Congrats to our Homegrown Leaders!

, ,

Asheville Habitat’s Cassidy Moore (L) and Beth Russo (R) recently graduated from Homegrown Leaders program, a regional leadership and economic development program that develops and supports highly-motivated leaders who are committed to building regional collaboration across multi-county regions in the state. Homegrown Leaders is a program of the Rural Center and is sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and corporate, government and philanthropic partners.

NC Rural Center President, Patrick Woodie, presented certificates to the program’s 29 graduates on the last day of training. “Rural leaders like our Homegrown Leaders graduates are critical to the long-term growth and vitality of North Carolina’s communities,” said Woodie of this class of graduates.

Class participants included economic development professionals, educators, and civic and nonprofit leaders. “The Rural Center promotes leadership that is inclusive, connected, informed and creative. These graduates will join the Rural Center’s leadership alumni network of over 1,200 rural leaders across the state of North Carolina,” said Bronwyn Lucas, director of leadership for the NC Rural Center.

“This was an incredible learning experience. From developing new relationships with peers across the region, to discovering both new and long-existing programs in our area, I learned valuable information and skills to put to use in Western North Carolina. I also left refreshed – because it was so encouraging and inspiring to see so many talented and passionate people implementing and sustaining programs to make our communities safer and stronger,” noted Russo.

Three additional Homegrown Leaders trainings will take place across the Appalachian Regional Commission’s NC counties over the next year with the next one scheduled for May 29-31, 2019 at Western Carolina University. For more information, visit the Rural Center’s website.

Bucking the National Trend

, , , , , ,

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)

A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

, , , , ,

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.

Building More than Houses

, , , , ,

Each February, we celebrate our Construction Services volunteers with an Appreciation Breakfast. This year nearly 80 volunteers and staff members gathered as we celebrated collective accomplishments, honored longevity, recognized significant hourly contributions, and talked about the future.

Here are a few highlights shared during the event:
• More than 50% of the total volunteer hours contributed to Asheville Habitat’s construction program in 2016, were contributed by 80 construction “core” volunteers! These folks volunteer on our jobsite at least one day each week.
• Collectively, construction cores provided 17,570 hours of volunteer service!
• 28 cores each contributed more than 250 hours of service last year. Each received a golden hammer pin.
• The highest hours earner was CJ Obara, with 641 hours!

Longevity awards recognize years of volunteer service:
• 5 years – Beth Greck and Buddy Tallant
• 10 years – Ross Akin, Alan Cutter, Joyce Davis, Lou Farquhar, Neil O’Sullivan, Ken Roth, Sharon Waugh, Jim Worley
• 15 years – Ray Ducharme, Bob Laveck
• 20 years – Ken and Carol Deal (pictured, R)

We celebrated staff milestones, too. John Meadows has been a Construction Supervisor for 10 years and Kenny Busch just reached the 15 year mark!

Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves noted that 2016 was a year of change, with multiple staffing changes and four different building sites. None the less, our staff and volunteers rose to the occasion and served the largest number of families to date. 44 Home Repair clients and 14 new homeowners in Buncombe County now have decent and affordable housing.

Looking forward, we’ll be moving to Arden in the early summer to begin a 21-house subdivision, and we’ll be building a Habitat house in McDowell County as part of the SECU Challenge to build or renovate 100 houses in 100 NC counties. Also, we will solidify plans to introduce multi-family housing on a 16-acre parcel in West Asheville that the City of Asheville is helping us secure.

Home Repair Supervisor Joel Johnson thanked his core volunteers, Lonnie Lief and Garland Walker, who have been volunteering consistently for 3 years. Home Repair is unlike new construction in that the scope of work varies from project to project and the jobsite often changes daily. It’s difficult to plan a volunteer calendar in advance, so we appreciate Lonnie and Garland’s flexibility and commitment to the growing Home Repair program.

