Deconstruction Volunteers: A 2020 Success Story

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If Donation and Deconstruction Manager Michelle Smith had been asked one year ago to predict the fruitfulness of Asheville Habitat’s Deconstruction program, her answer might not have been very positive. Smack in the middle of a 10 week shut down, the only deconstruction going on at the ReStore consisted of Michelle meeting the occasional contractor outside of shuttered ReStore doors to help unload donations of salvaged kitchens or bathrooms. From that vantage point, the year ahead for Deconstruction seemed pretty bleak.

Truck With Team

Michelle, Kevin, Bill, and Mary Kent on a jobsite.

Indeed, the restrictions in place for the next six months made in-home deconstruction jobs impossible for the ReStore team. When the decision was made in October to conduct deconstruction jobs in unoccupied homes only, Michelle was shocked by the community’s response. In 2020, the ReStore’s deconstruction team conducted more jobs than the previous year, in about half the time.

How is it possible, you may ask, to essentially double the productivity of a program that relies on entering homes and businesses in a year marked by a global pandemic that restricts exactly that ability?

The answer is quite simple: amazing volunteers.

In a year in which every single Asheville Habitat program was forced to pause or drastically reduce its volunteer capacity, volunteers for the small Decon team doubled, providing the capacity to meet the demand that unexpectedly arose from a community suddenly spending a lot more time at home, staring at their old kitchen cabinets.

Michelle And Kevin Ig

Michelle And Kevin unloading tools.

Kevin Campbell volunteered in the Asheville ReStore donation lane for about a year before the Covid shutdown began last March. He commented, “I missed the feel of community and comradery with the staff and other volunteers. With my background in the building trades I could have easily volunteered to help build Habitat houses but I wanted a different experience so the Restore was a perfect fit for me. Getting involved with the decon team allowed me to use my skills and help further Habitat’s mission.” And, indeed it has. Kevin has participated in numerous deconstruction jobs each month since last October, and his level of expertise, especially in items with detailed carpentry work, has been greatly appreciated.

 

Deconstruction jobs range from small, 2 hour jobs removing a few bathroom vanities, to multi-day, whole house

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Tom, Roger, Michelle and Mary Kent kitchen cabinets.

jobs with kitchens, bathrooms, doors, fixtures and more being removed and transplanted for sale at the Asheville ReStore. While for smaller jobs, 1-2 volunteers if perfectly sufficient, for larger jobs that spread over a whole home, additional volunteers make a huge difference in the amount of time a job takes, and the amount of ReStore resources- staff and truck hours- that are tied up. Michelle Smith commented on how incredible it is to work with such a professional team of volunteers who really know the value of time and who work hard to do a great job in a very efficient time. “They’ve even started joking with me when they complete a job in under two hours, saying they need more of a challenge!” Asking for more of a challenge in 2020 points to the high level of competence the volunteers bring to the team!

Teamwork

Roger, Kevin and Tom removing kitchen cabinets.

The result of these volunteers signing up to enter unoccupied homes to extract kitchens, bathrooms, doors, and more was a trickledown effect that benefitted homeowners of all backgrounds. People donating deconstructed items received great service at minimal cost and were able to divert their usable items from the landfill. Those who purchased deconstructed items at the ReStore found well preserved, quality products at a fraction of the cost of buying new. And all the proceeds from each sale help fund Asheville Habitat new home building and home repair programs.

The ReStore Deconstruction volunteer team certainly worked a monumental feat in an incredibly challenging year. But you know what they say about challenges… they just make you stronger, and thanks to an amazing team of volunteers, the Deconstruction program is poised and ready for whatever this year has in store!

The Asheville Habitat family would like to extend a huge thank you to the Deconstruction volunteer team, comprised of Bob Jordan, Charlie St. Clair, Charlie Franck, Bill Bumby, Kevin Campbell, Roger Gauthier, and Tom Weaver. Thank you for all your amazing, hard work in 2020!!

 

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Weaver

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By Marty Steinberg
It’s deconstruction day. Habitat for Humanity volunteer Tom Weaver arrives early, as he always does. He meets the homeowners, John and Irene, who have decided to donate their kitchen cabinets and appliances to the ReStore rather than see them go into the dumpster or to the scrapyard.

A Treasured Partnership

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By Kristen Keefer

For ten years, Asheville Area Habitat has been partnering with Asheville Hampton Inn. The hotel network includes three Hampton Inns and one Homewood Suites by Hilton. Brenda Durden (pictured above), Chief Operating Officer for nearly 27 years, established this partnership ten years ago when her office reached out to Habitat about a renovation project. Brenda explained, “We have a great desire to give back to our community and support the work of several local organizations and Habitat was a great fit for us.”

When it is time to renovate one of the four hotel locations, Brenda reaches out to Habitat. Brenda shared, “We have donated thousands of items through the years with the hope of supporting a great organization doing great things in our community.”

