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.

Homeownership Brings Friendship Full Circle

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By Shannon Kauffmann

I met Kelly Lucy (above R) about eight years ago when I was working as a childcare subsidy case worker. She was one of my clients. Kelly recalled, “I remember the very first time that I met you because I cried through the entire appointment. You probably thought I was crazy!” Nothing could be further from the truth. If she needed a case worker to cry to, she came to the right person.

As a stressed out single parent myself, I had been on the other side of the desk many time before. Being employed as a full-time case worker meant that I earned just enough to disqualify me from receiving any public assistance, but not enough to pay the bills. One bi-weekly paycheck went towards paying the rent without a dollar to spare. I remember crying at the grocery store because I didn’t have enough change to buy a box of tissues for my sick child. Kelly may have been embarrassed about crying in my office, but seeing a single parent in tears was neither surprising nor memorable; it was my life reflected back at me.

Over the next eight years, I met with Kelly 2 or 3 times a year to renew her vouchers. I was always happy to see her name on my calendar because she came prepared and she made me laugh. We swapped stories about our boys and commiserated on the woes of single parenting. With our boys being close in age, we seemed to live parallel lives. If my son had gotten into trouble for making noises in class, I could be confident that Kelly had a similar story to tell. One appointment at a time, Kelly and I had become friends. We were no longer constrained by the case worker/client relationship.

That being said, it’s no surprise that when I purchased a home through Habitat, I was eager to share my excitement with her. I explained that purchasing a home through Habitat completely changed my life, and my son’s life. Having a mortgage that was half of what I had been paying for rent, not only provided financial relief, it allowed me to be a better parent. The stress that came from not being able to pay my bills had turned me into someone I barely recognized. When I made my first mortgage payment and realized I had money “left over,” I literally felt as though pressure had been lifted from my chest. Knowing that Kelly was still experiencing that same suffocating stress, I encouraged her to apply to Habitat’s Homeownership program and hoped for the best.

I had no way of knowing then, that when she applied, I would be the one to process her application. But that’s exactly what happened! When Kelly was in the process of applying for Habitat homeownership, I was in the process of applying for a job with Asheville Habitat. Without either of us knowing, Kelly and I had continued on separate, yet parallel paths. When I sat down at my new desk and saw her application, I was elated! Our friendship had come full circle.

Kelly was the first homeowner I saw all the way through the process – from application to closing – as Asheville Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Coordinator, and I was invited to go with her to the attorney’s office to sign her mortgage documents.

Watching Kelly sign her closing papers and accept the keys to her house brought tears to my eyes. It took me back to our first meeting many years ago, when Kelly was crying and I couldn’t afford a box of tissues! Back then, thinking that both of us would become homeowners was as absurd as thinking that both of us would win the lottery; and yet here we are. Because of Habitat’s interest-free loan and affordable monthly payments, Kelly and I can focus on being present for our children, and also for each other. With both of our boys approaching puberty, we will continue on our parallel paths as single mothers, meeting every few months to commiserate, to laugh, and to cry — and for old time sake, we will take turns buying the tissues.

Kelly’s new Habitat home in Shiloh is our first Legacy Builders Society House and Asheville Habitat’s 300th house!

Shannon’s Habitat home in West Asheville was made possible by Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam (in 2012).

 

Shiloh: Let’s Build! Campaign Built More Than Houses

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This month, Asheville Habitat will complete the 10-home McKinley neighborhood off Taft Ave. in Shiloh, which also signifies the culmination of the three year Shiloh: Let’s Build! campaign. Houses built at McKinley (10), Creekside (4), and Caribou Corner (1) represent the 15 new homes that were part of the campaign. On the Home Repair side, we will come out ahead of the 30 project goal with 39 home repairs completed in Shiloh in the last three years!

Click here to see photos from the recent dedication of the last 3 homes in Shiloh (and one built in McDowell County).

We’d like to extend a big thanks to all the Shiloh: Let’s Build sponsors who supported this campaign to serve a minimum of 45 families in Shiloh through homeownership and home repair. Your support provided more individuals and families with the opportunity to build strength, stability and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent, affordable home.


