A Daily Exercise of Gratitude and Generosity

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By Zoe Trout

Beasley Family

The Beasley Family

Sarah and Andrew Beasley are always looking for ways for their children, age four and nine, to be more involved in giving back to their community. Like many parents, they want their children to be generous and kind, good citizens of the community. However, with limited options for children to volunteer in our area, they have struggled to find meaningful ways for their kids to give back. A way that Asheville Habitat involves kids in its work and mission is through a calendar activity called A Month for Habitat for Humanity. child receives a cardboard house bank and a calendar and are asked to follow the daily activities. The calendar has a different activity each day such as, “For each room in your house, deposit 10 cents… Add 5 cents per window in your house…. If you have a garage door opener, deposit 35 cents.” The activities require the participant to observe the house they live in and recognize and appreciate how much they haveand it offers them a way to give back.  

The Beasley children received the house banks one Sunday from their church. They attend Grace Episcopal Church, a longtime partner in the Episcopal House XIII. The Episcopal House is built every other year and is sponsored by Buncombe County Episcopal Churches and the Episcopal Diocese of WNC. Churches provide funding and volunteer on the construction site to build a house, which is then sold to a qualified homebuyer. 

The Beasley family enjoyed spending the next month counting their blessing, and filling their banks with money to donate to Asheville Habitat. Sarah told us, “Not only did this activity involve our whole family counting light fixtures and air vents, but it also involved a great reallife math problem for my son (who loves math) to add items and convert it to decimals.” The reallife math really engaged his attention, she added. According to Sarah, it was so magical to have conversations about housing and gratitude everyday with her children. “My fouryear old daughter asked what we were going to give to our house each morning after breakfast.”  

To learn more about A Month for Habitat for Humanity or to get your own calendars and banks, please contact Zoe at ztrout@ashevillehabitat.org. Thank you! 

Click here to see the calendar.

 

 

 

Serving Country and Community

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On Veterans Day and every day, we are grateful for the veterans on our staff and in the ranks of our volunteers who serve our community every day.

Behind the Scenes at the Asheville ReStore

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If you’ve visited the Asheville ReStore, you’ve probably noticed we aren’t your average thrift store. With two levels, and around 27,000 sq. ft. of retail floor space, we more closely resemble a Home Depot than a neighborhood second hand store. Our free pick-up service for larger items and convenient donation drop-off lane keep our showrooms full of home building supplies, appliances, cabinet sets, and home furnishings- items that, for the most part, you won’t find in smaller thrift stores.

With a large showroom full of every type of furniture and appliance you can imagine, it makes sense that our process for receiving donations is also quite different from your average thrift store. Instead of going directly to the sales floor in “as is” condition, items dropped off at the Asheville ReStore are sorted and taken to their respective processing stations for inspection, cleaning, testing and repairing before being delivered to the sales floor. With over 15,000 sq. ft. of floor space dedicated specifically to donation processing, our meticulous process of receiving donations is part of what sets the Asheville ReStore apart from other area thrift stores, and ensures quality products are delivered quickly and efficiently to our sales floor.

Sorting Area

We have an amazing team of dedicated volunteers who assist our staff in making this process possible. They show up multiple times every week to fulfill very specific parts of the process.  Whether it’s receiving, sorting, cleaning, or repairing donated items, these volunteers keep our stores stocked with quality, clean, and functioning products. Let us introduce our team to you!

Pam and Michelle

Michelle Ender is the matron of our housewares station. She, alongside volunteers, ensure that all linens and dishware get the attention they need before heading up to stock our shelves. Several days each week you will find Michelle’s dishwasher, washer and dryer running nonstop to make sure the housewares section is stocked with clean, quality items.

On the far side of the housewares station lives the small electronics station. Skip Stansell, Jim Perkerson, and Al Gribble are the small electronics gurus.  Each lamp, clock, rice cooker, crockpot, and every other small electronic item with a plug gets tested and, if possible, repaired in this station. Every item then receives a sticker verifying it was tested, and stating our 30 day guarantee policy. Can we just say how grateful we are to these guys?!  Don’t you love purchasing a pre-used electronic item at a thrift store knowing that it’s been tested and comes with a 30-day guarantee?  That’s a bonus at Habitat and unique for a thrift store.

