It’s March Madness Time!


March Madness is almost here, but for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that means an influx of college students spending their spring break volunteering rather than heating up the basketball courts. Each group brings 12-14 volunteers, funds, and a surge of energy that matches any overtime game.

This year we are hosting the following three Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge groups, as well as a high school team from Michigan.

Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace noted, “We are thrilled to welcome three Collegiate Challenge teams AND a high school group this year. This is a great mix of old and new with Villanova and Battle Creek Academy joining us for the first time, while Lesley and Ramapo are returning for the 5th time!”

Lesley University student Audrey remarked, “Working with Habitat has been one of those experiences where you gain just as much as you give…One of the Core volunteers said something that stuck with me: ‘The people that do service are the type of people who I’d like to have as either close friends or neighbors’.’”

The groups are housed at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, allowing them to enjoy the beauty of the mountains with access to hiking trails nearby. Each group will participate in a dinner with Habitat partner families who are in-process, allowing the volunteers an opportunity to get to know the people they are helping through their volunteer labor.

Past participant Victoria from Ramapo College, offered this reflection at the end of her alternative spring break with Asheville Habitat: “I think I really found myself by helping others, which is why when the partner families thank us, I just really wanted to thank them because without these opportunities to give back my life would be extremely different. Service has helped me find my passion and purpose in life and I’m so grateful for that.”

If you’d like to participate in some way (think: donate meals), please contact Stephanie at 828.210.9383 or

Making a Difference, Locally and Globally

By Madeline McIntyre

The ReStore is thanking a long-time volunteer and top-shelf recruiter this week. Sherry Griffith (picture above R, and C in group shot) has been volunteering at the ReStore for ten years now and has no plan on stopping anytime soon.

“It’s just fun,” Sherry says. “It certainly beats just being at home and not knowing what you’re going to do.”

Griffith spent her career as a special education teacher. After her retirement, she decided to begin volunteering in the community. She worked with another Asheville organization building houses, but found her true calling as an Asheville Habitat ReStore volunteer.

While Sherry eventually found her place in the front of the store, there was a brief period when she worked in the bookstore. She thought she would enjoy the quiet and being able to play her own music, but that was a short-lived experiment. She missed the continuous interaction that the front of the store brings.

“Everybody loves to tell you what they’re going to do with what they bought,” Sherry says. “You know, everybody’s doing unique things like buying coffee cups and saucers and making bird feeders out of them.”

You can find Sherry every Thursday morning working at the register, setting up displays, and talking with anyone and everyone. She has one of those magnetic personalities that naturally draws a crowd, including more ReStore volunteers. In her ten years, Sherry recruited three volunteers – all of them now volunteering on Thursdays.

Her pitch is simple.

“I just talk about how much fun it is, and that you get to meet people and see what they’re buying and what they’re doing with all their fun stuff,” Sherry says. “And they all need to do something else with their lives, so I talked them into it.”

But Sherry isn’t keeping her passion for volunteering and helping others in one place. She and her husband have served as a host family for Haitian youth who have come to Asheville through Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF), and last year she went to Costa Rica with LEAF. She met families and provided connections for those children who will travel to the area for future festivals. “It was cool, and it was fun,” Sherry says. “An average tourist would never get that experience.”

Costa Rica is just the beginning though. This weekend, she and several other volunteers are heading to Guatemala as part of a Habitat for Humanity International mission. Led by Asheville Area Habitat’s Joel Johnson, Sherry and the other volunteers will help Habitat Guatemala build one-room cinderblock homes and install clean burning stoves.

Her friend and fellow ReStore volunteer Rhonda McKenna is participating in this service trip, too. Sherry credits her opportunities for traveling to the connections she’s made while volunteering, saying that it’s difficult to travel by yourself, especially when her husband is still working. “I’m retired and one of my lifegoals was to travel more,” Sherry says. “And I’ve gotten to do that.”

We are incredibly lucky to have a volunteer who is so committed to the Habitat mission and bettering our community, locally and globally. We wish Sherry and the other volunteers luck and good wishes in Guatemala, but we are definitely going to miss her warmth and enthusiasm next week!

AAHH Announces New Executive Director

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (February 2, 2016) — Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity today announced that Andy Barnett has been named as its new Executive Director. Barnett succeeds longtime Executive Director Lew Kraus, who has announced his retirement from the position.

Barnett comes to the affiliate from St. Paul, Minnesota, where he has been Coordinating Consultant for the Frogtown Rondo Home Fund for the last three years. Frogtown Rondo Home Fund is a unique collaboration of over 30 community, philanthropic, and local government organizations focused upon enriching the quality of life in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods of St. Paul. The Frogtown Rondo Home Fund connects and enhances public and private housing resources and activities in a very diverse section of the city, seeking to bring visible stability to the area while addressing residents’ most pressing housing needs.

Prior to his three years with Frogtown Rondo Home Fund, Barnett was with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for nearly 14 years. During his tenure with one of the most innovative Habitat affiliates in the nation, Barnett served in a variety of roles including Site Supervisor, Director of Construction, and Director of Community Development. In 2010, as interim Director of Programs and Services, he co-chaired the affiliate’s participation in the prestigious Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, with responsibility for neighborhood engagement, family services, volunteerism, construction, logistics, gifts-in-kind, and events.

“Andy’s track record of hands-on leadership and experience with affordable housing initiatives at Twin Cities Habitat and Frogtown Rondo Home Fund will be great assets for both Asheville and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity,” said David Whilden, Board chairman for the organization. “He comes to Asheville having made strong contributions to the cause of improving the lives of Twin Cities residents by building homes and stronger neighborhoods. We believe Andy is an excellent fit for our organization, our community, and our values of collaboration, opportunity, dignity, and empowerment.”

Barnett is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Housing Studies. However, he is no stranger to Asheville and western North Carolina. He began his studies at Appalachian State University and started his career in affordable housing by helping establish a Habitat affiliate in Rockingham County, NC after attending a regional Habitat affiliate conference in Asheville that was held in 1993. Additionally, Barnett and his wife were married at the Asheville Botanical Gardens.

“The Board of Directors recognizes that we have been so fortunate to have someone with Lew Kraus’ tremendous character, energy, and capabilities as our leader for 28 years,” said Whilden. “The staff, homeowners, volunteers, donors, and supporters of Asheville Habitat have achieved remarkable things during this time. We are also very enthusiastic about having a leader succeed him, who will build upon that legacy and help achieve our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Kraus added, “Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is considered a model Habitat affiliate, and we are grateful to have Barnett’s experience with that organization here in Buncombe County. His involvement with so many facets of the Habitat operation will be especially valuable in his role as Executive Director. Additionally, his experience with a community-based organization like the Frogtown Rondo Home Fund will be a great asset as we address the challenges of affordable housing in our neighborhoods.”

Barnett will begin his work as Executive Director in March.