We were also pleased to be joined by Jeff Staudinger (pictured below), the Community Development Director for the City of Asheville, who was able to put Habitat’s contributions into the larger affordable housing context. He expressed the City’s enthusiasm for Habitat’s upcoming higher density neighborhood in West Asheville (currently referred to as Cedar Hill). Staudinger also referenced statistics from the Bowen Report and reiterate the City’s commitment to creating new public/private partnerships, and continuing to work to remove barriers, increase density, and strengthen the relationship between housing and transportation. “Shelter is the foundation for everything else,” he noted. “And as Habitat volunteers, you are working directly on the affordable housing crisis.”

In closing remarks, Executive Director Andy Barnett reminded the audience, “You are volunteering regularly to build the kind of community you want to live in…you are the hearts, hands and voices of affordable housing. You embody our mission.”

Habitat volunteers build and repair houses – and they build community. They help families build strength, stability and self-reliance. If you would like to be part of the affordable housing solution, click here to learn about Habitat volunteer opportunities.

To see event photos, please click here.

 

Charting New Territory: From Office Intern to Construction Crew Leader

, ,

By Kristen Keefer

Enthusiastic Emily Stevens excels in new situations. Perhaps her ability to succeed is a reflection of how she fearlessly charts unfamiliar territory. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio, she dove into professional work experience. In the summer of 2015, Emily joined Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity through a program administered by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called Young Adult Volunteers. She left her hometown of Rochester, NY behind, and began working in Asheville as a Construction Services Volunteer Intern.

Emily gave a year of service in that internship position. During that time, she strengthened her office skills while developing a deeper understanding of Habitat’s mission and values. She gained an appreciation of all the “behind the scenes” work that goes into creating a community where people can have decent and affordable places to call home. Emily recalled, “Hearing the partner family’s stories really helps you understand the importance of the work being done by Habitat.” She recounted that these stories inspired her to feel an extra burst of enthusiasm when working in the office, knowing that her contribution to Habitat’s mission was important. Emily’s heart is truly in her work.

As her internship was coming to an end, she was uncertain of her future steps. She had successfully established herself in Asheville and had confirmed through her internship experience that she wanted to continue working in the non-profit sector. She explained, “Becoming more acquainted with Habitat’s mission has influenced the work I want to do in the future.”

During this same time, interviews were being conducted for a Construction Crew Leader position at Asheville Area Habitat through AmeriCorps. Emily applied for the program and was accepted! Interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work in the future, she considers this on-site job experience to be a valuable supplement to her professional and personal development.

Emily couldn’t be more excited about working on Asheville Area Habitat’s construction site. She is eager to advance her construction skills and share that knowledge base with volunteers. In addition, she fondly anticipates developing friendships with the volunteers. Working in the office, she became very familiar with volunteer names and their shifts. “I’m excited to learn and get to know the volunteers better, to put faces to names!”

Strengthening relationships is at the core of Emily’s values. She demonstrated this by prioritizing getting to know and helping her peers and mentors while she was an intern. She always felt satisfied when she had time to lend a helping hand to others.

Whether by offering a helping hand or listening to other’s stories, Emily values people. She is someone who pursues life fearlessly and is not held back by the unfamiliarity of new people, places, or opportunities. On the contrary, she courageously welcomes change and development. Though Emily’s cheerful presence will be missed in the office, it is suffice to say that we are all excited for Emily as she transitions into this new opportunity on the construction site. Congratulations and best wishes, Emily!

Check out what Emily has to say about the spirit if volunteerism, in this short video.

AAHH Announces New Executive Director

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (February 2, 2016) — Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity today announced that Andy Barnett has been named as its new Executive Director. Barnett succeeds longtime Executive Director Lew Kraus, who has announced his retirement from the position.

Barnett comes to the affiliate from St. Paul, Minnesota, where he has been Coordinating Consultant for the Frogtown Rondo Home Fund for the last three years. Frogtown Rondo Home Fund is a unique collaboration of over 30 community, philanthropic, and local government organizations focused upon enriching the quality of life in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods of St. Paul. The Frogtown Rondo Home Fund connects and enhances public and private housing resources and activities in a very diverse section of the city, seeking to bring visible stability to the area while addressing residents’ most pressing housing needs.