Habitat has been active in the Shiloh community since the mid-1990’s when we built the Wilson Creek neighborhood of 32 houses. Since then, we have built new homes, repaired existing ones, and recently worked alongside the Shiloh Community Association towards the goals laid out in the Shiloh Community Plan 2025 approved by Asheville City Council in 2010. We proudly leveraged our skills and worked alongside others with different proficiencies to help collectively address needs that go beyond housing.

For example, Habitat built a storage shed and raised garden beds in the Shiloh Community Garden, helped bring electric service to the garden and pavilion, and donated a parcel of land adjacent to the garden. A Habitat volunteer constructed a Little Free Library for the garden using materials donated by Habitat and the initial collection of books came from the Habitat ReStore, among other sources.

Habitat also partnered with Estes Elementary School to build a storage closet, install floors, and paint walls in their new Community Resource Center. The Resource Center provides food and clothing support for families of children attending the school and works to connect families to other resources in the community. The school serves approximately 75% of elementary school-aged children who live in the Shiloh neighborhood.

Paul Reeves, Director of Construction Services for Asheville Habitat adds, “It is truly a pleasure for Habitat to be working in a community that has a clear vision for its future and residents who are organized, motivated and actively working toward increasing the quality of life for all of its community members. Shiloh has embraced our work in their community and sees us as a strong partner in providing affordable housing and home repair.”

 

 

Six More Families Are HOME

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The heat and threat of storms didn’t deter homeowners, sponsors, volunteers, staff and community well-wishers from welcoming six more families HOME. These six new houses, one of which is our 300th, are part of Habitat’s McKinley neighborhood off Taft Ave. in Shiloh. The homeowners completed hundreds of hours of sweat equity and homeownership education classes before purchasing their homes from Habitat. They will repay a 30 year, interest-free mortgage – payments that Habitat uses to build more houses. And their annual property tax payments will bolster the local tax base.

These homeowners are putting down roots in a community, in a neighborhood where everyone already knows each another. They took classes together and helped build each others’ homes. Now, they sit on their front porches, watch kids ride bikes in the safe cul-de-sac, and host family and friends for BBQs. And they can plan and save for the future because they know the rent won’t go up, the house won’t be sold, and the children won’t have to switch schools due to yet another unwelcome move. They are building strength, stability, and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent and affordable home. Thanks to all of you who provided your time, your voice, and/or your financial support!

To see photos from the event, please click here.

The homeowner families and sponsors are listed below:

The Collington family’s home – Sponsored by Eaton #9/Alice D. Hamling Foundation/Asheville Duathlon/Anonymous Foundation House and Blue Ridge X-Ray Company, Inc. (Adopt-a-Lot sponsor)

The Heatherly/Leach family’s home – Sponsored by W&S Charitable Foundation with proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam and James Ferguson (Adopt-a-Lot Sponsor)

The Suber family’s home – Sponsored by W&S Charitable Foundation with proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam and Virginia and Drew Litzenberger & Five Fingers Partnership (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

The Lucy family’s home – Our 300th house! Sponsored by Legacy Builder’s Society and Scott & Mary Gillam (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

The Fulga/Calburgan family’s home Sponsored by Land of the Sky Association of Relators House/Rusty Pulliam Foundation and Asheville Fence (Adopt-a-Lot sponsor)

The Knight family’s homeSponsored by Publix Super Market Charities House and Tom & Nancy Maher (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

More than new homes: Habitat’s Home Repair is changing lives.

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Stuck. In an unsafe home. Without resources to make simple things work, like a toilet, or to hire an electrician to repair faulty electrical outlets. After twenty seven years of wear and tear, and without the skills or financial resources to make necessary repairs, this is the situation in which former seamstress Geneva was living. It is not how her story of home began, nor is it where she expected it to lead. But sometimes you can’t anticipate what life has in store.

Mold permeated her grandson’s playroom, dangerous makeshift electrical work dangled by a cord, and there was no functional toilet. For years she lived with her situation, believing there was no other option. But taking in her six-year-old grandson Kaleel motivated her to seek help. That’s when she discovered Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair program.

