It begins with us

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

The results of the 2018 midterms are usually described in superlatives. The 2019 congressional freshman class is the most racially diverse and the most female

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Partial group photo at Capitol Hill

group ever elected to the House. From the first Native American Congresswomen and the first Muslim Congresswomen to the most number of veterans, one of the largest freshman congressional classes is bringing a lot of diverse voices to the table. Last week, hundreds of Habitat for Humanity homeowners, volunteers, board members, and staff descended on Washington D.C. for the annual Habitat on the Hill (HOTH), to meet with this class of firsts and the hundreds of other legislators that represent our states.

Habitat also had a first. With over 350 attendees from 38 states and D.C., this was the largest Habitat on the Hill to date. Habitat representatives from Maine to Hawaii filled the conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., and Asheville was in attendance- myself, Homeowner Selection Specialist and Habitat homeowner Shannon Kauffman, and former Board chair David Whilden.

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[From left] Maddy, Shannon, and David

The three of us were new to HOTH and Tuesday Feb. 12 we dove headfirst into a day of training, speakers, collaboration, and learning to prepare us for our meetings with legislators the next day. While I could spend days writing everything I learned, my biggest takeaway is best summed up by Habitat International’s Chief Operating Officer Tjada D’Oyen McKenna: “Advocacy is vital to Habitat’s mission that everyone has a decent place to live.”

The whole time there was this sense of urgency that flowed between all of us, enforced by the fact that so many of us felt it important enough to travel from so far to D.C. (I see you, Hawaii) and devote time away from our usual tasks to become better advocates. The simple truth is this: Habitat for Humanity can no longer just build houses. That’s just not who we, as an organization, are anymore- we’re more than that. Advocating for affordable housing policies has to become a part of every Habitat affiliate’s DNA in order to a) be able to continue building and repairing affordable homes despite the rising cost of building and housing and b) advocate for policies so people don’t have to need Habitat to have a decent, affordable place to live.

In our day of training, author Richard Rothstein who wrote The Color of Law, spoke to the crowd about the history of how our government at the local, state and federal levels segregated housing. The harsh reality is that black homeownerhsip is at the same level as when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. Fifty-one years and it hasn’t changed. We cannot talk about affordable housing solutions without the undeniable truth that unconstitutional housing policy did and still does leave people of color, particularly black communities, far behind in the ability to accumulate wealth and have a decent place to live. We all have a responsibility to remedy this.

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Shannon and David outside Rep. David Price’s office after greeting his staff.

The next day armed with knowledge, our local stories, and specific policy asks, David, Shannon and I put on our best walking shoes and trudged around the Senate and House buildings to meet with our elected officials. While we did not have a scheduled meeting with Rep. Mark Meadows, while getting slightly lost on our way to drop off materials at his office, we ran into the Congressman and spoke for a minute. He seemed genuinely pleased we had come from Asheville to bring housing concerns of Western NC to the Capitol. We also stopped in the office of Rep. David Price. Although not our district, this NC Congressman chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

For our next stop, we teamed up with about 15 fellow North Carolinians from Habitats around the state to meet with a staff member of Sen. Burr. While meeting with a staff member seems less exciting than the actual elected official, legislators’ staff often have more in-depth knowledge about specific issues and are the ones discussing these with their respective Senator or Representative. Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden asked questions and was engaged as homeowners shared how owning a home has empowered them, as eastern state Habitats talked about the need for disaster relief, the rising cost of housing, the importance of AmeriCorps and much more.

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A group photo after our meeting with Sen. Burr’s Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden.

A much smaller group- the three of us from Asheville, two from Charlotte and one staff member from Fayetteville- then ran (literally) back to the previous Senate building to meet with staff from Rep. Patrick McHenry. Meeting with Rep.

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[Left to right] Shannon, David, and Brandon Price of Fayetteville Habitat in Rep. McHenry’s office.

McHenry’s Legislative Director Doug Nation, we got to have much more personal conversations. We talked a lot about a common stereotype about Habitat- that Habitat gives houses away to people that are homeless. Shannon shared her story that echoed the reality that people who qualify for Habitat homes are bank tellers, hospital workers, barbers, servers, teachers, and other full-time working professionals because housing is just that expensive and affordable housing is scarce. Mr. Nation even shared with us that he used to volunteer with Habitat while in college, which speaks to the wide reach Habitat has. It’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t volunteered with, donated to, worked for, bought a house through, or at least heard of Habitat.

