Out of the office and onto the land

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By Ariane Kjellquist

“Redistribution of dirt and water,” is not a phrase I expected to hear on my recent tour of Old Haywood, a future Asheville Habitat for Humanity neighborhood. But it’s one of the first things Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves started talking about as we watched the excavator move with precision and he pointed uphill.

Before my visit to the Old Haywood site, I thought I knew what infrastructure and development entailed. Grading, running water and sewer lines and underground utilities, pouring sidewalks and paving roads. It is that– and much more. Going from site identification to construction is a lengthy and complex process; one that includes design, engineering, bidding, contracting and more. It is 2-3 years of work for a project of this size before we can even pull the first permit, pour the first foundation, or frame the first wall!

Within minutes of arriving on site, I learned that the soil being dug up to create a water catchment system near the front of the parcel was going to literally be moved up the hill, redistributed, compacted, checked by an environmental engineer, and eventually built upon.

I also learned that the environmental engineer will visit the site no less than 30 times during the infrastructure and development phase!

I learned too that working with the contours of the land can be difficult. As we walked the property it was evident that building a neighborhood in a mountainous region comes with unique challenges that flatlanders don’t face. Adding townhomes to the mix adds to the complexity. With the larger footprint of townhomes it is even more important that we have – or in this case, create – flatter lots.

And about the water…catching storm water and run-off and moving it safely across the site so it does not impact homes and foundations is part of the development plan, too. For example, an existing culvert will be replaced with a newer and larger one for better flow and performance.

Though I did not fully understand all that is involved in taking an empty lot to a thriving community until recently, I did know that Asheville Habitat has been doing this successfully for decades. Hundreds of families and thousands of individuals have built better futures on the foundation of safe, decent, affordable Habitat homes.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands in our community who need a decent, affordable place to live. And others may have a roof over their head, but just barely. 1 in 6 families in the U.S. pay more than 50% of their income towards housing costs and are forced to make difficult choices when it comes to other basic needs like food, healthcare, and transportation. Asheville Habitat is committed to empowering 1,000 more families to improve their housing in the next decade, and Old Haywood is one step towards this goal.

Old Haywood will be our largest neighborhood to date, with 98 units of affordable housing comprised of both single-family homes and townhomes. This is a bold step for us. But we have a history of being bold– and successful. We invite you to be part of a solution to our region’s affordable housing shortage. Give a gift, become a sponsor, volunteer to help us build, advocate for smart housing policies. Thank you!

 

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

Businesses That Build Homes and Communities

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By Zoe Trout & Beth Russo

We love our business community!

Local businesses know that our entire community is stronger when residents – and employees – have decent and affordable housing. We see this throughout the year at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, but never more so than when building the Business Bungalow.

The fourth Business Bungalow started construction last week, and is a house sponsored by local companies of all sizes. Longtime supporters Eaton Corporation launched this year’s Business Bungalow with a $20,000 challenge gift. In their 11th year of sponsorship, Eaton made this gift and encouraged other businesses to get involved at any level. Business Bungalow 4 has raised more than $52,000 so far, with over 40 businesses participating!

This house sponsorship includes all size businesses (from very small to very large), who band together to help build an affordable, energy efficient home. Restaurants like Copper Crown give a percentage of their proceeds from one evening of sales, while Rezaz is running specials throughout the month of March to support this build.

Other companies, like Blue Ridge Orthodontics, use their sponsorship support to bring their employees from the office out to a Habitat jobsite to share a team building experience volunteering to build this house.

The financial support that local businesses provide – whether as a Housing Champion, Blueprint Sponsor or at a higher level – helps make Habitat homes affordable. Every dollar adds up to an affordable Green Built home that a deserving family will purchase. Asheville Habitat is proud to collaborate with so many local businesses to make affordable homeownership within reach for more local families. Click here to see all of our wonderful sponsors! We are especially excited that this year’s Business Bungalow is the first townhome built in our 36-year history. Now offering a mix of housing types, this is another way Habitat is working to create even more affordable homeownership opportunities for folks that live and work in Buncombe County.

