ReUse and Rolemodel: Just a Few Reasons These Two Choose to Volunteer

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by Kristen Keefer

Every Monday, Roger Gauthier and Stephanie Plemmons team up to assist people dropping off donations at the ReStore receiving dock. Their efforts help make the transition of items into the store efficient; while their kind approach to helping customers and donors keep people coming back.

Roger, a retired plastics engineer, has been volunteering his time to Habitat since February 2012. In addition to volunteering with Habitat, he won the Habitat for the Holidays First Annual 3D Ornament Contest in 2014. He has also participated in the ReStore ReUse contest. The “reuse” aspect of the ReStore’s mission is important to Roger. In fact, it is one of the factors that motivated him to become a ReStore volunteer. He has even repaired damaged donated items to prevent them from being discarded into the landfill.

Stephanie, a longtime fan of Habitat’s mission, decided in October of 2015 to offer a helping hand at the ReStore wherever it was needed. Furthermore, she wanted to set a good example for her son. She explained, “I wanted to show my son that volunteering is cool!”

Both Roger and Stephanie have always volunteered in receiving. They work fluidly together, happily greeting every car as it pulls up, unloading and sorting items, and keeping receiving in tip-top shape. They’re an all-star team, attentively putting care into even the simplest of tasks.

And, through these selfless efforts, Roger and Stephanie have experienced the gift of service, a kind of gift that is rewarding to the giver, not just the receiver. Both agree that it is encouraging to see so many items donated to Habitat and to know that the proceeds from the sales of these items will go towards affordable housing. Stephanie explained, “Building homes for families that really need them, that is just a fabulous cause!” And Roger confirmed, saying that the work they do in receiving generates a sense of accomplishment.

Thank you Roger and Stephanie for being a rockin’ receiving crew! Having you onboard helps keep receiving running smooth and contributes greatly to the ReStore’s mission. We are thankful for all you do!

A Glimpse into Deconstruction with Long-time Volunteer Tom Weaver

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By Kristen Keefer

On and off for over thirty years Tom Weaver has been lending a helping hand at Habitat jobsites in the U.S., Germany, and Poland. Around three and a half years ago Tom retired and just a few months later decided to try on a new hat as a Habitat volunteer. When presented with the opportunity to have the reverse of the building experience – de-installation from homes and places of business – he was intrigued. Tom recalled, “I quickly learned about deconstruction and said ‘that’s for me’!”

For homeowners, businesses, and building owners, Habitat’s Deconstruction program offers an alternative to sending salvageable items to the landfill. It is through the combined efforts of staff, property owners, and volunteers like Tom, that this process is made possible. Benefits serve all parties involved: property owners receive affordable removal of cabinets, fixtures and appliances; residents can buy these usable items at affordable prices at the ReStore; and landfills are relieved from the prospective burden of additional waste.

Knowing that the removed materials are sold at affordable prices at the ReStore, and that proceeds from sales help build affordable housing in Asheville resonates deeply with Tom. Being able to witness this process firsthand, while contributing to its motion is a reward that keeps him coming back. To date, he has volunteered six hundred hours of his time on deconstruction sites.

So, what is it like on a deconstruction site? Generally, Tom’s time is spent removing cabinets and countertops from kitchens and sometimes bathrooms. However, his experience extends to larger deconstruction sites like commercial businesses and hotels. Every deconstruction job is unique, contributing to both the challenge and satisfaction of the task itself. Tom’s message for prospective deconstruction volunteers: “Jump in! Go for it! Some people may get intimidated, but in the end you’re taking things apart, which is always shorter than putting things together.”

Tom’s cool, calm, and collected attitude carries him through obstacles on the deconstruction site. Never fretting when confronted with difficulty, he simply works through the tasks presented to him, adding new experiences to his skill set. Thank you, Tom, for your lengthy service with Habitat for Humanity, the immense knowledge you share on deconstruction sites, and your admirable attitude that is a reminder to us all to embrace our capabilities!

Everyone deserves an opportunity to build a better future.

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Last holiday season, Shawntale’s reasons to move were many: an indifferent landlord, rising rent, and too little space for an active toddler. But most of all, she wanted to own her home so she could give her son a more stable future. In Asheville’s escalating housing market, her dreams of finding homeownership through conventional methods were out of reach. So she applied and was accepted into Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program.

Morning after early morning, she finished a night shift as a Certified Nursing Assistant and then worked side-by-side with Habitat volunteers to build her home and the homes of her neighbors—once working 28 hours straight!

But before her Habitat house in Shiloh was finished, and with little notice, her landlord sold the apartment she was renting. With nowhere to live, she and her son crowded in with family until the house was complete, knowing this would be the last time their lives would hang on the whims of a landlord.

Now Shawntale is a proud homeowner, paying an affordable mortgage. She found the stability she longed for with the support of many Asheville Area Habitat donors and volunteers.

