Hike for Habitat to Raise Funds for Women Build

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Following a successful virtual Spring Hike Series, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Blue Ridge Hiking Company are excited to announce the fall version of Hike for Habitat: presented by Jennifer Pharr Davis– in-person guided hikes September 15-18 that will raise funds for Women Build. Habitat International’s Women Build program empowers women to build – and advocate for – affordable housing in their communities. To date, fifteen Women Build houses have been built in Buncombe County by Asheville Area Habitat, and another is now underway in Habitat’s New Heights neighborhood in West Asheville.

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Hand-picked routes by Jennifer Pharr Davis, internationally recognized hiker, author, speaker, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and new appointee to the President’s Council of Sports, Fitness and Nutrition offer opportunities of various length, location, and ability. Hikes are available on September 15-18. All genders are welcome and the minimum suggested donation to participate is $250– 100% of which will go towards Asheville Habitat’s Women Build program. Participants can opt to make the donation via credit card or check, or crowd-fund to raise the funds. All participants will also be invited to a kick-off event on September 15th at Smokey Park Supper Club. To see hike options, what is included and how to register, visit: https://blueridgehikingco.com/overnights/hikeforhabitat.

Hiking helps improve mental and physical health. So  does a healthy home. Asheville Habitat homes are Healthy Built, providing homeowners with ongoing comfort and safety. Adults and children who previously experienced respiratory disease due to mold and mildew, illness from lead exposure or toxic heat sources, and psychological disorders due to financial pressures, experience improved mental, physical and emotional health once the conditions of unhealthy, unsafe homes are eliminated. So, join Hike for Habitat to help yourself and a local family in need of a healthy, stable and affordable home.

Not interested in hiking, but want to support Women Build? Visit ashevillehabitat.org or click here to make a secure online donation now.

5 Reasons to Volunteer with Asheville Habitat

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5 Reasons to volunteer with Asheville Habitat: the people, the process, the product, the byproduct, and the legacy.

Volunteers needed to build largest-ever neighborhood

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We are currently building New Heights, our most ambitious neighborhood to-date, and community volunteers are invited to help build. Take an active role in ensuring everyone has an affordable place to call home by learning new skills or honing existing ones while working alongside community-minded people and future Habitat homeowners.

Asheville Habitat has been bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope for nearly four decades. The reasons people donate their time and talent to Asheville Habitat are as varied as the volunteer themselves. Those who so enjoyed volunteering once on the Women Build House that they keep coming back every week. Those that spent decades in a corporate boardroom and simply want to do something totally different in retirement. Those that work for a company that sponsors Asheville Habitat and therefore have the opportunity to participate in an employee build day. Those that are in high school and learning about our region’s affordable housing crisis. Those putting faith into action by working on a house their church sponsors. How people come to volunteer with Asheville Habitat is wide-ranging. Why they continue to volunteer is the same: Comradery. Meeting the families. Fulfillment. Fun. Making a difference. Feeling part of something bigger.

If you are ready to be the change you want to see in the world, learn more and sign up now or call 828.251.5702. “Volunteers are truly an extension of our staff,” shares Construction Services Volunteer Manager Stephanie Wallace. “We offer year-round opportunities for those age 16+. It’s hard work, but very rewarding. Stepping back at the end of the day, you can SEE the difference you’ve made and feel proud about it.”

If construction isn’t your cup of tea, contact Carrie at 828.210.9381 or cburgin@ashevillehabitat.org to learn about volunteer opportunities in the Asheville and Weaverville ReStores. Proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat’s building programs, so your volunteer efforts there directly support affordable housing, too. Volunteer positions include customer service, such as running the cash register and providing sales support on the floor; intake and receiving; sorting and processing donations; testing and repairing appliances; and other fun opportunities. Learn more and sign up today!

Diane Bryson’s Comeback Story

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The epitome of a “when life gives you lemons” story, Asheville Habitat volunteer, Diane Bryson shares about how volunteering with Asheville Habitat has helped make lemonade out of some lemons that life has thrown at her. Her attitude is an inspiration, and her power tools skills aren’t too shabby either!