ReStore associates and volunteers led by ReStore Donations Manager Jeff Bridgman or Deconstruction Specialist Dylan Haynes, assist in the quick removal of items like lamps, tables, sofas, artwork, televisions, cabinets, and granite tops. Brenda noted, “The team at Habitat comes in ready to jump in and help with whatever it takes to quickly remove items. Jeff coordinates the best people to handle every aspect of our donations. He is on site, so appreciative and easy to work with.  He makes our partnership one that we treasure.”

In addition to removing furniture and accessories, the ReStore’s Deconstruction team, led by Haynes, has also removed installations like kitchen cabinets and bath vanities from select properties.

By partnering with Habitat, Asheville Hampton Inn ensures that the items removed will not be discarded into a landfill. Instead, the donated items are sold affordably at the ReStore and proceeds contribute to funding affordable housing in our community. Both of these aspects are important to Brenda and align with Hampton Inn’s community-oriented values. Brenda explained, “By donating we know we are making a decision that is best for the landfill and helping Habitat be successful.”

Brenda has done an incredible job establishing and continuing a strong partnership between the ReStore and Asheville Hampton Inn. We are grateful for her efforts, as well as the partnership. On behalf of the ReStore, thank you Brenda, for all that you do! And, for the generosity of Asheville Hampton Inn and all the hardworking people that help make this alliance possible. We look forward to continued partnership in the years to come!

If you’re interested in becoming a ReStore Business Partner, please click here to learn more.

A Glimpse into Deconstruction with Long-time Volunteer Tom Weaver

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By Kristen Keefer

On and off for over thirty years Tom Weaver has been lending a helping hand at Habitat jobsites in the U.S., Germany, and Poland. Around three and a half years ago Tom retired and just a few months later decided to try on a new hat as a Habitat volunteer. When presented with the opportunity to have the reverse of the building experience – de-installation from homes and places of business – he was intrigued. Tom recalled, “I quickly learned about deconstruction and said ‘that’s for me’!”

For homeowners, businesses, and building owners, Habitat’s Deconstruction program offers an alternative to sending salvageable items to the landfill. It is through the combined efforts of staff, property owners, and volunteers like Tom, that this process is made possible. Benefits serve all parties involved: property owners receive affordable removal of cabinets, fixtures and appliances; residents can buy these usable items at affordable prices at the ReStore; and landfills are relieved from the prospective burden of additional waste.

Knowing that the removed materials are sold at affordable prices at the ReStore, and that proceeds from sales help build affordable housing in Asheville resonates deeply with Tom. Being able to witness this process firsthand, while contributing to its motion is a reward that keeps him coming back. To date, he has volunteered six hundred hours of his time on deconstruction sites.

So, what is it like on a deconstruction site? Generally, Tom’s time is spent removing cabinets and countertops from kitchens and sometimes bathrooms. However, his experience extends to larger deconstruction sites like commercial businesses and hotels. Every deconstruction job is unique, contributing to both the challenge and satisfaction of the task itself. Tom’s message for prospective deconstruction volunteers: “Jump in! Go for it! Some people may get intimidated, but in the end you’re taking things apart, which is always shorter than putting things together.”

Tom’s cool, calm, and collected attitude carries him through obstacles on the deconstruction site. Never fretting when confronted with difficulty, he simply works through the tasks presented to him, adding new experiences to his skill set. Thank you, Tom, for your lengthy service with Habitat for Humanity, the immense knowledge you share on deconstruction sites, and your admirable attitude that is a reminder to us all to embrace our capabilities!

Deconstruction: Doing the Heavy Lifting to Make Reuse Easier

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By Jonathan Dermid

One of the first things that someone might notice upon entering the Asheville Area Habitat ReStore is the vast amount of building supplies and home furnishings that fill our showroom floors. From small love seats to mammoth cabinet sets, we take pride in our ability to offer such variety to the community at affordable prices.

Ever wonder how we manage to receive something like a full kitchen set or a giant entertainment center? Moving, and in some cases de-installing items like these certainly isn’t easy. That’s where our excellent team of deconstruction staff and volunteers come in. But they might not have the panache of a television deconstruction show, as they instead gently remove everything from kitchen cabinetry to bathroom fixtures, flooring, and more.

Led by long-time Habitat staffer Bryan Ogle, deconstruction and ReStore volunteers work carefully to ensure successful transitions “from home to ReStore to home” and this week was no exception. Brian, along with volunteers Cherin Saxe, Tom Weaver and Cody Bassham worked all day at a home in Biltmore Lake to remove a 15 piece cabinet set (including granite countertops). Now, it is all set up in our lower showroom, available for purchase and waiting for its next home.

The items that come to the showroom floor through the deconstruction program supplement our constant influx of other donations, providing shoppers an even larger array of items to choose from. In addition, our deconstruction service helps reduce the cost of home-improvement for Buncombe County residents while simultaneously funding Habitat’s mission of building and repairing homes in partnership with low-income families. Learn more here.

Thanks to our great volunteers, usable materials that might have otherwise ended up in a landfill, are recycled for someone else’s home; all the while benefiting Asheville Area Habitat’s programs and the families we serve.