Shawntale looks forward to raising her son in the neighborhood where she grew up and giving back to Asheville’s historic Shiloh community through its active neighborhood association.

With your gift this holiday season, you can help 14 more families build stable homes in Shiloh and make a lasting investment in the neighborhood’s vitality.

Everyone deserves an opportunity to build a better future. And everyone can do something to make that possible for another family.

Give a gift today.

From Bookstore to Boardroom: How One Volunteer Serves Habitat

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By Kristen Keefer

It was over twelve years ago that Cassie Dillon (above, R) began her service at the Asheville ReStore. At the time, she was traveling throughout the week for work but was still determined to find time to serve her community. She pursued a weekend opportunity with the ReStore and since then, has become a core volunteer in the bookstore. A book and music enthusiast herself, she puts care into connecting with shoppers who frequent the bookstore. Cassie plays an important part in ensuring that every ReStore shopper has a delightful experience, but this is not her only involvement with Habitat.

In 2014, Cassie joined the ReStore Committee and has been creatively collaborating with other committee members to keep the ReStore at its best since. She has also served on the Fund Development Committee for over a year, helping brainstorm ways to raise funds for Habitat’s building programs as well as special campaigns like Shiloh: Let’s Build!

Recently, she was asked to join the Board of Directors, which she says has already been a fascinating experience. Cassie says that becoming a member of the Board has furthered her understanding of Asheville Habitat in its entirety. She explained, “There is so much that goes into Habitat – mortgage lending, construction services, operating the ReStore, and ultimately serving the community.”

She also had a recent opportunity to experience a homeowner closing firsthand. She reminisced about the homeowner’s excitement and how impactful hearing “zero percent interest” was when reviewing and signing the mortgage documents. This is the moment that Cassie – and all Habitat volunteers, staff, and homeowners work together towards; the moment when a family achieves their dream of affordable homeownership.

Upholding Habitat’s mission is at the core of Cassie’s devotion to her to many roles within Habitat. She said, “I’d recommend volunteering here to anyone who has free time that wants to serve their community. Volunteering with Habitat is a worthy use of anyone’s time!”

With over a decade of service under her belt, Cassie Dillon’s contributions across so many areas of the organization have been greatly impactful and are deeply appreciated. Thank you Cassie, for your unwavering service to Asheville Area Habitat and your community!

Fellow North Carolinians need our help!

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Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and its community of homeowners have suffered a terrible fate in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Of Fayetteville Habitat’s 154 homes, 93 Habitat houses have been flooded extensively, and 66 may be complete losses. “There are powerful and heartbreaking stories of families swimming out of their homes to reach rescuers, lost possessions, and the loss of beloved family pets. Habitat homeowners work hard to pay their mortgages but it will be difficult, in some cases impossible, for most of them to pay both a mortgage and also rent a place to live,” stated a representative from Fayetteville Habitat. Please keep these families in your hearts and prayers and read below to see how you can help.

Make a donation to Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat
DonateJoin us to help Habitat neighbors in need! Asheville Area Habitat is donating to the hurricane relief efforts of Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity in honor of our Board of Directors. We invite you to do the same. Donate online and select Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat in Area of Support. Thank you!

“Round Up” at the ReStore registers
From November 1st through December 31st donations collected through the register Round Up program will be donated to Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity for hurricane relief efforts. For example, if your purchase totals $9.40, please round up to $10.00. Small amounts can really add up to make a big difference!

Go to Fayetteville to volunteer
Please clear your calendar and join one of our service trips, if you’re able. The work will be basic demo/muck/gut. No experience necessary. Transportation and lodging will be provided. Some meals may be provided but each volunteer should be ready to pay the majority of their food expenses.
Sunday, November 13 (noon departure) – Friday, November 18 (dinnertime return) 4 ½ work days
OR
Thursday, December 1 (noon departure) – Sunday, December 4 (dinnertime return) 2 ½ work days.
Please email Stephanie asap if you’d like to participate.

Thank you for helping our fellow North Carolinians in need!

Hudson Hills is complete!

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“I come home each day through the street filled with smiling children on bikes, playing on the sidewalks and shooting baskets through hoops. I come home to people visiting and sharing and laughing and smiling on their porches or walking their babies or puppy dogs. I come home to a sanctuary. A place filled with so much love. Hudson Hills Soulshine.”
~ Rhonda, Habitat homeowner

Successful affordable housing initiatives require the partnership of many constituent groups – public, private and municipalities. Last week, we celebrated the completion of our most recent neighborhood, Hudson Hills. It was made possible with the support of the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, the W&S Foundation (through Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam), and many local businesses, individuals, faith partners, and foundations. Funding was also provided by Habitat homeowner mortgage payments and ReStore proceeds. And in addition to funding, thousands of community volunteers – alongside future homeowners – built these homes.