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. I know I usually am. But something stuck with me that David Dworkin, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference said during our training. He said that yes, big money opens doors on Capitol Hill and that’s a fact. But, those money interests only lobby so hard as to compete with the power of all of our voices. As Asheville Habitat grows its ability to advocate more, we are alongside a network of thousands all across the country utilizing Habitat’s powerful voice- that reaches Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between- with the message that
everyone deserves a decent place to live.

Advocating for Affordable Housing in Raleigh

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By Maddy Jones, Communications Coordinator 

Every year Habitat staff, board members and homeowners from affiliates all across North Carolina descend on Raleigh to participate in a Legislative Day. This year, roughly 30 Habitat representatives, including myself and future Asheville Habitat homeowner Staci Williams, spent Monday June 18th learning about affordable housing policy. We spent that blazing Monday afternoon in the cool, air-conditioned comfort of First Baptist Church in Raleigh listening to policy and political advice, wisdom, and knowledge from Republican Senator Jeff Tarte, lobbyists, the NC Housing Coalition, and Habitat International’s Government Relations team. The next day, Staci and I hit the Legislative Buildings and met with Representative Susan Fisher. Staci ran the show- describing her journey, her three wonderful children, and her excitement of closing on her home in August.

Although this year’s budget was already passed, this was a great opportunity to build on Asheville Habitat’s relationships with elected officials representing Western North Carolina. With 12,000 Buncombe County households (7,000 renters and 5,000 homeowners, ACS 2016) currently paying more than 50% of income on housing, the need for affordable housing continues to grow. At Habitat, we know we cannot out build the problem, so advocating for greater affordable housing support and solutions is crucial. It’s important to support increased funding to the state’s Housing Trust Fund that provides a flexible pot of money for not just Habitats across the state, but to be used for affordable rental opportunities, emergency response funds, repairs, and more. Asheville Habitat, along with other Habitats across the state, will continue to build relationships and advocate for affordable housing policies.

Maddy Jones and Staci Williams with Rep. Susan Fisher

Habitat and its Roots in Racial Equality

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Some people know that Habitat for Humanity was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in Americus, GA, but where did the idea actually come from? Even fewer people have heard of Koinonia Farm, the community farm and social experiment in Sumter County, GA where the idea that became Habitat grew.

Koinonia Farm

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past week, Asheville Habitat showed the documentary Briars in the Cotton Patch, a documentary about Koinonia Farm, to staff and core volunteers. In 1942, biblical scholar and farmer Clarence Jordan began this farming community based on the radical (at the time) principal of white and black families living and farming together as equals. Koinonia faced years of boycotts, terror attacks, KKK intimidation, and violence while becoming a beacon of racial and economic equality during the Civil Rights Movement.

Clarence Jordan, left, and Millard Fuller, right

When the Fullers joined the farm, they began dreaming of service beyond Sumter County. Keeping Koinonia’s mission in the forefront- that of the Christian-based idea to bring all people together to alleviate poverty- the Fullers and Jordan began looking for a need to fulfill: housing. The Fund for Humanity became Habitat for Humanity, and despite being very unpopular in Sumter County at the time, it grew into the worldwide non-profit it is today.

This week we reflect on our organization’s roots steeped in civil rights and campaigning for the poor, tenants that Dr. King spent his life championing for. “Everyone deserves a decent place to live” is something we say a lot at Habitat. It’s easy to forget the significance of such a simple word, “everyone.” This year, Asheville Habitat staff, volunteers, and partners engaged with the community in a number of ways to honor Dr. King.

Three of our Americorp members spent the day at the Shiloh Community Garden. Lauren, Sydney, and Ryan worked alongside community members to reorganize the garden shed, put together bags of fresh produce, and spread mulch.

A new art installment in Shiloh

Lauren

Ryan and Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ School students volunteered at the ReStore for their MLK Day of Service.

A handful of projects the students completed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are collecting cold weather items in the ReStore for BeLoved Asheville, a local non-profit that seeks to end homelessness, poverty, prejudice, and injustice. Most needed items are: winter coats, gloves, hats, socks, hoodie sweatshirts, sweaters, and sleeping bags.

