Thank you to the 2020 ReStore Business Partners!

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The Asheville Habitat team is so grateful for all the community business partners who generously donate new and used merchandise to the ReStore each year. ReStore Business partners help build a strong foundation for helping families build strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable homes. Thank you so much to each ReStore business partner – we appreciate your partnership!

Volunteer Spotlight: Brother Tom Sheehy

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Brother Tom Sheehy has gone above and beyond in his commitment to volunteering with the Weaverville ReStore during an incredibly difficult year. Serving five full days each week, Brother Tom’s generosity has made a huge impact on the Weaverville ReStore team and on the ReStore itself. Read more about this spotlight on ReStore volunteer, Brother Tom Sheehy.

The Impact of Rounding Up

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Apparently, in our community, greater need + greater challenge = greater generosity. Thanks to the generosity of ReStore shoppers rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar through the ReStore Register Round Up program, Asheville Habitat donated over $18,000 to local non-profits serving the needs of our community in 2020. Read more in this blog post about the exciting impacts of ReStore shopper donations to these local organizations.

ReThinking the Holidays

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The holiday season is upon us!  And after rethinking how we do almost everything this past year, many of us now find ourselves rethinking how to do the holidays.  Whether you are staying at home for the first time ever and wondering how to celebrate without gathering, or whether your values no longer align with the traditional consumption and spending-centric holiday model- the ReStore has a few re-thought ideas on how to do the holidays this year… maybe with a little more reuse and home time, and a little less spending and gathering.

ReUse: Spotlight on Fabric

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Did you know textiles make up almost 7% of our landfills? And about 95% of the textiles in our landfills are either reusable or recyclable. This means that even those pieces of clothing that are so worn out that Goodwill doesn’t want them, still have a significant post-consumer future ahead– if you’ll give it to them!

2020 ReStore ReUse Contest Winners Selected

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What an amazing ReUse Contest this year! Check out the creations that took home the prizes, and find the link to view all other 2020 ReUse Contest entries.

Asheville ReStore Leaders Reflect on Past

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By Klesa Ausherman

The ReStore team is made up of world class, top-notch doers. All day, every day, they’re in constant motion- receiving, cleaning, and sorting donations; moving items to the sales floor (and we’re talking BIG items ya’ll); assisting customers with purchases, hauling and loading items into vehicles- BUSY with a capital B. Store manager Jeff Bridgman and assistant manager Scott Bianchi can be found at any time wherever the most urgent need has sprung up. You’ll rarely find them at their desks, even though there is plenty of work to keep them there. With the advent of a pandemic and the loss of hundreds of weekly volunteers, Jeff and Scott have found themselves with many additional hats to wear- such as standing outside the ReStore entrance to ensure the safety of shoppers and staff by asking to everyone to follow safe shopping guidelines before entering the store. To say the least, management as well as the rest of the ReStore team have found themselves in markedly different working conditions since the ReStore reopened in May.

However, amidst the busyness of the days, when a request was sent out for memories and reflections from the last 30 years of business, Jeff and Scott responded right away.

Scott Fishing

Scott Bianchi (far right) “fishing” (a pre-pandemic photo)

Scott Bianchi joined the Asheville ReStore team in 2007. He began as a Truck Driver, then worked as the Lower Showroom Supervisor before becoming Assistant Manager last year. He also currently serves on the ReStore Societal Impact Committee. Scott is an amazing advocate for his team. He is direct and honest, without an ounce of hot air or fluff to be found in his demeanor. His “what you see if what you get” attitude is respected by his team, as it also comes with a strong work ethic and willingness to get the job done. As a long-time and well-rounded team member, his reflection on the last 30 years is unique.

My memories of the last 13 years at the ReStore are one big blur of forward momentum and growth. But in a nutshell…

The overall memory that I take away is the Local aspect, the sense of belonging to and serving the community of Asheville and greater WNC. From helping someone rehab a house on a shoestring budget to helping an entrepreneur outfit a local restaurant, and then watch it be successful. I’ve sat on church pews we picked up at a local church that found a new life as seating at secular music venues, and many customers have showed me pictures of their home projects that they completed with purchases from the ReStore.  

