Home Repair Program Makes One Shiloh Resident Dance with Joy

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Written by Pat Bacon, Habitat’s Family Support Specialist

Eugene (Gene) Rone’s mother died in 1929, just thirteen days after he became a year old. On her death bed, his mother asked his seventeen year old sister, Willie Mae, to take care of him; and she did. Willie Mae also taught him to care for himself and to seek a good life. As a teenager, he cooked, washed and ironed his own clothes, cleaned house, went to school and worked a part time job. He earned $1.00 a week and every week he gave his dad fifty cents. Later he met and became “family” with a Cuban family that owned a grocery store. He started working for the family at $3.00 a week and when his income increased, so did his dad’s – “$1.50 a week.” Gene said that along the way he grew tired of “lamp light,” especially when he was entertaining friends, so he saved his money and before long and much to his and his family’s pleasure,  he was able to have electricity and a telephone installed in the family home.

After graduating from Stephens Lee High School in 1949, Gene started doing domestic work and in 1953 he married his sweetheart, Mary, who at that time lived in the Shiloh Community. From 1954-1956 he served in the Army, barely missing a stint in Vietnam. Upon his return to Asheville, fifty-eight years ago, he and Mary purchased their home in the Shiloh Community for what was then the colossal sum of $4,500.

The Rone house is modest by conventional standards – two bedrooms, one bath. But it is rich because of a unique nuance, wonderful pictures and a cadre of mementos from many years of special occasions, family and community events which adorn all the walls, nooks and crannies – including ballroom dances with Mary who died in 1993. On a wall in the living room is a smiling picture of Mary and a framed poem dedicated to her – lit by an eternal candle flame.

Gene indicating damage near a windowGene is very proud of his community and he knows everybody on his street and everybody knows him. They all take a lot of pride in their homes and their yards. When Gene noted that his house needed painting, downspouts and gutters, he learned from a neighbor who happened to be a Habitat volunteer, about Habitat’s Home Repair program. Gene obtained and completed an application and as we say, the rest is history. Habitat’s Joel Johnson assessed the work and made the needed arrangements to get it done.

Habitat did a variety of repair work including servicing the oil furnace; scraping and painting exterior windows, doors, and trim; replacing rotten window trim and broken siding; re-routing water runoff from downspouts away from the house; replacing missing gable vent trim and installing a new gutter.

Gene is very grateful to Habitat for repairing his cherished home. He readily admits that it would have been very difficult if not impossible, to afford the work on his retirement income. He said that “these days folks charge an arm and a leg for anything that they do for you. Folks like me need organizations like Habitat.”

Gene has wonderful recall of the past and a positive outlook for the future. He remembers riding street cars at six cents a pop and cutting wood for the kitchen stove. These days he enjoys the good feeling he gets from driving his 1995 white, convertible mustang and entertaining family and friends. He speaks readily about what it means to live a full, rich life with no regrets. He smiles and says, “I’m still dancing with Mary!”

23 Years and Still Going Strong

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Last Friday, under a hot end-of-summer sun, we kicked off Labor Day weekend “Habitat-style”. With the help of local United Methodist and Presbyterian churches, Elisabeth Pallante and her husband Joshua London celebrated new beginnings as they raised the very first wall of their new home.

Local Presbyterian and United Methodist churches have been helping Asheville Area Habitat build homes for 23 years now; each year renewing their commitment to provide funds and volunteers to help build. This year, members of the various congregations along with the London-Pallante family and Habitat staffers socialized over lunch before raising the first wall. View pictures here.

We are grateful to these sponsoring Presbyterian Churches (PC) and United Methodist Churches (UMC):

Abernethy UMC
Asbury Memorial UMC
Central UMC
Christ UMC
Francis Asbury UMC
Grace UMC
Groce UMC
Oak Hill UMC
Oakley UMC
Sardis UMC
Skyland UMC
Snow Hill UMC
St. Paul’s UMC
Trinity UMC
Black Mountain PC
Christ Community Church – Montreat
First Presbyterian Church of Asheville
Grace Covenant PC
New Hope PC
Reems Creek-Beech PC
Warren Wilson PC
West Asheville PC

And did you know that each home’s lot has a sponsor that helps to offset the cost of purchasing and developing the land for the home. An Adopt-a-Lot sponsor donates $10,000 and a challenge grant supports the remaining $5,000 needed for each lot. We are grateful for this home’s Adopt-a-Lot sponsors: David M. Greiner & James A. Gray.