Several Habitat staff members and volunteers participated in the MLK Day march in downtown Asheville.

Tickets On Sale for the 7th Annual Poverty Forum

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The 7th annual Poverty Forum “Evicted: Housing Crisis in WNC” is hosted by Pisgah Legal Services and presented with Mountain Housing Opportunities, Homeward Bound and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Please join us for a community conversation about affordable housing issues in WNC and how we can work together to bring about change.

Dr. Matthew Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and co-director of the Justice and Poverty Project.

His New York Times bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City draws on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data. Evicted won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, National Books Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

In 2015, Desmond was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Event info:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Sherrill Center/Kimmel Arena, UNC Asheville

5:30pm – Cocktail Reception with Matthew Desmond
7:00pm – Forum

To buy tickets, click here

Inspiring Others Towards Excellence Through Leadership

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by Greta Bush

What do you get when you mix humility, grace, and strong leadership together? One Bill Lineberry. Bill has been a Core volunteer with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity since 2013, starting on the jobsite, then adding in a role with the Student Build House and finally, joining the Outreach Committee. Bill also volunteers with Western North Carolina Historical Association and has a large role in coordinating speakers and professors for its adult education program.

Bill may not realize this about himself, but when he commits to something, he excels at it, and he subtly encourages others to do the same, simply by leading by example. No matter what role he plays, he seems to have a natural way of raising the bar. After 39 years in the education field—a teacher of American History and Economics for the first 25 years and a principal for the remaining 14—one can see how the years of leadership and excellence have intertwined their way into the core of Bill’s personality. Looking back on his career, Bill said, “It was a wonderful process for me to go from teaching and then leading. I couldn’t have had a better experience for my life.”

I know Bill through Habitat’s Outreach committee; members of the committee are volunteers or Habitat homeowners who represent Habitat to the public in various ways. For example, they might staff an informational table at a service fair or speak to local clubs, faith communities or school groups about what Habitat does. I serve as the staff liaison for the committee, and Bill is one of the star members. (Let’s face it: they’re all stars! I am only somewhat biased.) I have also seen Bill in action with the Student Build—a project I’ll expand on momentarily.

Bill started volunteering with Habitat on the construction site in 2013. It was through his church, First Presbyterian, that he signed up and found himself on our jobsite in Swannanoa. He found the construction supervisors to be so patient and forgiving that he kept coming back, and soon became a Core volunteer, coming every Friday. Of the supervisors, Bill says they “are the best! They are so patient with people like me, who are trying to build skills. And they utilize you and work with you, and when you leave after a day of work, you just feel really good.”

Speaking of being “the best”, Bill has always made a good impression on me. In writing this blog post, I tried to pick that feeling apart—what is it about Bill that makes me gush about what a great volunteer he is? If there is one word I would use to describe him, it’s Excellence.

I’ve noticed that in every role Bill takes, he strives to do his best—he strives for excellence. And, that has led him from one volunteer role to the next. (People start to take notice when you’re good at something!) Soon after becoming a core jobsite volunteer, Bill volunteered to help with the Student Build—another role in which he excels. In that role, among other tasks, he gave public presentations; soon afterward he was nominated for Habitat’s Outreach Committee.

Bill’s previous career benefits him immensely in his roles with the Student Build and Outreach Committee. When he was principal of Woodward Academy in Atlanta (a private school of 2,000 students from pre-K to 12th grade), he led 100 faculty and 25 support staff. He said, “It was a grand affair. I worked 24/7 for fourteen years and loved every minute of it!” On the committee, Bill raises his hand for scenarios that make others nervous—presenting to a crowd of 100 or larger doesn’t faze him. This is one of the ways that Bill makes my job easy. I have full confidence that he will do an excellent job, no matter where we send him to represent Habitat.

When talking with Bill, it’s easy to see that he is most passionate about the Student Build, and he is quick to attribute credit for the project to Charlie Franck (another outstanding core volunteer, who we hope to introduce you to in a later post). The Student Build is, essentially, a coalition of local private schools that raise money and awareness for Habitat (currently Asheville Christian Academy, Christ School,Carolina Day School and The Franklin School of Innovation). They have funded three full-house sponsorships for $55,000 each, and for each build, have provided student volunteers (age 16+) to help build the house. These schools incorporate Habitat and service learning into their curriculum. There is a lot more to it, but that’s the basic explanation.