Home Repair Makes Big Impacts

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Home Repair For Enews Aug2017

The Asheville Habitat Home Repair Program is an affordable housing superstar that tends to stay out of the spotlight while having a huge impact on our communities. It is integral in improving affordable housing in our area as it helps low income and older adult residents live better in their homes, for longer. Whether fixing a leaky roof, installing a ramp, or replacing heating systems, Asheville Habitat’s affordable home repairs enable homeowners to live safely, and with dignity, where it may otherwise have been financially out of reach. Home repair preserves the character, affordability, and diversity in our local neighborhoods and allows long-time residents to stay in their most affordable option- the home they already own, and avoid being priced out of their community. It is clear why this type of affordable housing program is vital to our community and why 75% of the families served through Asheville Habitat are home repair clients.

In an effort to learn more about the impact of home repair on the lives of our clients, as well as learn how the program can improve, Asheville Habitat AmeriCorps member Jessica Gustines, recently conducted a survey of 103 households who were served through the Home Repair program between 2018 and 2021. Between March, 2018 and July, 2021, the Asheville Habitat Home Repair program completed 135 repair jobs through a broad range of services, including accessibility modifications, heating/cooling systems repair, roof repair, floor repair, interior and exterior repairs, and exterior painting/staining. Jessica personally chatted with over 100 families, verbally collecting feedback on various parts of the Home Repair program process. Families were asked to rank on a scale of 1-5, how the repair job impacted various aspects of their life in their home. The biggest impacts were in the safety and longevity of clients homes with the enjoyment of their homes close behind.  However, every category scored above a 4.5 (out of 5), a very telling outcome!

Survey Results Infographic

Survey Results

Jessica recalls that outside of the high rankings in all the categories, many clients were effusive in their praises of the program. She heard many times how kind, courteous, and diligent the team was and how happy the clients were to have the team working in their homes. She also heard many times that the families would not have been able to get the repairs done without Habitat’s affordable program, and families expressed much gratitude for making repairs possible for them.

The survey revealed overwhelmingly positive results- confirming both the great need for affordable home repair and the quality of the work done by Asheville Habitat’s program. Home repairs done through the AAHH program are not free, but because of generous donors, sponsors and grants, the cost is significantly lower, and families are set up with a short-term payment plan they can afford. In fact, the data collected by this survey has been used to secure future funding to continue to grow this much needed service in our community.

After completing the survey process, Jessica commented, “It’s obvious the need is great and our program is successfully addressing that need. But I know that despite our best efforts there are many people and repairs we cannot serve or address. I think the repair program is really important for maintaining affordability though preserving the existing stock of affordable homes in the area. It is essential work to take care of the people that have been living here their whole lives. While there are a few other affordable repair programs in the area, it’s definitely an issue that could use more attention, manpower, and resources.”

If you would like to sponsor a home repair through Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, contact Beth Russo at 828-407-4487 or email brusso@ashevillehabitat.org.

Piper’s Perspective

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If you scheduled a donation pick-up by the Asheville ReStore at your home or business sometime in the last 18 years, odds are you probably spoke with Piper Parker, the ReStore’s Scheduling Coordinator. In a recent conversation, Piper offhandedly mentioned, “I remember when I had to ask for step-by-step directions to each home or business, and then communicate the directions for each stop to the truck drivers every day. Things have changed a lot since then.” It was a casual statement, but it brought to mind how much the ReStore has grown and transformed since 2003 when Piper started.

While Piper currently logs around 165 calls each week, or 8,500 calls every year, (and that’s only counting the calls that result in a scheduled truck!), her job hasn’t always been like this. When she first started, she was scheduling about 60 stops a week for one truck, and she was in charge of all volunteer scheduling, as well. Eventually a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator was hired and Piper began to devote all her time to scheduling donation pick-ups by ReStore trucks. One thing is for sure, her old method of hand-writing directions for each pick-up definitely wasn’t going to keep up with the growth trajectory the ReStore was on. Thankfully, over the years Piper has eagerly innovated her process, and with the help of technology, effectively tripled the number of annual donation pick-ups.

