A lot changes in 25 years

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By Beth Russo

A lot changes in 25 years. Back in 1994, we were watching OJ Simpson in a white Bronco on CNN. Highland Brewery had just opened up in the basement of Barley’s

Members of the Lopez family, owners of the first Women Build house.

Pizza. And a group of women attorneys decided to sponsor the 1st Women Build house built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fundraising flyer from the first Women Build House in 1994

The first Women Build house in Oakwood.

In 1994, the home cost $40,000 to build, and Buncombe County Women Attorneys took the lead in raising funds and providing volunteers to construct this home.

When they were done, the first Women Build house became the Lopez house, home to four generations of women.

Today, local women are still struggling with housing challenges. Imagine living in a rental where the landlord refuses to address the rodent problem. Or fix a leaky water heater, leading to monthly bills of $400. Or having to move your 3 children into your bedroom, to reduce their exposure to black mold.

This is the situation that Quintania Gregg found herself in. Employed full time with CarePartners, this mother of 3 children felt stuck with living in a substandard home because finding another apartment with a monthly rent that she could manage was almost impossible.

She applied for Habitat homeownership, and was approved to purchase Women Build House #14.

Gregg Family

Gregg Family

Once again, the Buncombe County Women Attorneys stepped up to be part of the solution to her affordable housing crisis. They’ve committed to raising $10,000 to support the construction of this home.

BCWA raising money at Rustic Grape.

A few weeks ago, they gathered at The Rustic Grape, a women-owned wine bar in downtown Asheville. After conversation and beverages, the attorneys met Quintania and heard her story. A few days later, construction started on the 14th Women Build house – and the future home of the Gregg family.

The BCWA are in process of raising funds, and look forward to a volunteer day on the site in June. Attorney Susan Russo-Klein of Roberts & Stevens says, “Buncombe County Women Attorneys are proud to support the wonderful work Asheville Habitat for Humanity does to provide affordable housing to families in our community.”

The 14th Women Build home will be completed near the end of 2019. Quintania looks forward to the day she closes and receives her keys, and is grateful to be partnered with women who care deeply about the housing problem in our community. Thank you Buncombe County Women Attorneys and The Rustic Grape!

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.

Proud Recipient of the Parsec Prize

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Parsec Prize Winner 2019 Logo

We are thrilled to be one of nine non-profits to receive the Parsec Prize from Parsec Financial in 2019! Other winners were: OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling, Food Connection, Working Wheels, Asheville Art Museum, Susan G. Komen Charlotte, Arts Council of Moore County, Conserving Carolina, and Senior Services

The Parsec Prize was started in 2005 by Parsec Financial in Asheville, NC. The purpose of the Parsec Prize is to help local non-profits further their missions and improve our communities.

Asheville Habitat plan to use the funds to increase our capacity and expand our Home Repair program, a critical program that preserves existing affordable housing stock and enables low-income homeowners to remain in their homes as they age.

 

Planning for the Future with Brattan Gelder

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By Jeff Paul

Owning a home is a BIG deal. And purchasing that home can be a stressful and confusing process. Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Homebuyer Education program seeks to demystify the process and empower families to become successful homeowners. As part of required sweat equity, future homeowners spend close to 50 hours in the classroom learning about home maintenance, predatory lending, real estate closing documents and procedures, community resources and much more. One of the highlights of this program is the opportunity for each family to meet with local estate planning attorney, Brattan Gelder (pictured above).

Brattan has been volunteering with Asheville Habitat since 2011. Several times a year, he meets with the Homebuyer Education class to discuss the basics of estate planning. He carefully reviews the terminology, talks about the importance of having such a plan in place, and fields questions from families. Additionally, Brattan generously offers to each new homeowner (pro-bono) the opportunity to meet one-on-one to establish a personal estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. With complicated laws related to passing property and possessions to relatives, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, especially homeowners.