If you are interested in joining this diverse group of businesses please contact Beth Russo at brusso@ashevillehabitat.org for more information. Thank you!

AmeriCorps Get Things Done

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By Maddy Alewine  It’s hard to put into a nice, neat paragraph how AmeriCorps impacts Asheville Habitat and in turn, the community. This year’s five AmeriCorps- Sydney, Billy, Nora, Kaitlyn, and Mackenzie- started their year with us jumping in head first, taking on each new challenge with gusto and passion.

Bucking the National Trend

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By Ariane Kjellquist

Women in Construction. While it is no longer an anomaly, it is far from the norm. According to the National Home Builders Association, “the share of women in the construction industry is currently at 9 percent, although women make up almost half—47 percent—of the total working population.”

Bucking this national trend is Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity where women make up more than 50% of the organization’s Construction staff, the Construction Manager is a woman, and women work in diverse Construction positions including new construction, home repair, volunteer coordination, and construction administration. Furthermore, an annual Women Build led by a team of volunteers affectionately known as the “WomBATs” (Women Build Advocacy Team) recruits hundreds of female volunteers to help build—and raises $55,000 to build the house. Construction will begin on Asheville Habitat’s 14th Women Build House on May 7.

Asheville Habitat also has a number of women “core” construction volunteers, those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. One such volunteer is Melissa Banks, who brought a team of volunteers to Asheville in 2016 to work on the Women Build House, and soon thereafter relocated to Asheville. She is now a core construction volunteer, a “WomBAT”, a member of both the Global Engagement Committee and Community Engagement Committee, a Global Village Trip leader, weekly ReStore volunteer, donor and advocate!

On the staffing side, Construction Manager Robin Clark previously owned her own construction company, and worked with Asheville Habitat as a sub-contractor during the annual Women Build. She joined Asheville Habitat as a full-time staffer in 2010, and was promoted to manager in 2016.

AmeriCorps members are invaluable, especially to the Home Repair program. Second year AmeriCorps member Sydney Monshaw and first year member Nora Gilmer, both “WomBATs”, work on “Aging in Place”, a subset of the Home Repair program. The work is often anything but glamorous, but its importance is paramount enabling elders to stay in their own homes longer and live more safely and comfortably as they age. Sydney stated, “I love being a woman in construction and especially as part of a team like ours. These women – employees, volunteers, and WomBATs- are forces to be reckoned with, and it fills me up with strength and hope to fight for affordable housing alongside them!”

Asheville Habitat’s executive director Andy Barnett added, “Women bear the brunt of our housing crisis. I am proud that at Habitat women lead in the solutions, from the construction site to the board room. I hope our story of gender equity in the construction industry inspires others, locally and nationally.”

See/hear this story in the press!
Mountain Xpress
the828.com
Biltmore Beacon
Capital at Play
AVL Today (DYK)
ashevillefm (March 6, Slumber Party)

The Unpaid Bills… But Not the Kind You’re Thinking

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By Sydney Monshaw

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has many unpaid Bills – but not the kind you’re thinking. These Bills have chosen to be left unpaid, donating their time and energy, often a few times a week, to help build and repair homes for families, primarily in Buncombe county. Though one Bill volunteers in Henderson County, too! There are seven Bills in total, but as Bill Durant a Friday Core volunteer mused, “Comparable to the stack on my desk – both are increasing.” While this group started as something silly to refer to the growing number of core volunteers named Bill who receives their pay in the form of gratitude and sore muscles, The Unpaid Bills has become an identity for these men who make up a community within the larger group of weekly Core Habitat construction volunteers.

Bill Reid, Bill Ryan, Bill Winkler, part of the Thursday core volunteers

Bill Lineberry

This group of dedicated Bills ranges in years of experience, some having as many as 15 years as a volunteer. The rookie Bill, also the medical Bill (a retired doctor), will be celebrating his one year anniversary as a core volunteer this December. Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle, with about 7 years of service on average. At least one Bill is out on the new home construction job site almost every day of the week! On Mondays Bill Winkler represents the “Unpaid Bills,” Tuesday Bill Bechtold and Bill McDowall hold down the fort, Thursday Bill Winkler joins Bill Reid and Bill Ryan for his second shift of the week, and on Friday Bill Durant, Bill Kantonen, and Bill Lineberry are working hard to close out the week. All of these Bills are committed to building a better future, one day at a time.