Habitat Celebrates Completion of 9th “Women Build” Home

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On Friday, August 22nd at 3:30pm in Swannanoa, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity will hold a key presentation ceremony to celebrate the completion of its 9th Women Build home and the beginning of the Stynka family’s new future. With Women Build as the sponsor, the majority of the home was built by women from all walks of life—from college-aged volunteers to retirees.

Andrei and Rodika Stynka, the partner family, are scheduled to officially close on the home the following week. After putting in 400 hours of “sweat equity” at Habitat’s jobsites, ReStore, and in homeownership preparation classes the family will become legal Habitat homeowners with an affordable 0% interest mortgage. With their two young children they will start a new life in a community surrounded by Habitat neighbors they met during their sweat equity process.

Women Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. The purpose of Women Build is not to exclude men, but to focus on including women in the home building process. The house is mostly built by female volunteers and construction supervisors. A team of women comprise the Women Build advocacy team (WOMbats), and the major sponsors are predominantly female. Major sponsors for this particular Women Build house are: Global Village Teams in Support of Women Build, Minigowin Fund, Publix Super Markets Charities, and “The Three Marthas”. Lowe’s is the national underwriter of the Women Build program. Additionally, the WOMbats raised money using an online crowd-sourcing platform.

This year, the WOMbats focused on a “recipe” theme. Event attendees are encouraged to bring a favorite hand-written recipe which will be included in an album and presented as a gift to the family. The recipe theme represents the many “ingredients” which are needed to build the home: community support, donors, volunteers, building materials, and a partner family. A recipe for success!

Help for the Helpers

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Marion and Thelma Scott are delightful. They’re the kind of folks who make good neighbors and enhance neighborhoods. They moved to Asheville in 1995 after having lived in Norwalk, Connecticut for thirty-six years. In Connecticut Thelma was an accountant and Marion’s last work was with a cable company (where one of their three sons now works). Born in North Carolina, it was Thelma’s hope to move back to the state to be near family, particularly her mother. Upon retirement Thelma’s hope became reality, and Thelma and Marion moved to Asheville, twelve years before her beloved mother’s death. And though her mother has passed, family remains nearby as Thelma’s sister currently lives across the street.

The Scotts live in a well-kept house on a quiet, but well-traveled street in south Asheville. They are always mindful and attentive to the maintenance and care needed for their house and their yard. To the pleasure of their neighbors, the Scotts immediately took an interest in the people who lived around them. They particularly began to give attention to their aging neighbors by driving them to appointments, helping them to maintain their yards and doing other things to make their lives easier.

At one time it got to the point where Marion did not have to announce himself when he was entering one neighbor’s yard, and then when he wanted to borrow a certain tool, the neighbor said that he no longer needed to ask even for it. The neighbor soon let it be known that the tool seemed to belong more to Marion than to him. Before long the neighbor outright gave Marion the tool. Being the upright, responsible man that he is, Marion used it for the upkeep of both yards, until the neighbor’s death.

As mentioned earlier, the Scotts are attentive to their home and its ongoing maintenance needs. After following the maintenance schedule prescribed by a heating and air company for their entire tenure in the house, the heating system was not working properly. They had called the service provider several times, and each time the company employee came out to repair the furnace. Finally, the company employee surmised that the entire system needed to be replaced because it could no longer be repaired. The Scotts proceeded to get estimates for a new heating system and the cheapest one that they could find was $7,900.  This was an impossible amount because of their fixed income. And while the furnace was the major problem, the Scotts also noticed some other needs. The insulation underneath the living room floor had fallen away. There were places in their living room that the Scotts could not reach to paint. A wall was cracked and it needed to be repaired and painted. And finally the crawl space needed to be covered to prevent dust and dirt from finding its way into the living room.

It was time for the helpers to seek help of their own. Marion and Thelma had heard about the Habitat home repair program on radio station WRES and as directed, they phoned for a home repair application. Upon completing the application, they met with Habitat’s Family Selection Coordinator and he forwarded the application to the Home Repair Supervisor (Joel Johnson) who visited the Scott home to do an assessment.

Joel determined that the requested work was doable and he proceeded to get another heating company to look at the furnace. That assessment showed that the furnace was still good and it could be repaired at a reasonable cost.

