Exactly where I want to be

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A reflection by Chris Nolan, an AmeriCorps member who works on the Home Repair team.

“Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, the first half of my year of service has felt like coming home to a place I’ve never been. In my first job out of college, I worked on a farm whose customer base was primarily people of considerable privilege, I loved the work I was doing and the people I worked

with, but felt that overall what I was doing was lacking in impact and mission. Since leaving my home state I have been looking for that community and satisfaction from a hard day’s work that I felt on the farm, and after a few years of searching ended up where I am now. Here on the Home Repair team, the

work we do every day has a visible, tangible, and sometimes emotional impact on some of the most underserved and unseen members of our community. In this role I have begun to learn exactly the sort of skills I need, from framing to finishing and everything along the way. I am starting to see a house as not

just a big box but a structure with layers, shedding water, bearing weight. And I have gotten to hear stories and perspectives from homeowners whose existence I would otherwise be entirely ignorant of. In Home Repair our experiences with homeowners can range wildly. Take for instance: after completing one project, I learned that one of the home residents had died the following weekend. At another project, the conditions in which the homeowner was living before our repair had me saddened and upset through dinnertime. At another, the homeowner baked us fresh cookies, played Vivaldi while we worked, and every day offered us oranges, local apples, or baked sweet potato wedges while telling us stories from her life which spanned from coast to coast, with multiple careers and degrees along the way; at yet another, the elderly homeowner was more than eager to pick up a shovel and help us move hundreds of pounds of gravel. What we see here is real, what we learn is real, and what we do is real. And it is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing. So to Habitat and AmeriCorps, I say thank you for the chance to be right here.”

Want to hear from other AmeriCorps members who have worked with us in the past? Watch this video.

Interested in serving as an AmeriCorps member with us starting in August 2020? We will be seeking 7 members: 4 in Construction, 1 in Family Services and 2 in volunteer services. Stay tuned for job descriptions coming to the website soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact Sheila to express interest.

 

Volunteer Team Makes Big Single-Day Impact

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By Ariane Kjellquist, with contributions from Sydney Monshaw

Like most of our Home repair clients, Ms. Priscilla McDowell is an aging adult in need of home improvements that improve access and safety. Our Home Repair team recently tackled the job of completely rebuilding two large, crumbling and unsafe porches at Ms. McDowell’s home. This included removing the existing structures and building a smaller deck and landing with less steep stairs. Thanks to a crew of four volunteers from Beach Hensley Homes, the project was completed ahead of schedule. “I was planning to spend at least a week at this job,” shared Project Supervisor Sydney Monshaw. “With Beach Hensley’s help we were able to complete this project in just three days!”

Their volunteers arrived on Wednesday to the old decks already removed and footers for the new one ready to go. In the first hour, the deck was framed and the posts were set. By lunch break everything had decking, the stairs were hung, and handrails had been started. By the time the Beach Hensley crew left at 4:45pm (staying later than needed because they wanted to get it done) they had the entire porch completed, with the exception of one stair tread and three kick plates. And that work was only outstanding because they ran out of materials! With just a handful of very small things to finish the following day, this 5-day job was done in just 2 ½ days!

It’s not surprising that a team of professional contractors work more quickly and efficiently than a staff supervisor and a few volunteers with less or no construction experience. Habitat is used to working with volunteers that run the gamut from never having used a saw to trade professionals that could do the work in their sleep. But this crew brought added-value in the form of knowledge sharing. They took a minute here and there to explain why they were making certain choices. Sydney said, “As the supervisor of this jobsite, I am grateful for their efficiency, skill, and knowledge. As a member of the greater Asheville community, I am grateful for their generosity and willingness to give back. Ms. McDowell is not only safer because of them, she’s also proud and excited about her new back porch.”

Home Repair for low-income homeowners is a significant and growing community need. The population of aging adults in Buncombe County continues to grow, and one of the best ways to help residents live with more safety, security and dignity as they age, is to help them remain in the homes they already own. To try to keep up with demand, we have grown our repair program by adding a second supervisor and a second work van, and we continue to utilize three AmeriCorps members. We increased our goal mid-year from 60 to 70 jobs. Additionally, we manage “Aging in Place”, a sort of program-within-a-program, that serves clients that come to us through a partnership with The Council on Aging. And this year, we did a community project with Poder Emma, in which we served 25 families in one day, and trained community members to serve another 75 with security and safety upgrades.

As you can see, being able to complete a project in half the time is a substantial win for a program with aggressive goals and a team stretched thin. If your business of trade professionals can spare just one day to volunteer on a Habitat Home Repair project, we would LOVE to have you! Asheville Habitat has committed to serving another 1,000 families within 10 years and 600 will be through Home Repair. Be part of our success story! To learn more, call 828.210-9383 or email swallace@ashevillehabitat.org.

