5 Reasons to Volunteer with Asheville Habitat

,

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

, , ,

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!

Home Repair Makes Big Impacts

,

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.

Lumber prices adds to challenge of building affordable housing

,

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.

My One Year Reflection

,

While we wait for our shots, I’ve been reflecting on how this experience provides a new way to think about the goal of building a community where all of our neighbors have a healthy and stable home. At a 2019 fundraising event, I quoted Dr. Megan Sandal comparing housing to a vaccine.

Unjust Deeds

,

It recently came to the attention of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that a parcel of land they purchased possesses a deed which contains a racially restrictive covenant. The language in this deed states that the property cannot be sold to “any person of the colored race.” As an organization that condemns structural racism in our housing system, Asheville Habitat will not transfer this deed to another owner with this abhorrent language.

5 Reasons to Donate to Asheville Habitat

,

A donation to Asheville Habitat makes homeownership possible for all of our neighbors, helps provide a stable foundation so children can thrive, allows homeowners to age in their communities, helps break the cycle of poverty, and helps families build strength, stability and self-reliance.

Building on the foundation of a stable home

,

For Tikisha and Terrell, their Habitat house has served as a foundation for a better future, a refuge in challenging times, and a place to always and forever call HOME.

A Good Year for a Year of Service

,

We are thrilled to welcome back two AmeriCorps members from last year, Chris Nolan and Jennie Goldenberg, who will continue their service with the Home Repair team. The mission of Habitat resonates with these two – Chris who learned since graduating with a Linguistics Degree that his heart is in humanitarian non-profit work where he can use his hands, and Jennie who earned a Masters in Social Work and is committed to giving back to her community. Read more about Chris and Jennie and their AmeriCorps experience thus far.

Masked Americorps

On the New Home Construction side, we welcome Lilian Buchangroff from Vermont and Amanda Marley from Pennsylvania. To say we’re thrilled to have Lilian and Amanda join the team would be an understatement. With 100+ weekly volunteers called off, staff are spread thin when it comes to workload and far when it comes to location: we’re currently building downtown, and in West Asheville (Curry Court and New Heights), Arden, and Shiloh. “They have hit the ground running and are a great addition to our team,” shared construction manager Robin Clark.

Asheville native MaryKent Wolff joins us in Volunteer Services, helping Construction, Administration, the ReStore and Deconstruction. After 4 years in Greensboro, she was ready to return to the mountains and the community she loves and explore the non-profit sector.

This year of service will be memorable for sure, but hopefully for reasons other than Covid-19. AmeriCorps service is an opportunity to gain insight into the workings of a successful non-profit, work alongside like-minded people, learn about affordable housing, and developing strong leadership skills. We are honored that Chris, Jennie, Lilian, Amanda, and MaryKent have chosen to spend a year with us!

P.S. – In November, we will be welcoming an AmeriCorps VISTA to our homeowner services team. Stay tuned!

Asheville ReStore Leaders Reflect on Past

, ,

By Klesa Ausherman

The ReStore team is made up of world class, top-notch doers. All day, every day, they’re in constant motion- receiving, cleaning, and sorting donations; moving items to the sales floor (and we’re talking BIG items ya’ll); assisting customers with purchases, hauling and loading items into vehicles- BUSY with a capital B. Store manager Jeff Bridgman and assistant manager Scott Bianchi can be found at any time wherever the most urgent need has sprung up. You’ll rarely find them at their desks, even though there is plenty of work to keep them there. With the advent of a pandemic and the loss of hundreds of weekly volunteers, Jeff and Scott have found themselves with many additional hats to wear- such as standing outside the ReStore entrance to ensure the safety of shoppers and staff by asking to everyone to follow safe shopping guidelines before entering the store. To say the least, management as well as the rest of the ReStore team have found themselves in markedly different working conditions since the ReStore reopened in May.

However, amidst the busyness of the days, when a request was sent out for memories and reflections from the last 30 years of business, Jeff and Scott responded right away.