Mr. and Mrs. Scott breathed a sigh of relief after Joel’s visit. The furnace has been repaired. The other repairs have also been completed and the Scotts are look forward to having their three sons, six grandchildren and all the rest of their family in their home for Christmas. Thelma said “It just wouldn’t do for my grandbabies to be cold.”

When asked about their experience with Habitat, Thelma and Marion were very complimentary. “We are grateful for the positive interaction with Habitat staff. We appreciate the professionalism exhibited by the workers and we could not be happier about the cost and terms of repayment.”

If you’d like to learn more about our Home Repair program services and qualifications, please click here.

Written by Pat Bacon, Family Support Specialist

Warren Haynes Donates $500,000 to Asheville Area Habitat  

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Christmas came early in Asheville this year when Warren Haynes presented Asheville Area Habitat with the proceeds check from the 2013 Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam — a record-breaking $500,000! Haynes who played in Charlotte, NC the night before and was enroute to Alpharetta, GA for another show, chose to stop in Asheville to make the special presentation in person. Xmas Jam proceeds now exceed $1.8 million!

“Stef and I were overwhelmed. We knew it was a good year, but we were surprised by how good,” said Haynes of the final number. The significant increase over past years was due to a number of different things he said, most notable the fact that it was a 2-night, 25th anniversary show. “Merch also sold incredibly well, we were able to keep expenses down, there was Pay-Per-View and new partners like Sierra Nevada…it were a lot of different factors.”

Executive Director, Lew Kraus notes that donations of this size are few and far between and this will go a long way to helping Habitat with the most capital intensive part of our work – acquiring and developing land. Speaking of land…

The short event was held at Habitat’s newest subdivision, Hudson Hills. Habitat offered Warren and his wife Stefani Scamardo the naming rights to recognize their long-standing commitment to and the couple chose the name to honor their young son, Hudson. Recently just a plot of land, Hudson Hills is now an active construction site and the future home of 25 single family homes, thanks in part to the generosity of Haynes and Scamardo and their successful benefit concert.

The street into the subdivision – Soulshine Court – also honors Haynes. About the name, Haynes remarked, “Soulshine is a song that resonates with many people and it’s particularly meaningful to me because it was inspired by my father. He worked hard as a single dad to raise me and my brothers in Asheville, so it’s fitting that a street named Soulshine Court will be in my hometown and that it will be a place that 25 families will call home.”

We presented Haynes with a Soulshine Court street sign. One event attendee suggested he put in his tour bus, an idea Warren seemed to like.

Read the Asheville Citizen Times article here, or view our online photo album.

First-Ever Family Vacation

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We love hearing success stories from our families—it is “gas in our tank” as we like to say. The other day, our Family Support Administrator, Jeff Paul, was catching up with a Habitat homeowner who moved into her home last October. She is a single mother with three children. Asheville Area Habitat’s homeownership program is designed to set families up for success. When we hear a story like the one below, it is affirmation that the process is working.

Here, we see three aspects of our program at play: All partner families are required to take classes prior to purchasing their home. Among the many classes, one is “Manage Your Money” offered by OnTrack Financial, where families learn about budgeting and planning ahead. Another is our Homebuyer Education Class, taught by Jeff, in which he teaches families how to wisely purchase a car without creating a new financial burden for their family. Additionally, all Asheville Area Habitat houses are Green Built NC certified—they are environmentally friendly and very energy efficient. Of course, once the family purchases the home, it is up to them to use what they learned.

What Jeff had to report from their conversation was definitely gas in our tank!

I had a nice conversation with Felicia today out at Swannanoa. Felicia closed on her Thrivent sponsored Habitat home last fall. I asked how her summer is going, she said “AWESOME!!!” Since moving into their house, she has been carefully monitoring her expenses and is amazed at the difference the house has made. Her water bill runs about $80 every other month and her electric bill has not been above $83. Previously, in her trailer, those were numbers to dream of. Recently, her minivan started causing trouble and was in need of some very expensive repair work. She shopped around and found a newer vehicle for a smaller payment, so she traded in the old minivan. She said she has been very careful with the extra money at the end of the month and has been making sure she stashes a portion of the savings in the bank.