 

 

 

Innovative Solution to Community Need

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Members of PODER EMMA and staff from Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team came together to protect manufactured home residents and build community by having a community safety day to install new door security plates and solar-powered, motion-activated lighting.

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.

 

Garland Walker Helps Habitat Meet Growing Community Need

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By Sydney Monshaw

Every Wednesday, the Home Repair team knows that rain or shine, Garland Walker (pictured above, R) will arrive at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office ready to spend the day serving the families of Buncombe County. Along with his coffee mug and lunchbox, Garland brings with him a steadfast commitment to building strength, stability and self-reliance. For 5 years, this Core Volunteer has spent every Wednesday helping to provide Home Repair clients with affordable solutions allowing them to remain safely in their homes. The Home Repair operations would not be the same without Garland, the repair team’s first Core Volunteer.

Garland and his wife Ellen moved to Asheville in 2013 from Juneau, Alaska where he worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Throughout his career, Garland worked as an attorney in varied capacities from the military to private practice, finally spending the most time managing federal fisheries with NOAA in the North Pacific. When he arrived in Asheville as a recent retiree, Garland was eager to find volunteer opportunities that would be enjoyable and would show a visible difference in his community. That’s when he found Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Initially, Garland volunteered building new homes, and on his third volunteer day, he was assigned to work with Joel Johnson (pictured above, L) in Home Repair. He found that he really enjoyed this aspect of Habitat’s efforts. Garland’s volunteer day has always been Wednesday and often it was just he and Joel working on projects for Home Repair clients.

The thing that Garland values most about working on the Home Repair team is its mission. “Home Repair clients are generally older and economically challenged. Home Repair is a “home saver” because it allows them to maintain and improve their homes either at a small fraction of the local market cost or sometimes at no cost. Their gratitude for our work is infectious. I go home each Wednesday grateful for the contributions I made and more conscious of the many personal blessings I have.”

Garland has also built lasting relationships with the Home Repair staff that he not only views as team mates, but as friends. Every Wednesday he faces new challenges that require varied problem-solving skills and he enjoys the fact that no two projects are the same. He is excited to learn new skills that he can use on his own home, too.

Garland recently received his golden hammer pin in recognition of 5 years of volunteer service. He is proud of this but views the accomplishment as a testament to the people, environment, and mission of Habitat that makes volunteers like him so willing to support the organization with their time, talent and financial means.

Over the last five years, Garland has seen many changes on the Home Repair front.

“I’m glad to note the recent ramping up of Home Repair staffing and funding. For this, I credit the excellent leadership of Joel, now the Home Repair Manager, along with the support of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. While building new homes is incredibly important and an original core mission of Habitat, the need for home repair assistance among the elderly and economically disadvantaged is steadily growing in this area. Despite the great work of the Home Repair team, there still aren’t enough local resources to meet the growing demand for this type of service.”

Garland recognizes the value of his volunteer work in the larger picture of the Home Repair program. As this arm of Habitat service grows, Home Repair is in need of more volunteers they can count on every week. To learn more about volunteering with Home Repair, click here, and if you are able, consider committing one day a week as a Core Volunteer. The Habitat team is grateful for all of the volunteers, like Garland, who help to bring the growing vision of the Home Repair program, and Asheville Habitat, to life.

 

 

 

 

Photos: Coming Together to Help a Neighbor

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Ms. Emma on her porch in front of the completed accessibility ramp, June 25.

At age 93, Ms. Emma Aiken is a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, a great great grandmother and a great great great grandmother. Her daughter, Carol, explains that there are 165 family members — which they believe is one the largest African American families in the area. Family reunions are outdoor affairs as no one’s home is large enough to host the entire family. While Asheville is home, Emma’s family extends from the mid-west up into the northeast, down to Hendersonville and beyond.

Emma moves around well for her age, but the stairs leading down from the front door of her West Chapel Road home proved to be tricky. That’s where Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team came in. Our team, accompanied by Spectrum volunteers, built a 70′ accessibility ramp and did some minor repairs so Emma can continue to live in the home that holds all of her family memories.

On May 19, more than 20 volunteers from Spectrum spent their Saturday in the mud building sections of the ramp, landscaping, and digging holes for the ramp posts. Spectrum generously donated their time and money through the Spectrum Housing Assist program. Despite the wet weather, the volunteers were eager to work and worked together to complete different tasks. This was the most volunteers we have had on a Home Repair project to date!

“Since my husband passed I don’t have a lot of people out here,” Emma said. “So it was just amazing to see all the volunteers out here- they came out here to help me.”

Spectrum volunteers dig holes for the porch support beams, May 19.

The volunteers before the start of the project.

Emma waving to her neighbor from her front porch in front of the completed 70′ ramp, June 25.

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!

 

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.

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.”

 

 

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.