Volunteer Spotlight: Joe Young

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Joe Young sitting at his desk next to his current sewing machine repair project.

Joe at his desk next to his current repair project.

In November 2021, volunteer Joe Young offered to help combat a growing problem under the Asheville ReStore: sewing machines were piling up in the basement. Despite having minimal experience with the machines, Joe pivoted from large appliance repair and set to work. Today, he is a seasoned sewing machine repairman putting his love for fixing and maintaining tools into a new passion. We sat down with Joe on National Sewing Machine Day to talk about his volunteer work, history, and, of course, sewing machines. Learn more in the video below.

 

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

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Hundreds of Asheville Habitat volunteers were celebrated and thanked at Highland Brewing on April 20th during a National Volunteer Appreciation Week event.

Meet office volunteers Aaron Finkel and Steven Casciato

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Affectionately dubbed “The Boys,” Aaron Finkel and Steven Casciato are our exceedingly dedicated volunteers tasked with conquering piles of waivers and sign-in sheets ­– a task vital to the efficient operation of our large volunteer program.

Home Repair through the eyes of volunteer Austin Brown

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If you ask Austin Brown about his favorite moment as a volunteer with Asheville Habitat, his answer might sound like a platitude: “they all are.” But that is not a brush-off.

ReStore Volunteer Spotlight: Anne Justice and Lou Towson

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Part-time volunteers and full-time friends, together Anne Justice and Lou Towson sort, curate, and price the enormous volume of jewelry that passes through the ReStore.

Blue Ridge Service Corps Spotlight: Evan Johnson

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Evan has spent the past nine months as a member of the ReStore’s Deconstruction team, a group of Asheville Habitat staff and volunteers that extract reusable building materials like kitchen cabinets, appliances, and bath installations prior to demolition or remodeling.

5 Reasons to Volunteer with Asheville Habitat

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5 Reasons to volunteer with Asheville Habitat: the people, the process, the product, the byproduct, and the legacy.

Volunteers needed to build largest-ever neighborhood

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We are currently building New Heights, our most ambitious neighborhood to-date, and community volunteers are invited to help build. Take an active role in ensuring everyone has an affordable place to call home by learning new skills or honing existing ones while working alongside community-minded people and future Habitat homeowners.

Asheville Habitat has been bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope for nearly four decades. The reasons people donate their time and talent to Asheville Habitat are as varied as the volunteer themselves. Those who so enjoyed volunteering once on the Women Build House that they keep coming back every week. Those that spent decades in a corporate boardroom and simply want to do something totally different in retirement. Those that work for a company that sponsors Asheville Habitat and therefore have the opportunity to participate in an employee build day. Those that are in high school and learning about our region’s affordable housing crisis. Those putting faith into action by working on a house their church sponsors. How people come to volunteer with Asheville Habitat is wide-ranging. Why they continue to volunteer is the same: Comradery. Meeting the families. Fulfillment. Fun. Making a difference. Feeling part of something bigger.

If you are ready to be the change you want to see in the world, learn more and sign up now or call 828.251.5702. “Volunteers are truly an extension of our staff,” shares Construction Services Volunteer Manager Stephanie Wallace. “We offer year-round opportunities for those age 16+. It’s hard work, but very rewarding. Stepping back at the end of the day, you can SEE the difference you’ve made and feel proud about it.”

If construction isn’t your cup of tea, contact Carrie at 828.210.9381 or cburgin@ashevillehabitat.org to learn about volunteer opportunities in the Asheville and Weaverville ReStores. Proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat’s building programs, so your volunteer efforts there directly support affordable housing, too. Volunteer positions include customer service, such as running the cash register and providing sales support on the floor; intake and receiving; sorting and processing donations; testing and repairing appliances; and other fun opportunities. Learn more and sign up today!

Diane Bryson’s Comeback Story

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The epitome of a “when life gives you lemons” story, Asheville Habitat volunteer, Diane Bryson shares about how volunteering with Asheville Habitat has helped make lemonade out of some lemons that life has thrown at her. Her attitude is an inspiration, and her power tools skills aren’t too shabby either!

Bill Kantonen: Celebrating 25 Years of Service

Having a conversation with Bill Kantonen about the last 25 years of volunteering to build houses with Asheville Habitat is a little like eating at a 5 star restaurant. With a 25-year databank of stories, he has to be selective about what he shares, but what he served up was a rich and well-seasoned selection.

Bill Kantenon

Bill Kantonen on the jobsite

A longstanding dedication to honor his commitments, is truly a thread that runs all through Bill’s life, beginning long before he hammered his first nail with Asheville Habitat. Bill worked with the YMCA for approximately 40 years, serving across the nation, finally ending up in Asheville to serve the last 12 years as Executive Director of the Asheville YMCA. A few years before signing on with the YMCA, he married his wife Jennifer with whom he spent a happily married life for the next 60 years. When Bill started his 25 year span of volunteering with Asheville Habitat he was 36 years in to marriage and 40 years into a career with a single organization.

At 40 years, however, Bill decided to retire from the YMCA in June of 1996. And, approximately one month later, in August of 96’, Bill started volunteering on jobsites every Friday morning- and would continue building houses with Asheville Habitat every week for the next 25 years. (That adds up to over 1,000 days on the jobsite, or work on over 300 houses as a volunteer!) Bill started while Asheville Habitat was building their third neighborhood, located in Wilson Creek.  Since then, Bill has built in every single Habitat neighborhood in the Asheville area.

He recalls attending the 200th home celebration in which Habitat’s founder, Millard Fuller, was the guest speaker and commented on the quality of the volunteers’ work. He said “In observing the volunteers, I believe they have reasoned, if 2 nails are good, then 10 are even better. I don’t worry about a hurricane or tornado passing through, but if someone walks by with a really large magnet, I might get nervous.” And the volunteers aren’t the only ones going the extra mile on Habitat jobsites. Bill has worked with the last three Asheville Habitat Construction Supervisors, and he says “They are all so professional. Habitat certainly builds houses to be proud of. If you don’t do it right, you do it over!”

But ultimately, Bill says, “If I can take anything away from the past 25 years, it’s the people. The volunteers, the supervisors who made sure you do it right or do it over, the folks who brought donuts for the coffee breaks…I will always remember the people.”

Bill recalls all the college students who come each year for Collegiate Challenge and alternative spring breaks. He said, “They always ask me why I do

Bill Kantonen Edited

Bill Kantonen in Maui

this. Why do I volunteer every Friday, instead of playing golf or something like that? I tell them, when you leave at the end of the day after working on a Habitat house, you can look back and say, hey, I did that!”

Bill began volunteering with Asheville Habitat with a group of volunteers from his church, First Presbyterian of Asheville. He is one of the last of the original group to still be volunteering. But at 85, he sees no reason to stop now. He is patiently waiting until he can return after a year of limited volunteer service, and begin working on the biggest neighborhood to date, New Heights.

His incredible 25 years of service with Asheville Habitat isn’t the only thing that makes Bill stand out.  Perhaps it was the fact that he was in Maui with his daughters during our conversation, but even over the phone, Bill exudes the values of his generation. He is lighthearted, even when sharing about difficult times, he is incredibly sharp- offering meaningful memories from all aspects of his volunteer service, and he is impeccably faithful in honoring his commitments. It has truly been an honor to have Bill as part of the Asheville Habitat family for all these years.

Thank you, Bill, for your 25 years of service!  You are an inspiration to our whole team!