Prior to his three years with Frogtown Rondo Home Fund, Barnett was with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for nearly 14 years. During his tenure with one of the most innovative Habitat affiliates in the nation, Barnett served in a variety of roles including Site Supervisor, Director of Construction, and Director of Community Development. In 2010, as interim Director of Programs and Services, he co-chaired the affiliate’s participation in the prestigious Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, with responsibility for neighborhood engagement, family services, volunteerism, construction, logistics, gifts-in-kind, and events.

“Andy’s track record of hands-on leadership and experience with affordable housing initiatives at Twin Cities Habitat and Frogtown Rondo Home Fund will be great assets for both Asheville and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity,” said David Whilden, Board chairman for the organization. “He comes to Asheville having made strong contributions to the cause of improving the lives of Twin Cities residents by building homes and stronger neighborhoods. We believe Andy is an excellent fit for our organization, our community, and our values of collaboration, opportunity, dignity, and empowerment.”

Barnett is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in Housing Studies. However, he is no stranger to Asheville and western North Carolina. He began his studies at Appalachian State University and started his career in affordable housing by helping establish a Habitat affiliate in Rockingham County, NC after attending a regional Habitat affiliate conference in Asheville that was held in 1993. Additionally, Barnett and his wife were married at the Asheville Botanical Gardens.

“The Board of Directors recognizes that we have been so fortunate to have someone with Lew Kraus’ tremendous character, energy, and capabilities as our leader for 28 years,” said Whilden. “The staff, homeowners, volunteers, donors, and supporters of Asheville Habitat have achieved remarkable things during this time. We are also very enthusiastic about having a leader succeed him, who will build upon that legacy and help achieve our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Kraus added, “Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity is considered a model Habitat affiliate, and we are grateful to have Barnett’s experience with that organization here in Buncombe County. His involvement with so many facets of the Habitat operation will be especially valuable in his role as Executive Director. Additionally, his experience with a community-based organization like the Frogtown Rondo Home Fund will be a great asset as we address the challenges of affordable housing in our neighborhoods.”

Barnett will begin his work as Executive Director in March.

Kraus/Cooper Cottage Celebrates Lifelong Dedication to Affordable Housing

, ,

In 1988, Lew Kraus accepted a one-year position as Executive Director with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH). That one year commitment extended into 28 years of working to provide decent, affordable housing for families in our community. He will be retiring this spring.

Our organization is planning a number of events and initiatives to recognize and honor Kraus, the first of which was announced at an event celebrating the successful culmination of the organization’s $5M Building a Way Home campaign. To Kraus’ surprise, Board MeLew and Joan with signsmber Spencer Duin announced that the non-profit’s administrative building will be named in his honor. “You probably don’t realize it, but you are sitting in the Lewis J. Kraus Building,” he said to the audience. The signage will be installed this year.

Joan Cooper, long-time Family Services Director and Kraus’ wife, will retire as well. Duin announced that the Family Services Suite in the administrative building will be dedicated and named for Cooper’s own exceptional 26 years of service with the affiliate.

The organization has also decided that the most fitting way to honor the duo who made lifelong careers of helping families in need of safe, decent housing is to build a Habitat house in their name. The Kraus/Cooper Cottage will be built in Habitat’s Hudson Hills neighborhood and will
commence with a wall raising event at 12noon on Friday, February 26th.Donate to cottage button

Those who wish to give a gift to thank Lew and Joan for their dedicated service and wish them well in retirement are encouraged to donate to the Kraus/Cooper Cottage. (Please select Kraus/Cooper Cottage in Area of Support drop down menu.)

A new Executive Director will be named in the coming months and Kraus and Cooper will subsequently retire in March.

