Diverse Group of Sponsors Help Empower Five Families to Build Better Futures

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By Zoe Trout 

More than 100 Habitat friends and supporters recently gathered at Givens Estates for a 5-Home Dedication. Typically held on the jobsite, we take this celebratory event indoors in February and serve a warm chili lunch. Given’s graciously donated the space this year and their amazing culinary team prepared a delicious meal. We are grateful for their ongoing partnership and this new form of support. 

With five homes being dedicated, the program was filled with words of joy from all different voices – faith communities, businesses, and individuals. The event started with music from Aaron Price, Music Director at West Asheville Presbyterian Church—a longtime partner in the Presbyterian Methodist House. Their annual benefit concert for the Presbyterian Methodist House will take place on February 24 (reschedule from January 20). Lynn Bledsoe, Chaplin for Givens Estates did the invocation for the event and recited the E.E. Cummings poem, “I thank You God for most this amazing day”. 

I thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes 

We celebrated more “yeses” with the 35th Anniversary House presented by AvL Technologies. On behalf of the company, Krystal Dredge presented a ceremonial key to Celia Ramirez, who closed on her home in Arden in December. Celia thanked everyone for their support– the sponsors of her house, her employer Diamond Brand, and all the volunteers that worked on her home. She choked up a little when describing what it meant for her and her son to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in their new home. 

Robyn Mondin of sponsoring business Wells Fargo presented a ceremonial key to Mary Leake, who purchased the Voluntourism House in January. This home celebrates the many visiting groups that come to Asheville and support Habitat’s work financially and through volunteer service. “My favorite part of the Habitat process was working on the jobsite building my house and my neighbor’s homes,” she noted. 

Merritt Moseley, a volunteer at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church presented a key to Shaketia Simpson and her two children, who had just closed on their home (the Presbyterian-Methodist House 27) the day before! Merritt has been volunteering with Habitat for 10+ years and coordinates volunteers from Asbury UMC annually for the Presbyterian Methodist House, or as he calls it – the Methodist Presbyterian House! 

Tyerecka Howell will purchase the 20th Interfaith House in March. There with her older son, she told the crowd about her struggles to complete her sweat equity after the pre-term birth of her youngest son a few months before. But with the support of Habitat and her family, she was able to complete most of her hours while on maternity leave. Presenting Tyerecka with her key was Nancy Sehested the pastor at Circle of Mercy, one of the Interfaith House congregations. She recapped her experience of participated in our “Clergy Build” day on the jobsite last year, noting how invigorating it was to build together with people of all different faiths and backgrounds. 

Jack Webb and Nancy Allen presented a key to Iurii and Galyna Lanovyi. Cassie Dillon was also a sponsor of this home. Of this family that immigrated to the US for religious asylum, Jack spoke about their incredible hard work and determination. Despite a language barrier, the connection between these sponsors and the homeowner family is very strong, and was quite evident.  

Near the end of the program, Marge Marsh, a longtime ReStore volunteer and a resident of Givens Estates, led guests in a lovely Litany of Dedication. This event celebrated the last of the homes in the 21-house Arden neighborhood. United around the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, this joyous event brought many different people from various backgrounds together to celebrate what is accomplished when people work together for a common goal.  

To see a few photos from the event, click here.

If you’d like to learn about Habitat sponsorship opportunities, please click here or contact Beth at brusso@ashevillehabitat.org 

 

From Surviving to Thriving

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By Bill DuPre, Habitat for Humanity NC

It’s a steep walk up the drive to Will and Savannah Alshaer’s new home in Mars Hill, NC. But once you’re there you can see a long way.

Vision was a big topic at the home’s dedication in late October. The tidy three-bedroom, two bath home is the first project in years for the Madison County Habitat for Humanity affiliate. It was built with help from the Asheville Habitat affiliate and a big boost from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation’s $10 million Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge – to build a Habitat for Humanity home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

“It’s been really great for us to be a part of bringing Habitat for Humanity back to Madison County,” said Andy Barnett, executive director of the Asheville Habitat affiliate. “A couple of years ago, SECU reached out to North Carolina” with an audacious idea to take Habitat to places in the state that had never benefited from Habitat’s global reach.

