By Jeff Paul, Asheville Habitat’s Homeownership Counselor
“I moved to Asheville from Atlanta in 2007 to take a teaching job at Erwin High School. Not knowing anyone here, I figured a good way to change that would be to volunteer in the community. In Atlanta, most of my volunteer work was through the Humane Society and I was looking to change things up a bit. I knew of Habitat, coming from Georgia and living a few miles from the Carter Center how could you not, but I had no real understanding of the work or the families who are served, and I certainly didn’t know what a Home Store was all about. I heard about a volunteer orientation session being held at Habitat so I signed up to attend thinking I’d like to build houses.
At the information session, hosted by volunteer coordinator, Ariane Kjellquist (now Communications Director), I learned a bit more about the organization and was eager to begin. I spoke with Ariane after the session about starting the following Saturday. She said they weren’t able to fit me in construction that particular day, but asked would I be interested in working in the Home Store? I said sure. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was a decision that changed my life.
I came, somewhat selfishly, to meet a few folks and help out where needed. What I found was a community of people working and volunteering together to make affordable housing a reality for hard working, deserving families.
I was hooked on the Home Store after my first shift and committed to several Saturdays each month. Inspired by all I experienced, I stepped up my volunteer shifts. Two years later, a new staff position had been created and it was suggested that I apply. I wasn’t looking to make a move, I enjoyed teaching and loved the high school environment, but the opportunity to be a part of this mission was far too strong of a pull. My time in the Home Store, now the ReStore, yielded far more than I ever expected.”
In addition to being a rewarding volunteer experience, Jeff made some good friends and a career shift that he didn’t anticipate. And, he still gets to teach! Every Monday evening during the Homeowner Education series he either teaches a class himself (i.e. Basic Home Maintenance) or facilitates a class with a partner (i.e. Estate Planning with Brattan Gelder).
In addition to sharing his story, Jeff was kind enough to share a favorite donation and funny memory, too. See below.
Favorite ReStore Donation: A hang glider. I can imagine how that conversation went at home-
A: Honey, let’s go jump off a cliff with a hang glider.
B: Oh, that sounds fun, but we don’t have a hang glider.
A: Now we do, I bought one at a thrift store.
B: _____________(Fill in the Blank)
Funniest Memory: I was in the ReStore talking to now Weaverville Assistant Manager, Eric, and noticed a small stack of $20 bills at his work station. I did a double take and then realized they were not real. I asked what it was about, and he said he folds them up and tucks them in drawers or under the seat cushions of the furniture he puts in the show room. Said it gives the customers a cheap thrill!!
Thank you, Jeff for your many years of service as both a volunteer and a staff member!