Also invaluable have been the different perspectives brought by diverse staff, volunteers and homeowners.  We’ve all lived through unprecedented growth in our community, worked through a complete remodel of the store itself, seen the need for affordable housing skyrocket in our area, and grieved over the unexpected passing of volunteers and staff. It’s been a wild and rewarding ride, and 30 years is a huge accomplishment. We all should remember Lew Kraus’s original determination and vision when he started driving around on “trash day” in Asheville and picking up items from the side of the road that he knew could be re-used and sold for Habitat’s benefit!”         ~Scott Bianchi, ReStore Assistant Manager

Jeff

Jeff Bridgman, ReStore Manager

Jeff Bridgman has been with the Asheville ReStore since 2014, serving first as Donations Manager before moving into the role of Store Manager last year. One of his team members commented recently “I have never seen someone so thorough in their follow through as Jeff”, and how accurate that is. Nothing slips through the cracks with Jeff overseeing it, and in an operation like the ReStore that is no small feat…especially when half of every day is now spent standing in the sun, reminding customers to follow all safe shopping directions. He could easily have delegated this not very enjoyable task, but he didn’t. Jeff is the epitome of dedication and hard work.

“My memories of the ReStore may be a bit different as I have had the experience of viewing the store as a corporate donor and then as a team member. My first contact with the ReStore came when I was introduced to Paul Reeves while working at Grove Park Inn. Part of my job then was to coordinate donations and pick-ups with Habitat as GPI started a new chapter by giving away furniture and other items instead of selling it to staff or throwing it away. As GPI’s relationship with the ReStore expanded, I got to know several of the drivers and volunteers; some of whom are still here today. I also developed a regular phone conversation and relationship with Piper Parker, the ReStore Scheduling Coordinator.

Over time, I learned more about Habitat from staff, from working on the GPI-sponsored Habitat house, and volunteering a few times with Home Repair. (Chipping lead paint off of a house is an experience I won’t forget!)  I remember visiting the ReStore when the lower showroom was still an area where cars pulled into. I thought that was crazy!

When I moved to south Georgia for work, I thought that would be the end of my association with the ReStore. I was wrong.

I remember the excitement I felt when I had the opportunity to return — as the Donations Manager, and that is where my real education about the ReStore began. The past six plus years have seen a lot of changes for me personally and for the affiliate. The one thing that has remained the same through it all is the unwavering belief and determination that everyone here shares for the mission, vision, and values of AAHH. We may all not agree on how to accomplish the goals sometimes, but everyone here is committed to making the community and the world a better place and that to me separates the ReStore from any place else I have ever worked.”      ~Jeff Bridgman, ReStore Manager

Some say the true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis. But, perhaps the greater reflection of leadership quality is how well the entire team functions in a crisis. The past several months have arguably been some of the most difficult for the ReStore team- not for lack of sales, but rather for lack of man power as volunteers were asked to stay home due to the pandemic. Witnessing the whole ReStore team functioning with strength, determination, and positivity without 140+ volunteers each week is a true testament to the quality of leadership at the helm.  Just as these leaders have looked back and reflected on their years at the ReStore, it is certain that there will be a day in the future when others will bring reflection and deep gratitude for the leadership Jeff and Scott have provided during this most challenging time.

#teamRestore.

After All These Years

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Susan Diehn Old Store Original

Volunteer Susan Diehn in the Biltmore Ave. store

By Klesa Ausherman

Susan Diehn walked into her first volunteer shift with the Asheville Habitat Home Store on a Monday in 1994. She had inquired about the volunteer opportunity after a friend who knew of Susan’s love for vintage items recommended it to her. Howard Trimble, the Home Store Manager at the time, quickly invited Susan to join the volunteer team. It wasn’t long after she started that the Tuesday Volunteer Manager position became open, and Susan stepped up to the job. “I was the first woman manager,” Susan remembers, “all the rest were retired men.” Of course, the dynamic has since changed, and more and more women have joined Susan in volunteering throughout the ReStore.