“No state has done this,” Barnett said. “But it did something even more important. It helped us look at our vision differently. Somehow Habitat for Humanity has figured how to work in 50 or 60 countries around the world but we haven’t figured out how to work together across the county line.”

That comment brought laughs from the dedication crowd, but Barnett was serious about the need. “To make sure that everywhere in our region benefits, we’re sharing the resources we have with each other to make sure that our mission that everyone has a place to call home can really happen. If that can happen in Guatemala and Bangladesh it ought to be able to happen in Madison and McDowell and Swain county.”

That’s where SECU’s vision created a spark.“Sometimes organizations just need a bit of push,” Barnett said. It was a big push for the Madison affiliate; once the Alshaer family assumes a zero-percent-interest loan from SECU, the money will be returned to the affiliate so that another home can be built.

For Savannah and Will, parents of Lyla and her younger sister Violet, move-in day, set for mid-November, will be a blessing. “Thank you to everybody who made this happen,” Savannah told the dedication crowd. “This is definitely a life-changing event. It’s bringing us out of a nasty cycle and it’s going to give us a boost so we can flourish in this community and set down permanent roots and feel much more secure as a family.”

The couple have a long history together: Will and Savannah met in a 10th-grade horticulture class. While the attraction was mutual, they were still young, so for a time they went their separate ways. Savannah went on to earn a degree in art education while Will became an expert mechanic. When their paths crossed again, they realized that they were much better together than apart. They married and moved to Mars Hill, a quaint college town of about 1,600 souls 20 miles north of Asheville.

On this day, the clarity of that decision was evident.“This takes so much stress away,” she continued, “so we can do good things for this community instead of just surviving. We’re excited to be here and so grateful we can raise our kids in this town. I was always drawn here as a child. I can’t believe it’s happening.”

 

 

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.

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When drug activity in her neighborhood led to increased violence, LaQuila Harris and her daughter began spending their days at work and school, and their evenings anywhere but at their apartment. It was exhausting and LaQuila knew they could not continue living like that.

Kedric Justice noticed increased drug activity and crime where he was living too. Having lost his own father to violence, he was painfully aware that crime wasn’t just something that happened to other people. And, his rent had sky-rocketed to $900/month.

Drug activity was on the rise where Staci Williams and her children were living too. And because it was an income-based apartment, she feared getting a raise at work.

Benitia Henson had to convert a closet under the stairs into a makeshift bedroom for her son.

A search for something better led all of these families to Habitat. Thank you for making the opportunity to purchase a safe, affordable Habitat house possible for local families. Together, we will empower 1,000 more families in the next decade to build better futures on safe, stable housing.

To view photos from the 4-house dedication, please click here.

Thank you to the businesses & individuals who sponsored these homes: Bank of America Merrill-Lynch, the coalition of local business that supported the Business Bungalow House, Eaton, Ernest & Shirley Ferguson, The Ferguson Family,  friends of Jerry and Lou Towson who sponsored a lot in their name, The Guthy Family, our Legacy Builders Society, Publix Supermarket Charities, The Pullium Foundation, and Wicked Weed.

 

 

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

Thank You Volunteers!

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With volunteers central to our business model, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is recognizing milestones and thanking volunteers with small gifts and treats daily during National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 15-21).

Whether swinging a hammer at the construction site, fixing a floor on a home repair project, accepting donations at the ReStore, answering phones in the office, or serving on a committee, volunteer action directly impacts Habitat’s ability to serve more individuals and families in need of safe, stable, and affordable housing.

Last year, 2,100 volunteers contributed 67,400 hours of service – a value of more than $1.67 million!* Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 32 full-time staff members!

Thanks to the dedication of volunteers (and donors and advocates), Asheville Habitat directly served 87 families in 2017 through homeownership, home repair, and tithe programs.

HOME IS THE KEY to unlocking opportunities for educational and employment advancement, health improvements, financial stability, the ability to age in place, and so much more. “Every hand makes a difference and Habitat is grateful for the commitment of all volunteers, whether they help one time or once a week, for the first time or for many years,” said Andy Barnett, Executive Director.

Speaking of longevity, a number of core volunteers (those who make a weekly or bi-weekly commitment) reached noteworthy service milestones in 2017.  

