, and because I was used to this, real estate seemed like a logical step for me. I knew Julie Kinnear from volunteering at camp, so I asked her if I took my real estate exam and passed would I be able to join her team and she said yes.
As someone who began working in real estate as my third career, joining into a team environment meant I was able to learn a lot in a short period of time. In my first year I completed 17 deals, whereas most new agents only have one or two in their first year.
What is the most rewarding thing about working in real estate?
It’s all about the people and helping the clients because the relationships you build are just amazing. I love the people and the feeling when you help them find the home of their dreams, and the reaction when you get the deal.
What is the most challenging thing about working in real estate?
The scheduling. You can plan dinner with friends and need to leave to make an offer. When I first started in real estate I found it really hard not being able to have a weekend where I wasn’t connected to my work by my phone and a potential deal.
You are an avid traveler, what important life lessons have you learned through your wanderlust and international adventures?
Travel makes me appreciate what I have and what we have in life in Canada. It’s amazing how happy people are who have so much less compared to our standards. You get to meet people who spend long hours working in a field every day and they are such happy people. This helps me appreciate what we have here.
Philanthropy is a very important part of your life. How do you balance your philanthropy and other (professional, family) aspects of your life to ensure you have time to fully commit to everything?
If something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. You always make time for a haircut, why not volunteerism? When I volunteer for the Northern Dog Project it’s a 10 day commitment, but it’s important to me, so I just make the time.
You are both a dog owner and a volunteer with The Northern Dog Project. Can you tell me more about what drew you to this charity?
My friend runs the Northern Dog Project so my first experience was just driving up with her during the 17 hour drive to get some dogs. Once I saw the communities, like the Cree, and their relationships with their dogs, all in an area with a five to six hour drive just to get to a vet, and what Norther Dog Project does for them, I wanted to help. During my 10 days I complete the intakes for people and their dogs when they are getting vaccinations or spaying and neutering surgery. The people are so friendly, and because we keep returning to the same community, you get to know people and their dogs, that are so cute. In most communities I am seeing 60-80 different dogs over a 10 day period. We often bring injured dogs, puppies, and ones who need homes south to re-home.
What are some of your meaningful experiences with this cause?
Over the years I have adopted three dogs from the Northern Dog Project including my two current dogs. When you are driving south with the dogs you really bond with the ones in your van since they like to be close to you during the trip. You take breaks from driving and walk with them, make a connection, and then you end up owning them. My last dog came south in the van with me and I fell in love with him instantly. I couldn’t stand the thought of anywhere but my home being his, so I kept him.
The Northern Dog Project has shown me how differently people in rural communities live compared to us in Toronto. To hear a child ask, ‘what’s it like to go to the movies?’ it really helps me appreciate what we have here. I am excited to be heading back north this May or June.
On the left - Jen with dogs from The Northern Dog Project.
On the right- Jen's dogs: Sukie, Jen's first dog rescue she had for 15 years. Sherman, her newest addition to the family. Nessy and Oscar both adopted from The Northern Dog Project.
Tell me about your work with Camp Oochigeas, a camp for children with cancer, and why you committed to this cause for over 7 summers?
I worked at a private camp for girls (where I met Julie) and they had an association, and I couldn’t volunteer because I was working at another camp, Camp Oconto. When I was able to volunteer I spent seven summers in charge of the programming for a two week block during my vacation. The most wonderful thing about Camp Oochigeas is how, at camp, everyone is treated the same. The kids just want to be kids and at camp they actually can be kids and are treated the same. The camp has the facilities to treat their cancer so they can still be in treatment. This camp allows kids not to be defined by their disease, and they are around other kids going through the same thing and are able to talk about it together, all while being kids.
What are some of the most important lessons you've learned through your volunteer work?
Sometimes I feel like volunteering is a bit selfish because the volunteers get so much more out of the experience compared to those they are volunteering for. You are almost doing it more for yourself than the cause because of the great feeling you get from volunteering.
Can you share something about yourself that you're working on improving?
The theme song on my phone is Let It Go because I feel like I hold onto things too long. When something is bugging me I hold onto it. I am trying to get better at not letting the little things bug me, speaking my mind, and getting over it.
What inspires you?
Strong leaders, especially women. Women who have made a difference, and anybody who has fought against the norm and made a difference.
What is your favorite thing about Toronto?
I love the culture of Toronto, the theatre and the restaurants. I love that whatever type of food you want to eat, it’s there.
You are an expert on the Leaside area of Toronto, what's your favourite thing about this neighbourhood?
I love Leaside because it’s like a little small town in a big city. I can walk down the street and see someone I know and say hello despite it being a part of a big city.
You love the great outdoors. Many people don't think of big cities like Toronto and nature. What are some of your favourite places to enjoy the outdoors in and around the city?
In Toronto I love Sunnybrook Park because it’s so close to me. I walk my dogs there often. I also love to visit the boardwalk at the beach, and Cherry Beach’s off-leash park.
Outside of the city, I have a place in Caledon about an hour away. I spend every weekend there where I can enjoy the Bruce Trail and horse riding.
I’ve owned a horse named Nellie for eight years, and have been riding since I was young, with my sisters and my mother. That was our bonding time, when we took riding lessons together. One of the main reasons I bought my property in Caledon is that it’s close to Nellie and I can visit her every weekend, as well as go for a ride.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
It was from my Father:
Live your life with no regrets.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am proud of having a successful career and being able to have my own home plus a weekend retreat, and that I’ve been able to do that on my own. It can be scary, but you can do it, and I am so proud that I did that on my own.