Volunteers help repair the playroom.

After her application was approved, our Home Repair team got to work, addressing the playroom first—a moldy converted garage. To remediate the moisture-induced mold problem, our team addressed drainage issues to divert water away from the house, pulled up the carpets, and removed and replaced the water-damaged sheetrock and framing. They installed new wall paneling and a new window and door. Growing Kaleel now enjoys a mold-free playroom. During the short time since the repairs were made, his asthma has improved!

Our crew also replaced one toilet and repaired another so that the family now has two working toilets. Several lights in this West Asheville house were not working and required improvements to the electrical system. The unsafe extension cords running throughout the house have been replaced and now light illuminates every room, safely.

Safety. Stability. Good health. It all starts at home. For nearly 35 years, Asheville Area Habitat has provided affordable homeownership opportunities to individuals and families through our new home program. But, for many people, the most affordable home is the one they already own. For the past six years, our Home Repair program has improved safety and accessibility for existing homeowners and their families. We’ve completed nearly 200 projects, and the majority of our Home Repair clients are elderly or disabled—some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

We repair and replace leaking roofs, update electrical and heating/cooling systems, add ramps and grab bars, and much more. Homeowners like Geneva pay only a fraction of the market cost of repairs, thanks to their sweat equity, our volunteers and affordable financing through Habitat.

Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something today to help make that possible for another family.

Geneva’s is just one of many stories of need in our community. Your donation can build a roll-in shower for a disabled vet who couldn’t bathe in his old claw foot tub. Or, it can install a new furnace for an elderly woman who has weathered the winters for years with dangerous kerosene heaters. These are real-life stories from Home Repair clients.

Your donation can change lives. Please make a gift today to help more families like Geneva’s have a safe place to live. 

New House, New Beginnings

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The nine year old girl, center of her mother’s world, is too young to fully comprehend what her new Habitat home means to her mom and to their family. But she sure is excited to decorate her room and play with friends in her new neighborhood!

Elizabeth, the young girl’s mom, credits her daughter for inspiring her to better her future, and her father for encouraging her in the right direction. With motivation and support, she enrolled at AB-Tech, become a CNA, and secured a good job with a local alcohol and drug treatment center. Her next goal was straightening out her credit and becoming a homeowner. Mission accomplished, as she just signed her mortgage documents and proudly accepted the keys to her new Habitat home!

“One day she will realize how strong she made her momma,” said Elizabeth while proudly showing photos of her daughter and son, and waiting to sign her closing documents.

“I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in the last six or seven years. If I stayed with her dad, I was staying in an abusive situation. But if I left that would mean my daughter would grow up without a father.”

Ultimately, Elizabeth chose the latter and is overwhelmed by everything she has accomplished for herself and her family — by herself. She was overcome with emotion as she looked at the key in her hand and thought back to a time of hopelessness. Proud of her perseverance and excited about what the future holds Elizabeth headed to her new home where her friends and her father were waiting to help her unload a U-Haul truck and unpack a fresh start.

If you’d like to learn more about Habitat’s affordable homeownership program, click here.

Spring Break Builders

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By Sammie Smith, Hands and Feet of Asheville Intern

Every March, our construction site fills up with excited college students participating in their Alternative Spring Break. Collegiate Challenge – or as we affectionately call it, March Madness – brings students from schools all over the country to Asheville for a week of volunteering. This year, we hosted students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Lesley University (Massachusetts) and Ramapo College (New Jersey). One of the highlights of these service trips is the Wednesday night dinner with a future Habitat homeowner.

The most recent dinner included volunteers from both Leslie and Ramapo. In addition to enjoying fellowship and a delicious meal (thanks to a Thrivent grant), the students reflected on the work they’ve done at the construction site and how it has impacted them. Kit, from Lesley University spoke about how amazing the construction supervisors are and how “they take the time to carefully teach us how to complete the tasks on the jobsite”. Ramapo student Carlie noted, “It was rewarding to see the progression throughout the day from just dirt and rocks to a clean, insulated crawl space.” She went on to talk about how important stable housing is for kids to excel in school. Another Ramapo student reflected on the comradery among future homeowners stating, “I’ve been amazed by the sense of community…Homeowners working on each other’s houses even before they move in. Every step is awesome!” After a few days of working on the construction site and in the ReStore, Shannon, from Lesley University shared “the more I learn about Habitat, the more I fall in love with the organization!”