House sponsor representatives presented ceremonial keys to the last six homes in the neighborhood, among a sea of children and large group of well-wishers. Executive Director Andy Barnett pointed out that three of the program participants have dedicated their careers to affordable housing: Bill Dowse from NCHFA (North Carolina Housing Finance Agency); Lew Kraus and Joan Cooper who recently retired from Asheville Area Habitat; and Jeff Staudinger, the City of Asheville’s Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development. Leadership from affordable housing advocates like these three, coupled with diverse funding partnerships, dedicated volunteers,  and future homeowner participation has proven time and again to be a recipe for a successful Habitat community.

With the strong foundation provided by decent and affordable homes, 24 more local families now have the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future for themselves. With a decent place to live and an affordable mortgage, these homeowners can save more, invest in the future, pursue opportunities, and have more stability. THANK YOU to everyone who helped us build Hudson Hills, a beautiful community of decent, affordable, energy-efficient houses, that are being turned into homes.

To see photos from the October 14th dedication event, please click here.

To see a short video produced by Buncombe County TV, click here.

A Delightful Duo: Lifelong Friends Provide Service to the ReStore

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By Kristen Keefer

Carolyn McDonald and Jo Harvey, friends since childhood, meet every Tuesday to volunteer at the ReStore. The duo spends their time alongside core volunteer Susan Diehn at the checkout-counter. “Susan is great; she really helped me learn the ropes,” remarked Carolyn who has been volunteering for over a year and recruited Jo to begin volunteering this past June. In regards to bringing Jo on-board Carolyn said, “Jo knew I wouldn’t lead her astray, we’ve been friends forever.” Jo agreed: “I jumped right in at the ReStore and really enjoyed it!”

Carolyn initially became acquainted with Habitat through the Home Repair program. Our repair team completed much-needed repairs on her home’s roof, and electrical and plumbing systems. As part of her home repair client agreement, she needed to complete sweat equity hours, and she chose to complete them at the ReStore.

After completing the required volunteer hours, Carolyn decided she wanted to continue her service. She explained, “I love it here. Everyone is just awesome and I look forward to coming in!” She expressed her appreciation for the ReStore’s Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin, saying “Carrie is amazing; she works with my schedule and is a very caring person.”

Both Carolyn and Jo enjoy working alongside other Habitat volunteers and staff, and they appreciate what Habitat does for the community. “It is just amazing, all the people Habitat helps, all the good that they do,” remarked Jo. A longtime fan of Habitat’s work, she first became acquainted with Habitat’s mission through her grandchildren who have spent time volunteering on Habitat construction sites.

The women dedicate their time outside of Habitat to helping others as well. On the weekends, Carolyn is a Medical Technician at North Ridge Assisted Living. And, throughout the week Jo helps care for a member of her community by transporting him to and from adult day care, as well as getting him breakfast in the mornings and making him home cooked meals in the evening.

Lifelong friends Jo and Carolyn are dedicated to service at the ReStore and in the community. Their story exhibits the value of a strong friendship, and demonstrates how sharing a new opportunity with a friend can be very special. We’re grateful that Carolyn chose to continue her service at the ReStore, and that she brought Jo on-board, too!

Photo (from L to R): Susan, Carrie, Carolyn and Jo

Safe home in a tight-knit community is a dream come-true for the Trantham-Roper family

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By Kristen Keefer

This past June, Vicki Trantham and her two sons Geoffrey (Roper), 25, and Rowan, 10, moved into their Hudson Hills home, made possible by proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam. The family harnesses a special dynamic, with oldest son Geoffrey (who is also on the deed) helping his mom Vicki raise her youngest son Rowan. The path that led this family to their forever home was filled with hard work and dedication. And today, the family is deeply rooted in the Habitat community.

Though their plates were already full when they began the journey to become homeowners, Vicki and Geoffrey enthusiastically embraced putting in sweat equity. Geoffrey shared, “It never felt like extra work. Volunteering on the weekends never felt overwhelming after the full 40 hour work week.” For him, being on the construction site was a valuable time to work with his neighbors, develop carpentry skills, and share the company of great people.

Geoffrey viewed sweat equity as an opportunity not an obligation. Geoffrey recalled, “The overall experience has been full of hope and very eye-opening.” He shared memories from his first meeting with Habitat homeowner selection committee members. Saying, “We felt so welcomed into the Habitat family. The committee members genuinely wanted to work with us.”

Currently Geoffrey is quite busy, working as a full-time pastry chef at Filo and actively playing guitar in local band The Spiral. And, though he has already completed his sweat equity, in the future he plans to return to the construction site to continue to volunteer his time to Habitat.