Small Appliances Team

To the other side of the housewares station lies the large appliance testing and repair station. Each stove, oven, dishwasher, washer and dryer that comes into the ReStore also gets tested, and repaired if possible, before going to the sales floor.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays you will find David Garver, Gary Stefan, Richard Stiles, Arnold Willen, and Bruce Tettemer diligently testing, repairing, and delivering large appliances to the sales floor. Those that can’t be repaired are stored in the basement to provide a supply of parts for future large appliances that may need them.

Large Appliance Team

Books are another item that get meticulous attention at the Asheville ReStore. We have volunteers dedicated to sorting and researching each book title that comes in before being placed on shelves. So that if a rare title comes in, we know about it and can share it with you!

Of course there are always items that don’t make the cut or meet our standards for what is salable. But even then we do our best to minimize what we send to the landfill. All of the metals that can’t be sold eventually head to the scrap yard, but not before Warren Reif puts hands on each and every piece. He is a pretty cool guy, by the way. In addition to being an avid macro photographer and Arduino creator/maker, he volunteers to sort each piece of metal destined for the scrap yard by type.

Warren Reif

This reduces our waste as much as possible, and creates a revenue stream that supports our mission.  And next door to Warren’s sorting station you’ll find John Harvin regularly working away to make sense of all the random hardware pieces that come in throughout the week.  John gives generously of his time to both of our locations.

John Harvin

This is only a small sample of all the amazing volunteers who contribute their time and effort each week at the Asheville ReStore.  There are many others we hope to highlight in the future.  At the Asheville ReStore, we truly are giving your gently loved home goods a new life.  Living up to our name, we actually restore your generously donated items to extend their life cycle and meet our customers’ needs.  Whether you shop, donate, or volunteer at the ReStore, you are part of a process that not only gives new life to old items, but ultimately gives a new start at life to many families in our area.

ReStore Shopping 101

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By Marty Steinberg

“Shopping at the ReStore isn’t like shopping at other stores,” ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson reminds his staff members. “First time shoppers might not know how the green tags work or they might inadvertently walk into the work area. It’s our job to help them navigate the concept of the ReStore.”

It’s true: a first time shopper at the ReStore is generally amazed and impressed, but sometimes a bit confused. Will they have what I’m looking for? Where should I look? What do I do when I find it?

If you’ve come for hardware, large appliances or building supplies, downstairs is the place to be. The lower showroom also features rugs, office furniture and sporting goods, as well as a selection of new tile, vinyl, and laminate flooring and discounted energy efficient light bulbs.

Small items can easily be placed in a shopping cart but large items generally will have a green tag affixed to the item with a date, description and price of the item. The tags are perforated in the middle and if you want to purchase a large item, just separate the bottom part of the tag and bring it to the register. After you’ve purchased an item we can hold it for up to five days so you can make arrangements to pick it up.

If you’re looking for furniture or housewares you may want to walk straight through the lower level to get to the upper showroom. As you proceed to the upper showroom, you’ll see our “mission wall” along the right wall of the lower level and you’ll come to our “donor atrium” once you’ve reached the upper level. Restrooms are located on the left, just before the doors to the upper showroom.

Reconditioned mattresses, new metal bedframes and more LED light bulbs are available upstairs, along with Asheville’s #1 used furniture store (according to Mountain Xpress, Best of WNC) and a large selection of kitchen supplies, linens, lamps, artwork, electronics and jewelry.

On your right, just past the art wall, is the Silent Auction, where shoppers may place bids on some of the most interesting items donated recently. The silent auction recently passed a huge milestone: as of March 20, 2019 one million dollars has been raised since it’s 2005 inception!

If you keep walking back and look left you’ll find our bookstore: it’s a store within a store! Offering much more than just books, it has movies, compact discs, vintage vinyl and Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam memorabilia. You can even buy a cup of fair trade Guatemalan coffee or tea to enjoy while you browse or sit and page through a book. Proceeds from the sale of this coffee and tea, as well as Guatemalan handicrafts (also in the bookstore area), go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to provide coffee farmers with Healthy Home Kits (water filters, smokeless stoves and sanitary latrines).