As Astrid Andre reported in Shelterforce, “Since the least wealthy Americans have a larger share of their wealth tied to their homes and would be most impacted by home losses, enacting measures to mitigate such losses may have greater effect in preserving and maintaining wealth in these communities. Proactive measures like estate planning—placing safeguards during and after the lifetime of an owner, such as creating wills and trusts—can be a helpful tool for the preservation and transfer of real estate assets in some low- to moderate-income and minority communities.”

One new Habitat homeowner commented, “It meant a great deal for Brattan to help me with my estate planning. He has given me a sense of security to know that I have a plan put in place. I am now confident that my loved ones will have less worry with this plan. An estate plan is something not everyone thinks about or has, so I feel very fortunate to have one.”

In 2016, Brattan expanded his engagement with AAHH by joining the Board of Directors and most recently, he joined Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee. When asked what motivates him to volunteer with Habitat, he offered the following:

“There are several characteristics of Habitat that distinguish it in my mind from other charitable organizations. My favorite thing about Habitat is that Habitat doesn’t simply give anything to anyone. Future homeowners don’t receive gifts; they earn everything. Habitat identifies worthy partners who make lifelong commitments to themselves, their families, and their communities. Through hard work and cooperation, people from disparate backgrounds bond together to form strong neighborhoods and broader communities. The assistance that Habitat provides enables hard-working, honest people to live and work in a supportive environment, where their talents and skills can flourish. That stability allows Habitat partners to make a beneficial contribution to their communities. Habitat homeowners work diligently to make a better life for their families. In turn, a strong work ethic and determination are imparted to the next generation, who will recognize the value of working hard and giving back. Simply stated, I don’t know of any other organization that makes such a meaningful impact in the long-term well-being of the community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Thank you, Brattan for sharing your time and expertise to help families build – and secure – a better future!

 

 

 

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!

A Million Dollar Idea

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By Ariane Kjellquist

The upper level of Asheville Habitat’s ReStore is regularly abuzz every other Wednesday around 2pm when the bi-monthly Silent Auction closes. But the level of excitement will be anything but typical on March 20th, when auction proceeds reach the $1M mark!

Call it “a million dollar idea” by retired teacher, self-proclaimed antiques freak, and ReStore volunteer Alan Williams (pictured above with Ann Justice) who was inspired by the TV program Antiques Roadshow. He recognized that some of the items donated to the ReStore held significant value to the right buyer. A Silent Auction, he believed, could help the ReStore raise more money for Asheville Habitat’s programs.

Williams has been spearheading the curation of each auction (there have been 278) since its May 18, 2005 inception. From rare items and collectible memorabilia to local art and handmade crafts, the auction has featured a cross-section of American history and pop culture. Each auction contains, on average, 65-70 items. Some, no one can even identify!

The most unique auction by most accounts was the Grove Park Inn auction, held in celebration of Asheville Habitat’s 30th Anniversary in 2013. All of the items were donated by the Grove Park Inn and included: purple velvet loungers, “car” couches, copper wall lights, a player piano, mannequins and dress forms, many whimsical floor and table lamps, leather club chairs, arts & craft-style furniture and more. It raised more than $13,000!

While staff readily embraced the Silent Auction concept from the start, they never anticipated its impact. “We never could have foreseen what Alan would build these past 13 years, or that it would gain such a loyal following from community members,” remarked ReStore Assistant Manager Susan Haynes who supports Alan and the auction volunteer crew, which includes Anne Justice and Rob Carroll. Donation processing staff and volunteers also help by keeping an eye out for items they think Alan may want to consider for the auction.

On Wednesday, March 20th at 1pm, guests will gather in the upper showroom of the ReStore to celebrate the auction’s $1 million milestone, recognize Alan Williams, and present ceremonial keys to Habitat’s newest homeowner, Courtney Hoglen. 

Silent Auction proceeds, like all ReStore proceeds, help fund Asheville Habitat’s affordable home building and home repair programs.

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)

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.