During our conversation, her daughters came running out; they were all excited because, “Mom is taking us to the beach!” This is their first vacation as a family…EVER! Felicia said that in the past she was always too stressed out about making ends meet, their living conditions, and how she was going to provide a better life for her kids to even think about taking a vacation. They will soon head to the South Carolina coast for a very well-deserved family vacation. Her Habitat house is most definitely the “hand up” that this family needed.

We parted ways after she showed me the flowers and vegetables her kids were growing. It made me proud to be a part of an organization that creates these types of opportunities.

 

New Subdivision, Hudson Hills, to Start in West Asheville

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Neighborhood will honor Warren Haynes’ commitment to Habitat

This July, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity will begin building a cul-de-sac of 25 single-family Arts & Crafts style homes off Johnston Boulevard in West Asheville. The neighborhood of Green Built NC-certified homes is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

Asheville Habitat purchased the Johnston Boulevard property in 2009, but only recently received funding to begin infrastructure work. “Our work is both capital and time intensive. We always need to be looking for land at least 3-5 years in advance to ensure we have available building lots for future Habitat homes,” said Lew Kraus, Executive Director.

Thanks to grants and loans from the Asheville Regional Housing Consortium, through the Home Investment Partnerships Program funded by Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Buncombe County Affordable Housing Services Program, Habitat was able to recently complete the infrastructure work, including grading, extending water and sewer lines, paving the street and installing sidewalks.

The subdivision name – Hudson Hills – was selected by Warren Haynes and his wife Stefani Scamardo who were offered the naming rights in recognition of their long-standing commitment to Habitat. Proceeds from their annual Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam now exceeds $1.3 million. The street – Soulshine Court – was also named in their honor. Soulshine is one of Warren’s most popular songs and it resonates with many people.

In addition to this new subdivision, work continues on a 17-house subdivision in Swannanoa and a recently started home on Jeffress Avenue in Shiloh, stretching Habitat’s building program across three quadrants of the county simultaneously.

Habitat Welcomes New Home Repair Manager

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We are pleased to welcome Hugh Lipham as Home Repair Manager. In this new position, Lipham will coordinate the day-to-day Construction Services operations of the Home Repair program including: inspection, scope of work, pricing, scheduling, project planning, subcontractor coordination and acceptance.

Lipham comes to Habitat from The Housing Assistance Corporation in Hendersonville, where he worked as Director of Residential Development for more than seven years. Having managed affordable single-family and multi-family housing development activities for that agency, he brings a wealth of experience in affordable housing. Prior, Hugh served as a field coordinator of the very highly regarded emergency home repair program at The Appalachia Service Project. Hugh is also a licensed general contractor in North Carolina and has spent time in management with a family-owned business.

Asheville Area Habitat was one of the first Habitat affiliates to introduce Neighborhood Revitalization (Home Repair) as an extension of its new house construction program in 2009. This expansion of housing services was part of Asheville Habitat’s Building a Way Home campaign to triple the number of families served by 2015. Since 2010, the affiliate has completed more than 70 home repair projects in Buncombe County, ranging in scope from repairing walkways and improving accessibility, to replacing roofs and upgrading heating systems.

Bringing significant knowledge and experience, Lipham is a welcome addition to AAHH as the affiliate works to expand its home repair program in the coming years.

Asheville Area Habitat Seeks to Acquire Land

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Building a Way Home is a $5 million capacity building campaign that enables Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity to triple the number of families served by 2015. The $4.2M raised to-date through this campaign has allowed us to grow our ReStore, expand our services to include a Home Repair program, and build houses with families in need of safe, decent, and affordable homes.

With the cost of land critical to the affordability of a Habitat home, we are focusing on the acquisition of buildable land – while prices are still relatively low.

How to help us acquire land:
1. Adopt-A-Lot
Help offset the cost of land on a specific home in a Habitat neighborhood with a sponsorship. An Adopt-A-Lot sponsorship is $10,000 and donors receive sponsorship benefits including a listing on the lot and neighborhood sign during construction, updates on the family as they progress towards homeownership, and invitations to special events.

2. Land Challenge Grant
Designate your gift for the purchase of land, and it will be matched dollar for dollar by a local foundation (up to $100,000).

3. Land Donations
A gift of residential property helps to ensure the affordability of a Habitat home. Learn more about what we’re seeking here.

To learn more or to make a donation please contact Kit Rains, Development Director, at 828.210.9365 or email her here.