Piper Parker

Piper in 2012

After spending her first few years handwriting directions for the truck drivers, Piper heard of a volunteer named Dick Milholland who built a computer program for Asheville Habitat’s Construction Services department. She reached out and asked if it would be possible for him to do the same thing for ReStore truck scheduling. Soon, with Mr. Milholland’s help, Piper began entering directions into the computer which generated a printed multi-page document for the truck drivers to reference each day. Over the next 5 years, the Asheville ReStore would add two more trucks to their fleet, tripling the number of weekly donation pick-ups. GPS systems were also eventually added to the trucks so that Piper was then only printing a one-page list of stops for the drivers each day, without any added directions.

Soon after the addition of the second truck, the ReStore surpassed the $1 million mark in gross revenue, confirming the

Piper Pouring Crete

Piper pouring concrete during a Global Village Trip to Guatemala

importance of expansion and innovation. Higher ReStore revenue meant more families served. With the addition of a third truck, the ReStore began advertising their free donation pick-up service on television and things really picked up! Throughout this period of intense growth, Piper used Mr. Milholland’s homemade program for scheduling trucks until the ReStore upgraded to a Point of Sale (POS) system with built-in scheduling functionality in 2015. Currently the system is so streamlined that the trucks start each day at the farthest point, increasing their weight as they get closer to the ReStore in order to most efficiently use their fuel.

As with everything else, growing into scheduling 165 stops every week has certainly been a process. But Piper Parker has been there, willing to innovate and adapt at every stage.

Piper Parker 1 2003

Piper during her first year with the ReStore 2003

 

Piper will celebrate 18 years with the Asheville ReStore this June. Next time you call to schedule a pick-up, be sure to congratulate her on 18 years of a job well done!

 

Lumber prices adds to challenge of building affordable housing

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Skyrocketing building material prices, supply chain issues, and a building boom has created a challenging environment in which to build affordable housing. Unlike other builders, Asheville Habitat can’t pass on to homebuyers increased costs.

Bill Kantonen: Celebrating 25 Years of Service

Having a conversation with Bill Kantonen about the last 25 years of volunteering to build houses with Asheville Habitat is a little like eating at a 5 star restaurant. With a 25-year databank of stories, he has to be selective about what he shares, but what he served up was a rich and well-seasoned selection.

Bill Kantenon

Bill Kantonen on the jobsite

A longstanding dedication to honor his commitments, is truly a thread that runs all through Bill’s life, beginning long before he hammered his first nail with Asheville Habitat. Bill worked with the YMCA for approximately 40 years, serving across the nation, finally ending up in Asheville to serve the last 12 years as Executive Director of the Asheville YMCA. A few years before signing on with the YMCA, he married his wife Jennifer with whom he spent a happily married life for the next 60 years. When Bill started his 25 year span of volunteering with Asheville Habitat he was 36 years in to marriage and 40 years into a career with a single organization.

At 40 years, however, Bill decided to retire from the YMCA in June of 1996. And, approximately one month later, in August of 96’, Bill started volunteering on jobsites every Friday morning- and would continue building houses with Asheville Habitat every week for the next 25 years. (That adds up to over 1,000 days on the jobsite, or work on over 300 houses as a volunteer!) Bill started while Asheville Habitat was building their third neighborhood, located in Wilson Creek.  Since then, Bill has built in every single Habitat neighborhood in the Asheville area.

He recalls attending the 200th home celebration in which Habitat’s founder, Millard Fuller, was the guest speaker and commented on the quality of the volunteers’ work. He said “In observing the volunteers, I believe they have reasoned, if 2 nails are good, then 10 are even better. I don’t worry about a hurricane or tornado passing through, but if someone walks by with a really large magnet, I might get nervous.” And the volunteers aren’t the only ones going the extra mile on Habitat jobsites. Bill has worked with the last three Asheville Habitat Construction Supervisors, and he says “They are all so professional. Habitat certainly builds houses to be proud of. If you don’t do it right, you do it over!”