When asked what they enjoy most about volunteering, here is what a few Bills had to say:

“I enjoy all aspects of volunteering -The work fits my desired activities and skill set; the other volunteers and staff are exactly the type of people I enjoy being around – the BEST! The satisfaction of contributing to the Asheville community is highly rewarding.” – Bill Winkler (Tuesday, Thursday)

“I enjoy most the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and in helping people who are willing to try to improve their situation in life.” – Bill Durant (Friday)

Bill Durant

“Helping folks, camaraderie of the build teams, and learning how to build/repair things the right way. (Also the nutritious break time snacks.)” – Bill Reid (Thursday)

“Helping deserving people have a home of their own while working with great bunch of people. It has also been a great hands-on learning experience. Although I had done some construction work and have a General Contractors License, I was surprised at how little I really knew.”– Bill McDowall (Tuesday)

Bill McDowall

“There are multiple factors that I like about volunteering, foremost among these are:

  1. The efficiency of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Organization
  2. The professionalism of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff
  3. The camaraderie among Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers
  4. The opportunity to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way.” – Bill Bechtold (Tuesday)

Bill Bechtold

 

“What I like best is the combination of fun work that benefits the community and the opportunity to work with great future homeowners (super folks), great staff, and great volunteers. Making a difference.” – Bill Ryan (Thursday)

Bill Kantonen

You would never know that the Bills go unpaid at Habitat. They work with integrity and commitment, living out the mission of Habitat – bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. For them, it is about so much more than the lumber, nails, paint, and shingles that create a house – it is about the community, camaraderie, and sense of belonging that truly builds a home. Bill Bechtold captured perfectly the feeling of being one of the “Unpaid Bills.” He said, “Being an Unpaid Bill reminds me to feel grateful that I am healthy enough and fortunate enough to do something meaningful in the community for people who deserve a hand up.”

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is fortunate to have so many unpaid Bills who keep coming back week after week. They, like all of the core volunteers, take home their pay stubs in the form of muddy boots and strong friendships, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

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The first week of September in South Bend, IN was what our Executive Director Andy Barnett affectionately coins “the Olympics of Habitat,” referencing the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. An annual “Blitz Build” this event unites upwards of 600 individuals around the common vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. This year, the 35th annual Carter Work Project was hosted by Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County where volunteers built or improved 41 home in Mishawaka and South Bend, Indiana in one week.

Kenny Bush, our Senior Construction Supervisor and South Bend native, and our Construction Supervisor Emily Stevens led a team of Asheville Habitat volunteers on this epic Habitat trip. The Asheville team worked alongside others on House #20 amidst a block of twenty-two single family homes. 25-28 volunteers worked on each house, every day. “We started the day under a huge tent with breakfast, daily updates and logistics report, and a devotional. There were 600 people under the tent every morning,” Emily remarked about the magnitude. “Being amid of sea of so many like-minded volunteers was amazing. That kind of energy would be hard to create anywhere else. Everyone was so positive, well-intentioned and there because of the cause.”

A homecoming for Kenny, the trip was the same for Ralph Johnson, an Asheville Habitat construction volunteer who also hails from South Bend. In fact, the street they worked on was just a block from where he grew up. The rest of our volunteers comprised four different work days; so although Asheville core volunteers, many did not know each other beforehand. But you can be assured that this trip created lasting friendships among these cores who have come back to Asheville with an even greater passion for the work we all do.

Having participated in Carter Work Projects in the past, Andy noted that “they are a concentrated dose of Habitat and a reminder that every local affiliate is a small part of a global network.”

There were many memorable moments experienced by each volunteer, but the one that stands out in the entire team’s mind was the “big reveal”. Future homeowner Loretta Adams had not told her two daughters about their future Habitat home. When Jimmy Carter himself broke the news to the young girls in the front yard of their future home, there was not a dry eye in sight. The Asheville team then showed the girls around their house and they each picked out their bedrooms and started talking about paint colors. Mom did have to draw the line and say no to pink walls in the living room.