  • Dick Allen and Tom Wolff, Construction volunteers, reached the 15 year service mark, as did ReStore volunteer Beth Robrecht.
  • Jack Witzel (Construction) and Lee Fadden (ReStore) have been volunteering for 20 years.
  • Paul Finegan (Construction) celebrated 25 years of service with Habitat! During that time, he has worked on 280 Habitat homes, personally helping 416 adults and 638 children build brighter futures on the foundation of safe, stable housing.

Paul Finegan received a framed quilt square.

Some fun facts about Asheville Habitat’s volunteer program:

  • In 2017, through programs such as Global Village, Thrivent Builds Worldwide, and Collegiate Challenge, as well as the signature “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand” volunteer event, Asheville Area Habitat hosted volunteers from 32 different U.S. states and 3 countries!
  • It takes 1,650 hours of volunteer labor to build one Habitat house.
  • Asheville Habitat utilizes about 140 volunteers in the ReStore each week.
  • A team of 12 volunteers traveled to Guatemala to work with Habitat. They installed Healthy Home Kits, a program that Asheville Habitat’s new coffee program supports.
  • Core volunteers (those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) contributed 50% of total volunteer hours last year!

Together – as volunteers, donors, sponsors, and ReStore supporters – Asheville Habitat helps address the region’s affordable housing crisis and providing opportunities for families to build better futures. “The magic in what we do is the active part of our mission – bringing people together,” said Barnett during a volunteer appreciation event earlier this year. “For 35 years, Asheville Habitat has united people around a common vision, a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Together, we have helped 500 local families build strength, stability and self-reliance on the foundation of a safe, decent home.”

To learn more about volunteering with us, click here.

To make a donation to our 35th Anniversary House in honor of a volunteer, please click here. All donations to this house, which celebrates 35 years and 500 families served, will be matched by Avl Technologies!

 

A Place to Call HOME

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Home is the Key

Tikisha wanted something better, a stable place to raise her family. Because her rent increased when her income increased, she one day found herself paying market rent for an apartment in public housing. While the rental unit itself was ok, it was located on a very busy street. She craved a place that would be reliably affordable, a place where she could plant a garden, a place with less traffic, and a place not subject to invasive inspections. She craved a place to call HOME. When her son Terrell was four years old, she purchased a Habitat house. “You have a whole different outlook when you own a home,” said Tikisha, a homeowner since 2001 who rests easy knowing that her home is hers and will remain affordable.

On the foundation of a safe and stable home, her son Terrell (now age 21) developed into a star student, participated in the marching band, and served as a volunteer youth attorney while in high school. “I have not forgotten my younger years in life, living in public housing, with no backyard or safe place to play,” Terrell wrote in his college entrance essay. A safe neighborhood and a quiet place for studying were exactly what the self-motivated young boy needed to thrive. Currently, studying abroad in New Zealand, he is a political science and environmental studies major at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon.

    HOME IS THE KEY to unlocking opportunities for educational and employment advancement, health improvements, financial stability, the ability to age in place, and so much more.

    Over the past 35 years, you have helped 500 local families unlock brighter futures. Please donate today so we can continue to make available to more of our neighbors, a decent place to call HOME – the key to unlocking limitless opportunities. Thank you!

    AmeriCorps Member Reflects on a Special Day

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    The Most “Habitat” Day

    By Sydney Monshaw (pictured center and top far R)

    Towards the end of October I experienced a day so quintessentially “Habitat” it was almost unreal. As an AmeriCorps member serving with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity on the Home Repair team, my days are fairly similar. Our small team works all over Buncombe County repairing everything from porches to roofs, and everything in between. On this particular fall day, however, my day started at a local attorney’s office and ended at a Habitat neighborhood of 10 new homes. On that singular day, I attended a closing with a new homeowner in the morning, worked on a Home Repair project down the road from Habitat’s newest neighborhood, and attended a 4-house dedication event in that same community later that afternoon.

    I had never been to a house closing before and was not entirely sure what to expect. What struck me most was the palpable joy in the room as the mortgage details were explained, documents were signed, and a young couple became homeowners for the first time. These two were so proud of all of their hard work, and rightfully so! Not only had they physically contributed to the construction of their new home, they had also completed a full series of homeowner education classes. They were set to move into their new space that afternoon and were eager to get I’s dotted and T’s crossed so that they could get back to packing and moving. This couple has three small children who were also excited to help their parents move all of their belongings, pick out their rooms, and turn their new house into a home.