Scott Fishing

Scott Bianchi (far right) “fishing” (a pre-pandemic photo)

Scott Bianchi joined the Asheville ReStore team in 2007. He began as a Truck Driver, then worked as the Lower Showroom Supervisor before becoming Assistant Manager last year. He also currently serves on the ReStore Societal Impact Committee. Scott is an amazing advocate for his team. He is direct and honest, without an ounce of hot air or fluff to be found in his demeanor. His “what you see if what you get” attitude is respected by his team, as it also comes with a strong work ethic and willingness to get the job done. As a long-time and well-rounded team member, his reflection on the last 30 years is unique.

My memories of the last 13 years at the ReStore are one big blur of forward momentum and growth. But in a nutshell…

The overall memory that I take away is the Local aspect, the sense of belonging to and serving the community of Asheville and greater WNC. From helping someone rehab a house on a shoestring budget to helping an entrepreneur outfit a local restaurant, and then watch it be successful. I’ve sat on church pews we picked up at a local church that found a new life as seating at secular music venues, and many customers have showed me pictures of their home projects that they completed with purchases from the ReStore.  

Also invaluable have been the different perspectives brought by diverse staff, volunteers and homeowners.  We’ve all lived through unprecedented growth in our community, worked through a complete remodel of the store itself, seen the need for affordable housing skyrocket in our area, and grieved over the unexpected passing of volunteers and staff. It’s been a wild and rewarding ride, and 30 years is a huge accomplishment. We all should remember Lew Kraus’s original determination and vision when he started driving around on “trash day” in Asheville and picking up items from the side of the road that he knew could be re-used and sold for Habitat’s benefit!”         ~Scott Bianchi, ReStore Assistant Manager

Jeff

Jeff Bridgman, ReStore Manager

Jeff Bridgman has been with the Asheville ReStore since 2014, serving first as Donations Manager before moving into the role of Store Manager last year. One of his team members commented recently “I have never seen someone so thorough in their follow through as Jeff”, and how accurate that is. Nothing slips through the cracks with Jeff overseeing it, and in an operation like the ReStore that is no small feat…especially when half of every day is now spent standing in the sun, reminding customers to follow all safe shopping directions. He could easily have delegated this not very enjoyable task, but he didn’t. Jeff is the epitome of dedication and hard work.

“My memories of the ReStore may be a bit different as I have had the experience of viewing the store as a corporate donor and then as a team member. My first contact with the ReStore came when I was introduced to Paul Reeves while working at Grove Park Inn. Part of my job then was to coordinate donations and pick-ups with Habitat as GPI started a new chapter by giving away furniture and other items instead of selling it to staff or throwing it away. As GPI’s relationship with the ReStore expanded, I got to know several of the drivers and volunteers; some of whom are still here today. I also developed a regular phone conversation and relationship with Piper Parker, the ReStore Scheduling Coordinator.

Over time, I learned more about Habitat from staff, from working on the GPI-sponsored Habitat house, and volunteering a few times with Home Repair. (Chipping lead paint off of a house is an experience I won’t forget!)  I remember visiting the ReStore when the lower showroom was still an area where cars pulled into. I thought that was crazy!

When I moved to south Georgia for work, I thought that would be the end of my association with the ReStore. I was wrong.

I remember the excitement I felt when I had the opportunity to return — as the Donations Manager, and that is where my real education about the ReStore began. The past six plus years have seen a lot of changes for me personally and for the affiliate. The one thing that has remained the same through it all is the unwavering belief and determination that everyone here shares for the mission, vision, and values of AAHH. We may all not agree on how to accomplish the goals sometimes, but everyone here is committed to making the community and the world a better place and that to me separates the ReStore from any place else I have ever worked.”      ~Jeff Bridgman, ReStore Manager

Some say the true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis. But, perhaps the greater reflection of leadership quality is how well the entire team functions in a crisis. The past several months have arguably been some of the most difficult for the ReStore team- not for lack of sales, but rather for lack of man power as volunteers were asked to stay home due to the pandemic. Witnessing the whole ReStore team functioning with strength, determination, and positivity without 140+ volunteers each week is a true testament to the quality of leadership at the helm.  Just as these leaders have looked back and reflected on their years at the ReStore, it is certain that there will be a day in the future when others will bring reflection and deep gratitude for the leadership Jeff and Scott have provided during this most challenging time.

#teamRestore.