Next year’s Carter Work Project will be in Nashville, TN, a short 4 hour drive for interested folks from Western North Carolina.

To see photos, please click here.

Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project

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ASHEVILLE, NC – On Saturday August 25th team of 10- two construction staffers and eight volunteers- left for St. Joseph County, IN to participate in the 35th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. This entire week the team is working alongside former President and former First Lady Carter, future homeowners, and hundreds of other volunteers from Indiana and around the world to build or improve 38 homes in Mishawaka and South Bend.

This is the first year Asheville Habitat has sent a team to the Carter Work Build, a transformative and inspirational project to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. The team will build a house for future homeowner Loretta Adams, a mother of two. For Asheville Construction Supervisor Kenny Busch and core volunteer Ralph Johnson, the chance to leave an impact on this community is particularly special. They’re returning home.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity and especially grateful to return to South Bend,” Johnson said. “Because I was born and raised there. My home is just a few blocks south of where we will be building.”

In 1984 the Carters led a Habitat for Humanity work group to New York, serving 19 families in need of safe, affordable housing. That was the inaugural Carter Work Project, which is now takes place every year in a different community around the world. The Carters have worked alongside over 100,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build decent and affordable shelter for all.

 

A Strong Start for Women Build #13

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Women Build House #13 officially began construction April 17, and since then Asheville Habitat has seen numerous dedicated groups of sponsors out at the jobsite in Arden lending a hand. There may have been a lot of rain, but that didn’t put a damper on the volunteers or the house progress. Volunteers worked diligently, under the watchful eye of Construction Supervisor John Meadows, to build frames for the walls and raise them. Several Blueprint Sponsors were present at the jobsite- WomBATS kicked-off the build and this week the Fiji Hammerheads, Peggy Crowe Realtor, and the Wild Bodemas all spent a day working together on Ashley Blankenship‘s future home.

For the 11th year, Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s are engaging women nationwide to work together to build Habitat homes during this year’s National Women Build Week from May 5-13, 2018. On Friday, May 11th Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s hosted a special volunteer work day where Women Build and Lowe’s volunteers worked alongside future homeowner Ashley Blankenship on Women Build House #13 and then celebrated together with a potluck lunch and a home dedication. Renowned cookbook author and homesteader Ashley English of Small Measure joined and talked about the importance of community and home.

To see a WLOS clip, click here.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the event!

Thank You March Madness Volunteers!

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As we near the end of this year’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity takes a look back to recognize all the amazing students and Collegiate Challenge groups who traveled to Asheville in March to volunteer with us. Students came from all over the country including the University of Florida, College of Charleston, University of Wisconsin, and Lesley University (Massachusetts).

Click this photo to view an album!

Students worked at the jobsite in Arden, alongside future homeowners and core volunteers. The highlight of the week is always a group dinner with a homeowner family. Lesley University students and future homeowner LaQuila Harris celebrated Pie Day on March with pizza and dessert pies!

“It’s amazing to see different people coming together, and see the students really learn and connect,” Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace recalled. “Core volunteers rallied together to get Biltmore Estate tickets for each group of students, going above and beyond to make the students’ experience in Asheville that much more memorable.”

Lesley University students with LaQuila Harris and her daughter in the ReStore.

Stephanie added, “The generosity around this particular month was really special.”

For many of the students, this experience is one they will never forget and leaves a lasting impact. Stephanie recalled Sofia Atzrodt, a University of Florida student, who began the week very timidly and lacking confidence in her building skills at the jobsite. Throughout the week, with mentorship from the construction staff, Sofia became empowered and really flourished.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a week long Habitat trip with eight strangers, but I have come out of it with close and meaningful friendships, a new sense of purpose, and a different perspective of the world,” Sofia remarked.

University of Florida student Ajay Patel offered this reflection: “The experience of building something for another human cannot be paralleled. These people blew us away with their hospitality, life knowledge, and especially warm hearts. If done correctly this experience should help restore your faith in humanity.”