Bill met Charlie on the jobsite in Swannanoa just after the first Habitat Student Build House had wrapped up, and offered to help on the second house. With his background in education it seemed to be a perfect fit. Now, as we approach the closing of the third Student Build House, Bill is still happily on board. As you would expect from a former teacher, Bill has a desire to see others succeed, and through his involvement with the Student Build, he sees first-hand just how transformative the work with Habitat and the future homeowners has been for the students. Here what he has to say in this video. (His remarks start at 2:40.)

I asked Bill to share with me a particular memory from volunteering that he is fond of. He explained that he can’t share just one moment, because the effect of the Student Build is continuous and encompassing. He said, “I am just blown away, constantly, by how mature these kids are beyond their years. To understand there are needs that people have, and they have a joy of wanting to help meet those needs…every time I see these kids interacting on the jobsite with the new homeowner families, I am just overwhelmed and so happy to be involved and to be a small part of this.

[Along with academics, arts, and athletics] there’s a piece missing in working with kids, and that is, you need to connect with other folks. You need to realize that you’re here by the grace of God to give back, because you’re able to give back. And once we put that piece, now called Service Learning, into our curriculum in my school in Atlanta, we watched kids become adults in front of us. Not just good students in the classroom, wonderful athletes on the athletic field, or musicians and artists. But adults.”

Bill went on to explain that he is seeing that here, too, with all the schools involved. Bill plays an important role with the Student Build. Along with coaching the students on the Student Build Leadership Team, he gives presentations to the schools to help de-mystify Habitat’s work. Affordable homeownership, Asheville’s housing crisis, mortgages…these are not topics that your average elementary-to-high school-aged student thinks about, let alone, understands. But Bill makes it interesting for them, and explains how their fundraising and volunteer work is making a difference in our community. He adds fuel to their fire. And this information has made its way into the school’s curriculum. The work that these students do is impressive. Bill says, “This whole thing has been a real joy.”

Bill and his wife Margie have been married for 43 years and they have have two grown children, Neil and Mary Beth. Bill affirmed that he is a lucky man.

After living in Atlanta for decades, they moved to Asheville to be nearer to family. “When I was growing up as a youngster, I knew I wanted to retire and live in Asheville because we spent a week every summer here for vacation. And I grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina— which is a beautiful place, but it is hot as Hades from April until September!” Growing up without air conditioning, Bill said he didn’t know what he was missing until he came to the mountains and it was so nice and cool at night. “So, I said, sort of subconsciously, this is a place I want to come to.”

It seems Bill has found his stride and is enjoying retirement. And I’m happy that Asheville has become more to him than a place with a temperate climate: it is a place where he continues to make a difference and instill in others a desire to achieve excellence.

FREE Reuse Documentary Film Screening

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Join us at the Asheville Area Habitat ReStore (31 Meadow Road) to screen the documentary REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet. Learn about different ways people across the country reuse materials, and be inspired on what you can do, too! Habitat ReStore and Asheville Greenworks staff will kick off the evening with a brief introduction.

Entry is free,with free beer (thanks to Hi-Wire) and popcorn during the show. Bring a friend! All attendees will also receive a 20% coupon for the ReStore. Please RSVP via the button below so we can get a headcount! Thanks!

 

About the documentary:
REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet.

This film isn’t about our waste problem. It’s about solutions. And they are everywhere!
We live in a challenging time. Climate change and mass consumption is threatening our planet’s existence. Excessive extraction of natural resources has created immeasurable waste and pollution. This issue is complicated and imminent. While recognition and awareness is important, direct action is by far the most effective. But traditional recycling is not enough. The reuse mission offers a more sustainable solution that everyone can be a part of. REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet follows Reuse Pro Alex Eaves’ cross-country adventure to the 48 contiguous U.S. states. On his journey, he finds endless reuse solutions for our waste problem that are not only sustainable, but many of which are easy and fun! And he learns just how reuse truly benefits “people, planet, and wallet.”
For more details on the documentary visit: reusedocumentary.com.

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.