But ultimately, Bill says, “If I can take anything away from the past 25 years, it’s the people. The volunteers, the supervisors who made sure you do it right or do it over, the folks who brought donuts for the coffee breaks…I will always remember the people.”

Bill recalls all the college students who come each year for Collegiate Challenge and alternative spring breaks. He said, “They always ask me why I do

Bill Kantonen Edited

Bill Kantonen in Maui

this. Why do I volunteer every Friday, instead of playing golf or something like that? I tell them, when you leave at the end of the day after working on a Habitat house, you can look back and say, hey, I did that!”

Bill began volunteering with Asheville Habitat with a group of volunteers from his church, First Presbyterian of Asheville. He is one of the last of the original group to still be volunteering. But at 85, he sees no reason to stop now. He is patiently waiting until he can return after a year of limited volunteer service, and begin working on the biggest neighborhood to date, New Heights.

His incredible 25 years of service with Asheville Habitat isn’t the only thing that makes Bill stand out.  Perhaps it was the fact that he was in Maui with his daughters during our conversation, but even over the phone, Bill exudes the values of his generation. He is lighthearted, even when sharing about difficult times, he is incredibly sharp- offering meaningful memories from all aspects of his volunteer service, and he is impeccably faithful in honoring his commitments. It has truly been an honor to have Bill as part of the Asheville Habitat family for all these years.

Thank you, Bill, for your 25 years of service!  You are an inspiration to our whole team! 

Beth Robrecht: A Multi-Disciplinary Volunteer

It all started at a dinner party in the mid-1980s where Beth Robrecht was seated next to a delightful conversationalist by the name of Millard Fuller, who also happened to be the co-founder of the world-wide organization now known as Habitat for Humanity International. Mr. Fuller was no doubt an excellent ambassador for Habitat’s volunteer program, and as Beth listened to the sincere and credible commendations, she knew there would come a day when the demands of her law practice would ease, and she would have time to offer to volunteer service. She tucked the information away, and kept the idea of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in the back of her mind for the next 15 years, until her moment arrived

Beth At Register Edited

Beth at the Asheville ReStore, pre renovation

After getting married and moving to Asheville in the early 2000’s, Beth finally parted ways with her law practice and began to settle in to being a full time wife. As her schedule opened up, she remembers seeing a TV commercial for Asheville Habitat which prompted her to recall Mr. Fuller’s recommendation of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity so many years before. Soon after, she made her way downtown to what was then known as the Habitat Home Store, a small store front full of gently used donated items, located at 9 Biltmore Avenue.

Perhaps the beginning of Beth’s volunteer service with Asheville Habitat was foretelling of what would come.  She started off doing a little bit of everything at the WNC Home Store, from sweeping floors, to stocking shelves, to assisting customers. She has since served Asheville Habitat in countless ways outside of the ReStore over the past 18 years. Soon after starting at the Home Store, then Executive Director, Lew Kraus, quickly spotted her administrative and legal savvy and invited her to sit on the Board of Directors. She has since served several terms on the AAHH board, and has actually lost count of the number of committees she has either chaired or sat on, although she lists the Family Selection Committee and, most recently, the ReStore Committee as two she has chaired.

Beth is the perfect example of the type of volunteer who makes up the backbone of this organization. Although originally a ReStore volunteer, her

Wed Afternoon Ladies Web

Beth (second from right) with friends

professional expertise made her a great candidate to serve in other capacities within the organization- and she’s always ready and willing to serve when asked.  No matter in what capacity she serves administratively, she hasn’t stopped volunteering weekly at the Asheville ReStore. Before Covid, Beth and five friends volunteered together weekly, taking the already fun and exciting ReStore volunteer adventure to a whole new level! Covid has, of course, changed things a bit, and Beth now participates in the Monday morning volunteer work shifts that happen while the ReStore is closed to the public.