Geoffrey also lends his time to his younger brother Rowan. Vicki, who is a breast cancer survivor, expressed how helpful this has been to her, allowing her the opportunity to engage in activities away from home, including continuing her service with Habitat. Vicki is now a “core volunteer”, volunteering her time weekly in the administrative office, as well as at the ReStore. Being able to continue her service has filled her with happiness. She shared, “It’s wonderful to be able to give back and help other families. It’s what we wanted to do!”

The family is incredibly grateful for the opportunities they’ve been able to pursue since joining the Habitat community. Vicki shared that prior to purchasing a Habitat home they had been staying in a rural setting, in dangerous and nearly unlivable conditions. Relocating to Hudson Hills has not only given them a safe place to call home, but integrated them into a tight-knit community. Geoffrey explained, “We’ve never lived in a neighborhood before. It’s cool to see Rowan have so many friends in the neighborhood. I’m secondhand-excited for him!”

Vicki, Geoffrey, and Rowan are an inspirational family. When you meet them, you instantly feel at ease. Together they embrace a unique dynamic, sticking together through thick and thin. Their commitment to each other and the hard work they’ve put in to reach their dream of homeownership represents everything Habitat strives to support in building homes and building communities.

Creating Community Through Service

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by Kristin Keefer

Every Saturday, brothers Kris (far L) and Wayne (L) Ruth lend their time to the ReStore receiving area. They unload donations from vehicles, sort through a mixture of merchandise, and take time to really connect with donors dropping off previously loved goods. Whether it be by lending an ear to donors who have a story to share, or attentively greeting everyone who pulls up to the loading dock with a friendly smile, the duo consciously and caringly engages with ReStore donors, customers, volunteers, and employees.

The two men, now retired, became connected to the Habitat ReStore through a friend when the store was still downtown. Years later, after the ReStore relocated from Biltmore Avenue downtown to the current Meadow Rd/Biltmore Village location, they began volunteering. The gig was a perfect fit and it wasn’t long before they both became core volunteers.

Wayne has been with the ReStore for 13 years and Kris for 12 years. They both agree that they keep coming back for a simple reason; to help one another. Every week, they work together to help other volunteers and employees, and to contribute to the ReStore’s mission. They come back because the people they’re helping are their friends. It is from interactions like these that community sprouts.

For Kris and Wayne, volunteering at the ReStore is about more than processing items in the receiving area, it’s really about the people. Wayne shared, “We really enjoy visiting with folks. We meet some wonderful people!” And, they agree that what they most enjoy about volunteering at the ReStore is the sense of community that is present amongst volunteers and employees. Kris said, “Employees at the ReStore don’t tell you what to do, they help you do it. The people here are really community-oriented.”

If you dig into the brothers’ background, Kris and Wayne’s friendliness comes as no surprise. Both have enjoyed traveling the globe; exploring new places and meeting new faces. In fact, they spent a notable portion of their youth living in Germany.

Recently, Wayne took inspiration from his time spent in Germany (and also Austria), when he remodeled his home in Western North Carolina — ironically located on Munich Street. He compiled materials like metal roofing, windows, a pallet of boards, and even a hot tub from the Restore to use in the restoration. With the reusable materials he constructed a live and work space that includes a bier garden. The space won the “Best Live /Work Space category in the 2014 ReStore ReUse Contest! The following year, Wayne applied his creativity to the contest in a different manner – by participating as a judge.

For over a decade, Kris and Wayne have dedicated their time and talents to the ReStore. Their commitment to helping their peers and customers while making meaningful connections is a wonderful contribution to the tight-knit ReStore community. It is volunteers like this duo that make the ReStore a special place to be. We are grateful for all that you do, Kris and Wayne! Cheers to another decade!

City Bond Referendums on Your Ballot November 8th

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Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, and while we’ve all been hearing about the Presidential race for months, there are many other important issues in this year’s election. We’ll be electing a Governor and a Senator in our state, for example. This year, the City of Asheville has three bond referendums on the ballot.

A general obligation bond is a way for cities to borrow money to pay for large construction projects. Because bonds aren’t part of the annual budget of the City, they get voted on in a referendum. Many cities regularly hold bond referendums, but Asheville hasn’t done so in over 20 years. These bonds will be at the very bottom of the ballot.

The three bonds are for: Parks and Recreation, Affordable Housing, and Streets, Sidewalks and Bike Lanes. You can read more about each of them on the City’s website, which includes a break-down of how the money will be used if the bonds are approved along with interactive maps so you can see the priority projects around the City.

Several large groups in town support the bonds, including the United Way and the Chamber of Commerce, and they created a website, Facebook page, and YouTube testimonials, which you can access here.

Early voting in North Carolina begins on October 20 and continues through November 5 at twenty sites around the County, which are open most days during this period from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. If you haven’t registered to vote at your current address you can do same-day registration during early voting. During early voting you can go to any of the open voting sites, but if you choose to vote on November 8, Election Day, you must vote at your own precinct site.