Jeff Paul, Habitat’s Homeowner Counselor, explained to the students the comprehensive process that Habitat homeowners go through: from initial application, through sweat equity hours and homeownership education classes, to the final walk-through just after closing. He talked about the importance of a safe, decent, and stable place to call home and then introduced future homeowners Tim Bromely and his wife Jenny Giannetto and their three children. Tim talked about how excited their oldest son is to soon have his own room and what it will mean for their family to finally have stability. (They have moved 7 times in the last 9 years.) And he expressed deep gratitude to the students for their service with Habitat.

Thank you to all the Collegiate Challenge volunteers who dedicated their spring break to volunteering with Asheville Habitat! We are consistently impressed by these young adults who make service a priority in their lives and get involved in a hands on way, with causes that matter to them. When asked why she came to Asheville Habitat for spring break, Cheryl, a student from Ramapo College said, “Affordable housing is such a huge issue in the United States. If I can contribute in a small way, it’s worth it!”

To see photos, click these links: Ramapo, Lesley, and Southern Illinois.

 

Meaningful Mondays

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By Alex Cox

Saturday in the ReStore brings crowds of customers browsing the showroom for unique furniture, appliances, and other home goods. The donation drop-off lane is an equally bustling place. On Monday, after the excitement has settled, a group of core volunteers strive to set the pace for the week. Long-time volunteers (pictured above L to R) Angela Lepro, Resa Holt and Meredith Norwood, with their family-like bond, help get the ReStore started off right for the week.

“Saturday is a very busy day”, said Angela, a retired nurse. “So on Monday, there’s a lot of housekeeping to do, refilling the drawers, getting everything ready for the week ahead.”

Resa has been volunteering with the ReStore since 2008, but she was familiar with the ReStore well before that. She was a regular customer who visited the store frequently. “Five years previous to volunteering here I was a teacher. Every Friday, on my way home from work, I would stop and get my Habitat fix,” Resa shared. “I always had it in the back of my mind that when I retired, this was where I wanted to volunteer.”

Meredith has been volunteering with the ReStore for 5 years, and Angela for 13. When a group works together for that long, it’s easy to see how strong bonds can form. Angela believes there is a greater reason why they have all been working together for so long. “I think the longevity comes from not only believing in Habitat’s philosophy, but that we have become a family. When you’re working with each other every week, you miss that person if they don’t come in.”

Barbara Geiser, another core volunteer and retired realtor, says that having a bond with your co-volunteers is crucial to reaching the goals of the ReStore and of Habitat for Humanity. “There is an interesting blend of outward social caring and internal social camaraderie,” Barbara acknowledged. “Of course we all come for the building of homes, and meeting of partner families, which we get to do. That camaraderie, once it’s formed with your group, is what keeps everybody coming back.”

These core volunteers also believe in teamwork, and recognize that the ReStore depends on everyone working together. To keep the ReStore running like a well-oiled machine, it takes every person’s contribution. Whether behind the counter, unloading donations, or doing maintenance and housekeeping , every role matters when working together to reach a collective goal. “It’s all a team effort,” Meredith noted. “There’s no point in selling anything if there isn’t someone to get it out the door and into someone’s car. And then there are the folks that receive donations, price them, and put them on the floor. It takes a lot.”

We thank these core volunteers who come in each and every Monday to get the week started right. They inspire us not only with their consistent hard work, but also with showing us the importance of having a family in the work/volunteer place. Having a group you can depend on is important. Having one that you can confide in and make memories with is extra special. And it’s what makes Monday morning something to look forward to.

If you’re interested in meeting new people, making new friends and helping neighbors in need of decent, affordable housing, check out our volunteer opportunities.