After 18 years, she still delights in the ReStore volunteer experience. “I love the thrill of the hunt! You just never know what you’re going to find, it’s delightful!  And, the other thing that I love about the Asheville ReStore is that there’s a synchronicity that happens, I can’t explain it, but it happens over and over again. I’ll see some obscure item donated to the ReStore that I’ve never seen in my whole life, and the next thing I know there is a customer at the register buying it, saying they’ve been looking for this exact thing for months! It’s so fun!!” Recently Beth found a beautiful set of China by the same maker as her mother’s wedding china, and was able to give her niece an extravagant gift at a fraction of the original cost. Beth is a ReStore devotee at heart, and we are so, so grateful she is!

 

The Man Behind the Hardware

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During a year when ReStore truck crews were not been able to enter homes to remove large furniture items or appliances, it’s not a surprise that Construction and Building Materials became the top selling merchandise category at the Asheville Area ReStores. Hardware items- tools, fixtures, fasteners and every item in between, make up a huge part of the Building Materials section.  But while ReStore staff have been spread thin with far fewer volunteers able to serve than usual, John Harvin has been the Man Behind the Hardware this past year, keeping our store’s shelves full of every hardware item that gets donated.

John Harvin lived in Germany for 30 years, managing supplies for a military school, before retiring in Asheville in 2014. He knew he wanted to volunteer during retirement, and had heard of Habitat for Humanity’s work around the world. After reaching out to the ReStore volunteer coordinator, Carrie Burgin in 2015, she quickly lined up a time for John to come tour Asheville ReStore operations.

John Harvin

John Harvin

While touring the Restore with Carrie, John noticed an area piled high with boxes full of every manner of hardware items. Carrie explained the hardware processing area often became backed up as staff weren’t able to devote enough time to the tedious job of sorting through thousands of fasteners and fixtures, as well as identifying and pricing hand tools of all types and ages. Truly, from large, vintage table saws, routers, and joiners to brand new power tools, to circa 1930s hammers and wrenches, the Asheville ReStores receive a remarkable array and volume of donated hardware items. And, beginning in 2015 thanks to John joining the ReStore volunteer team, hardware boxes no longer pile up in the processing area, but rather get sorted and priced and hit the sales floor right away!

 

Of course, as with everything else, Covid has complicated the process just a bit. The little time staff were able to devote to hardware before Covid quickly diminished as volunteers were no longer able to serve at the ReStore during open store hours. Instead of his usual 3-4 days a week, split between the Asheville and Weaverville ReStores, John began volunteering 5 days a week in order to try and keep up with the influx of hardware merchandise. John currently volunteers several hours each day, Monday–Friday, and is just managing to keep the boxes from stacking too high.

John’s almost single-handed effort to process donated hardware has paid off in a huge way for the ReStores. Many customers shop at the Restores almost exclusively for the purpose of finding hardware items for their building jobs or home improvements. In fact, over the past year, with home improvements at an all-time high, the Asheville and Weaverville ReStores sold a combined $219,352 in hardware items alone! This was largely due to the time, effort, and commitment of John Harvin. He realized quickly that items sell much better once they’ve been cleaned up, and has gone above and beyond to take the time to package bulk items and clean up older hand tools in order to present them in a way that highlights their worth. In addition, he diligently researches items he’s not familiar with, especially larger vintage tools, in order to accurately price them according to their value.

John Harvin With A Million

John Harvin With A Million Dollar Bill

As with many volunteers, after five years of service John has caught the ReStore treasure hunting bug! He pulled a 1 Million dollar bill out of his pocket that he found tucked in a donated tool box right before sitting down for this interview,  “It’s always interesting, especially when a bunch of boxes come in from the same person- you just never know what you’re going to find!” But when asked what he enjoys the most about volunteering with the ReStores, John doesn’t hesitate in his answer, “It’s just being around people. The staff at both Stores are great, they’re super friendly and interesting to talk to, and the same goes with other retirees. Having people my age with similar interests to talk to about their life, that’s definitely the best part. And of course knowing that what I do may help a family get into their own house, that’s the biggest reward.”

As with everything at the ReStore, the reward is threefold. Donors dropping off hardware items save their used items from ending up in the landfill and shoppers get a great price on new and vintage finds, all while funding Asheville Habitat’s new building and home repair programs.

Thank you John, for your amazing contribution over the past 5 years!