A few additional tips will help you to shop like a ReStore regular – the kind of shoppers who bring a sharp eye and a pick-up truck when they come to look for bargains!

ReStore regulars know that they should jump on a bargain when they see it. Most people learn the hard way: you walk by an item thinking that you’ll get it on the way out, then you see it going by in someone else’s cart. Bringing a friend to watch an item for you while you ask a staff member or volunteer for help is a great strategy.

New products arrive every day that we’re open, so feel free to check back regularly. We are glad to help you find what you’re looking for on our sales floor: the one thing we can’t do is look through the work area where items have yet to be tested, researched, cleaned and priced.

We’re also glad to clarify a price if there’s any question, but we won’t lower a price on request. If an item sits on the sales floor too long – generally about two weeks from the date it was priced – we may decide to lower the price on our own, so feel free to check back on another day if an item you see is priced above your budget.

Shopping at the ReStore is a great way to stretch your budget, keep usable items out of the landfill and support the mission of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. In 2018, the ReStore diverted 1,800 tons of usable items from the landfill, provided 25 living wage jobs and raised funds to build affordable homes in partnership with hardworking families. The ReStore is able to have such an impact thanks to our donors, volunteers, staff members and of course, our satisfied customers.

To learn about the ReStore here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot changes in 25 years

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By Beth Russo

A lot changes in 25 years. Back in 1994, we were watching OJ Simpson in a white Bronco on CNN. Highland Brewery had just opened up in the basement of Barley’s

Members of the Lopez family, owners of the first Women Build house.

Pizza. And a group of women attorneys decided to sponsor the 1st Women Build house built by Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fundraising flyer from the first Women Build House in 1994

The first Women Build house in Oakwood.

In 1994, the home cost $40,000 to build, and Buncombe County Women Attorneys took the lead in raising funds and providing volunteers to construct this home.

When they were done, the first Women Build house became the Lopez house, home to four generations of women.

Today, local women are still struggling with housing challenges. Imagine living in a rental where the landlord refuses to address the rodent problem. Or fix a leaky water heater, leading to monthly bills of $400. Or having to move your 3 children into your bedroom, to reduce their exposure to black mold.

This is the situation that Quintania Gregg found herself in. Employed full time with CarePartners, this mother of 3 children felt stuck with living in a substandard home because finding another apartment with a monthly rent that she could manage was almost impossible.

She applied for Habitat homeownership, and was approved to purchase Women Build House #14.

Gregg Family

Gregg Family

Once again, the Buncombe County Women Attorneys stepped up to be part of the solution to her affordable housing crisis. They’ve committed to raising $10,000 to support the construction of this home.

BCWA raising money at Rustic Grape.

A few weeks ago, they gathered at The Rustic Grape, a women-owned wine bar in downtown Asheville. After conversation and beverages, the attorneys met Quintania and heard her story. A few days later, construction started on the 14th Women Build house – and the future home of the Gregg family.

The BCWA are in process of raising funds, and look forward to a volunteer day on the site in June. Attorney Susan Russo-Klein of Roberts & Stevens says, “Buncombe County Women Attorneys are proud to support the wonderful work Asheville Habitat for Humanity does to provide affordable housing to families in our community.”

The 14th Women Build home will be completed near the end of 2019. Quintania looks forward to the day she closes and receives her keys, and is grateful to be partnered with women who care deeply about the housing problem in our community. Thank you Buncombe County Women Attorneys and The Rustic Grape!

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

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.

 

 

 

 

Jane Schwarz: Making the World a Better Place

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By Zoe Trout

After spending “38 long hot years in Houston, Texas,” Jane Schwarz and her husband, who is an artist and musician, moved to Asheville. They were attracted to our City’s artistic community– and because being a vegetarian in Houston made her an anomaly.

While living in Texas, Jane volunteered on the construction site at Houston Habitat for Humanity. Now, you can find her at the front desk of Asheville Area Habitat’s administrative office on Monday afternoons answering the phone, greeting visitors, and taking payments from home repair clients. Jane enjoys interacting with so many different people and being close to the mission. She loves the excitement of people when they turn in their applications for homeownership because they have worked so hard to get to the point of application and they have so much hope for their futures. Jane always says, “Good luck! I hope you get to buy a house!”