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Susan, second from R, alongside fellow volunteers in the Meadow Rd. store

Twenty six years later, Susan can still be found at the upper register on Tuesdays, chatting with regular customers and welcoming new customers to the store. “My tenure with Habitat has been twenty six years of amazing experiences. Knowing our repeat customers and getting to know customers who are new to our store is always fun for me. I always tell them it is the best place in town to shop!” And customers equally enjoy chatting with Susan and learning from her depth of knowledge on all things ReStore.

As much as Susan enjoys interacting with customers, it’s someone else who keeps her commitment to the ReStore strong. “The reason I keep coming every week is knowing that maybe I am helping a family have a positive new beginning. I love working with the homeowner families, getting to know them and seeing the excitement and pride they have about building and owning a home for their family. That experience has been such a joy to me over the years. Times have changed, for sure, but the mission is still the same. Even in these times of the pandemic, it has truly been a pleasure for me to be  a part of this fabulous organization.”

And of course Susan isn’t alone in this sentiment, and she recognizes the like minds around her. “The whole atmosphere of the ReStore is positive and the staff and volunteers are here because they want to be a part of something positive for our community. Plus, the staff are very supportive of the volunteers.” Susan fondly recalls the leaders she has served with over the years, many of whom have since retired. The man behind it all, Lew Kraus, left quite an impression on Susan. “I have always admired Lew Kraus for having the vision to start this wonderful piece of Habitat for Humanity in our area. He was able to bring the vision of a thrift store to benefit the community and build affordable homes for families living in substandard housing, to self-sufficient reality. Through his efforts the tiny store downtown evolved into the large warehouse we are working from now.”

Jay Sloan, ReStore Manager from 1998 to 2014 she says, “He was like my brother. He treated everyone fairly. He brought a new energy to the operation and really made the store grow. He was instrumental in getting the big warehouse up and going. It was a sad time for the staff and volunteers when he made the decision to retire. He surely is missed.”

It would be impossible to reflect back on 26 years of service with the Habitat ReStore and not recall some of the amazing donations that have come in. Susan remembers, “The wonderful and unusual things that have come through our store from our fabulous donors, always surprise me. We’ve had cut gemstones, a baby elephant made of leather, and the horse and buggy. All were quite a spectacle, and sold quickly.” Though Susan didn’t take the horse and buggy home, she does recall the many items that have come home with her over the years. “I have purchased so many wonderful things, I can’t even think of the best. I’ve purchased beds, desks, many chairs, tables, couches, fabrics, dishware, artwork, gemstones, and rugs.”  She’s noticed, “Asheville locals and businesses have become very interested and generous with their donations. Our customers can’t wait to find a treasure for their homes.”

In a time when over 20% of millennials have changed jobs in the past year, Susan Diehn’s  twenty six years of volunteer service with Habitat for Humanity stands out as rare. If anything, after all these years, her engagement is only increasing. Susan even capped her quarter century of service with a mission trip to Ethiopia with Asheville Habitat earlier this year. And with her easy to approach attitude, constant smile, and consistent humility, she certainly sets a high bar.  Asheville Habitat ReStore staff continued to be inspired by her commitment to the organization, and look forward to serving alongside her into the future.  Three cheers to Susan Diehn! Hip, hip, hooray!

A ReStore Reflection

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I was hooked on the Home Store after my first shift and committed to several Saturdays each month. Two years later, a new staff position had been created and it was suggested that I apply. I wasn’t looking to make a move, I enjoyed teaching and loved the high school environment, but the opportunity to be a part of this mission was far too strong of a pull. My time in the Home Store, now the ReStore, yielded far more than I ever expected.

A Story Worth Telling

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Covid-19 precludes us from hosting a big event and sale for the 1-year anniversary of the Weaverville store and the 30-year anniversary of the Asheville ReStore. But we know there will be many more milestones to celebrate going forward. Please take a moment to read the Asheville Habitat ReStore story.