    After the closing, I changed into my painting pants and work boots and jumped in our van to meet volunteers on our Home Repair job site. Our job that week was working on the home of the President of the Shiloh Community Association, scraping and repainting the exterior of her house. She is 80 years old and one of the busiest ladies I have ever met! She volunteers for a local radio station, goes on senior trips to explore nearby cities, and works tirelessly for the Shiloh community where she has lived for more than 50 years. It was great to be able to help her, and I could swear that on this day I saw the fresh coat of paint sparkle a little bit in the afternoon sun. Maybe it was just wet paint, but based on the way the whole day was unfolding, I think it was a little bit of Habitat magic.

    Later, after thanking my volunteers and sending them home tired and covered in paint, I walked up the street to Habitat’s McKinley neighborhood where the last four houses in the 10-house community were to be dedicated. The event was just getting started and as I walked down the street towards the big tent I remember feeling overwhelmed by the gratitude I had for the amazing people working at our Habitat affiliate and the incredible community I am lucky to be a part of. The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and fall foliage, kids were playing in the street, and Habitat supporters were mingling with construction folks and homeowner families. The best way to describe the dedication is elation personified. There was joy on the part of the homeowners, the donors, the volunteers, the Habitat staff, and all of the community members who were there to celebrate homes, communities, and hope.

    That day highlighted the incredible work that Habitat does every day. Homes are built by dedicated volunteers, with generous financial support of donors; homeowners pour themselves into their journey towards homeownership; and homes are repaired, enabling homeowners to live more safely and comfortably in their own homes. Habitat is a “hand up, not a hand out,” and that was especially evident on this special fall day. It was easy to see all the partnerships between homeowners, Habitat, and the Shiloh community. Together, we serve the needs of the community in a way that makes sense.

    I feel extraordinarily thankful to be spending my AmeriCorps term with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Days like this incredible October day will stay with me for the rest of my life as a reminder of what hard work, dedication, and love can do.

    Photos: Holt Pearce’s Journey to Homeownership

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    Holt Pearce came to Asheville because of the music of Warren Haynes. Anyone who has volunteered with Habitat’s Before the Jam, Lend a Hand program over the past eight years is well acquainted with Holt. He is the kind of guy who places importance on helping others. After years of helping others on their path to homeownership, he applied and decided to allow other to help him.

    On Thursday November 16th Holt Pearce closed on his affordable 2 bedroom/one bathroom home, making him and his daughter Piper the final family to purchase and move into their home on McKinley Avenue! Best wishes to Holt and Piper as they start this new chapter of their lives!

    Holt on his first day of sweat equity.

    Holt with his daughter Piper at a key passing for a Christmas Jam House in 2013, before applying for homeownership.

    His daughter Piper signing a stud during the kick-off event for their house.

    Holt signing his closing documents Nov. 16, 2017 at Roberts & Stevens in downtown Asheville.

    Holt working at McKinley Avenue March 2017.

    Holt shouts “hello” to his next door neighbor’s youngest daughter as she waves while moving in Thursday Nov. 16.

    Holt in front of his affordable home he purchased that morning, Thursday Nov. 16.

    Build a Better Future With Your Holiday Gift

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    Perseverance is the cornerstone of Lindsay’s life. It is how she cares for her son with cerebral palsy, how she is five years sober, and how she mentors families struggling with addiction in her job as a Peer Support Specialist. Now, this cornerstone is helping Lindsay build a better future — on the foundation of a Habitat home.

    Make a gift this holiday season to support Lindsay, her sons, and other hard working families on their journey to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through decent, affordable housing.

    Every child deserves a foundation to build their future, and
    everyone deserves a decent place to call home.

    Please give a gift today.

    Note: If you’re making a holiday gift in honor of someone, let us know and we will mail a holiday card to them to acknowledge your gift. We request a minimum donation of $10 per card. If you live in Asheville and would like to pick up holiday cards to hand write, please stop by our office M-F between 8:30am and 5pm.

    Habitat Construction Supervisor John Meadows and Habitat homebuyer Lindsay review the floor plans of her future home in Arden.