Jane’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious and she believes in the impact of the Habitat model to lift up families through homeownership. “I think Habitat’s mission crosses political lines; and it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up.”

Her passion for volunteering doesn’t end with Habitat. She is also a member of P.E.O. International, a women’s organization that raises money for scholarships for women all over the world; and she organizes neighborhood clean-up days in Fairview.

Creativity drove Jane’s professional past. She worked as an Interior Designer and at one point owned her own interior design business. She sold commercial wallcovering for part of her career, calling on architects and designers who would specify her product in large commercial jobs like schools, hospitals, and hotels. And, Jane loves remodeling projects of all sorts.

She continues to feed her creative spirit here in Asheville, by storytelling, regularly participating on The Moth, and taking a writing course through the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNC Asheville.

Jane always has a smile and a kind word for anyone who walks through the door and her creativity brings a burst of energy to our office.  When asked why she volunteers, she notes that her children are grown, she no longer runs her own business, and she finally has the time to get more involved and to give back more. With a deep belief in our mission, Jane said, “I think the world is a better place because of Habitat.” Well Jane, we think the world is better because of you! Thank you for sharing your time, talent and creative energy with us.

 

 

 

Planning for the Future with Brattan Gelder

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By Jeff Paul

Owning a home is a BIG deal. And purchasing that home can be a stressful and confusing process. Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Homebuyer Education program seeks to demystify the process and empower families to become successful homeowners. As part of required sweat equity, future homeowners spend close to 50 hours in the classroom learning about home maintenance, predatory lending, real estate closing documents and procedures, community resources and much more. One of the highlights of this program is the opportunity for each family to meet with local estate planning attorney, Brattan Gelder (pictured above).

Brattan has been volunteering with Asheville Habitat since 2011. Several times a year, he meets with the Homebuyer Education class to discuss the basics of estate planning. He carefully reviews the terminology, talks about the importance of having such a plan in place, and fields questions from families. Additionally, Brattan generously offers to each new homeowner (pro-bono) the opportunity to meet one-on-one to establish a personal estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. With complicated laws related to passing property and possessions to relatives, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, especially homeowners.

As Astrid Andre reported in Shelterforce, “Since the least wealthy Americans have a larger share of their wealth tied to their homes and would be most impacted by home losses, enacting measures to mitigate such losses may have greater effect in preserving and maintaining wealth in these communities. Proactive measures like estate planning—placing safeguards during and after the lifetime of an owner, such as creating wills and trusts—can be a helpful tool for the preservation and transfer of real estate assets in some low- to moderate-income and minority communities.”

One new Habitat homeowner commented, “It meant a great deal for Brattan to help me with my estate planning. He has given me a sense of security to know that I have a plan put in place. I am now confident that my loved ones will have less worry with this plan. An estate plan is something not everyone thinks about or has, so I feel very fortunate to have one.”

In 2016, Brattan expanded his engagement with AAHH by joining the Board of Directors and most recently, he joined Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee. When asked what motivates him to volunteer with Habitat, he offered the following:

“There are several characteristics of Habitat that distinguish it in my mind from other charitable organizations. My favorite thing about Habitat is that Habitat doesn’t simply give anything to anyone. Future homeowners don’t receive gifts; they earn everything. Habitat identifies worthy partners who make lifelong commitments to themselves, their families, and their communities. Through hard work and cooperation, people from disparate backgrounds bond together to form strong neighborhoods and broader communities. The assistance that Habitat provides enables hard-working, honest people to live and work in a supportive environment, where their talents and skills can flourish. That stability allows Habitat partners to make a beneficial contribution to their communities. Habitat homeowners work diligently to make a better life for their families. In turn, a strong work ethic and determination are imparted to the next generation, who will recognize the value of working hard and giving back. Simply stated, I don’t know of any other organization that makes such a meaningful impact in the long-term well-being of the community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Thank you, Brattan for sharing your time and expertise to help families build – and secure – a better future!