 

 

ReStore Manager Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

, , ,

DSC_0011At the recent national Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Conference in Atlanta, retired Asheville Habitat ReStore Manager Jay Sloan (L) was bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was one of three recipients nationwide to receive this prestigious award. Frank Reed, Senior Director of ReStore Support at Habitat for Humanity International acknowledged Sloan’s accomplishments and mentioned how the Asheville ReStore stands as an example for ReStores across the nation.

Jay Sloan managed the Asheville Habitat ReStore from 1999 to late 2012 when he began his succession plan and became Donations Manager until his retirement in June 2014. During his time as General Manager he oversaw a relocation of the store from its original Biltmore Avenue space to its current location at 31 Meadow Road, and in 2011, a major renovation of the store that doubled its square footage. By the time he retired, the Asheville ReStore was running smoothly with 160 volunteers each week, and was ranked the #3 ReStore in the nation for gross sales in one store (out of over 775 ReStores). Under his leadership, sales increased more than 800% during his 13 year tenure!

“Jay brought more than a background in big-box retail to our organization in 1999. He brought the knowledge and deep understanding that every dollar of ReStore revenue enables us to serve more families in Buncombe County. Jay communicated that sense of mission to ReStore staff, volunteers, donors and customers. When you couple retail experience with passion for the mission you see the results. Today, the Asheville ReStore is the #2 ReStore in the nation,” stated Lew Kraus, Executive Director.

A video of Sloan that was shown at the award ceremony can be viewed here.

Habitat Welcomes Jill Franklin Home

,

Originally from Asheville, NC, Jill Franklin is excited to return to her hometown and thrilled to have the opportunity to continuing working for Habitat for Humanity.

Recently hired as Family Selection Coordinator, Jill will be responsible for administering and documenting the family selection application process for our homeownership and home repair programs. This is familiar territory for Jill who has spent the past eight years in the same position at Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte (NC).

Prior to her career with Habitat Jill worked in banking and brings proficiency in mortgage loan origination and processing. She is also an NC Certified Housing Counselor, trained to provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues.

Jill holds a B.A. from Appalachian State University and a B.S.B.A, Administration and Marketing from UNC-Charlotte. When not at work, Jill can be found hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Welcome to the Asheville Habitat team, Jill — and welcome back to Asheville!

Farewell to our longtime ReStore Manager

, ,

In 14 years of managing Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Jay Sloan led the store to be the 3rd in the nation for sales – out of nearly 800 ReStores! Jay served as ReStore General Manager for 12 years and stepped into a position as ReStore Donations Manager in the recent two years to “ease into retirement” while Scott Stetson (formerly Assistant Manager) took the helm as ReStore General Manager. Asheville Area Habitat sincerely thanks Jay, who retired on June 30th, for his years of service and dedication to Habitat’s mission.

Recently, Habitat staffers and volunteers gathered at the store for a celebration to wish Jay well in his retirement. Many people spoke to his accomplishments and leadership style, sharing funny stories and sincere compliments. View the photos and watch the videos.

Scott said, “Over the years, Jay has armed me with the knowledge and the skills to run one of the best performing and most respected ReStores in the country, and I’m really proud to be a part of that. Jay taught me the value of our precious volunteers. He definitely taught me valuable lessons that will stick with me for many years to come here at the ReStore.”

Lew Kraus noted that from the year Jaystarted as General Manager in 1988 to the year he stepped down, sales increased by 1,170%. “Many of you have heard me say that 30 years ago it took us 18 months to build our first [Habitat] house, and now, we are starting a new house every three and a half weeks. Much of that is due to the success of the ReStore and the money it puts into this organization—and Jay, you’ve brought us there, so thank you for that.” Proceeds from ReStore sales are a valuable source of sustainable income to the affiliate, helping to cover AAHH’s administrative and fundraising expenses and provide funding for building programs.

Jay was quick to reply: “To hear everyone speak you’d think I did this all single-handedly. Well, it doesn’t happen that way. The reason this store has performed the way it has is because of staff and volunteers. They all wanted this store to be successful and to perform well… I want to thank all of you—you’re the reason the store is where it’s at today.”

Jay is now enjoying retirement with his wife, Dorothy, in South Carolina.