Volunteer Spotlight: Tom Weaver

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By Marty Steinberg
It’s deconstruction day. Habitat for Humanity volunteer Tom Weaver arrives early, as he always does. He meets the homeowners, John and Irene, who have decided to donate their kitchen cabinets and appliances to the ReStore rather than see them go into the dumpster or to the scrapyard.

The Unpaid Bills… But Not the Kind You’re Thinking

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By Sydney Monshaw

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has many unpaid Bills – but not the kind you’re thinking. These Bills have chosen to be left unpaid, donating their time and energy, often a few times a week, to help build and repair homes for families, primarily in Buncombe county. Though one Bill volunteers in Henderson County, too! There are seven Bills in total, but as Bill Durant a Friday Core volunteer mused, “Comparable to the stack on my desk – both are increasing.” While this group started as something silly to refer to the growing number of core volunteers named Bill who receives their pay in the form of gratitude and sore muscles, The Unpaid Bills has become an identity for these men who make up a community within the larger group of weekly Core Habitat construction volunteers.

Bill Reid, Bill Ryan, Bill Winkler, part of the Thursday core volunteers

Bill Lineberry

This group of dedicated Bills ranges in years of experience, some having as many as 15 years as a volunteer. The rookie Bill, also the medical Bill (a retired doctor), will be celebrating his one year anniversary as a core volunteer this December. Most, however, fall somewhere in the middle, with about 7 years of service on average. At least one Bill is out on the new home construction job site almost every day of the week! On Mondays Bill Winkler represents the “Unpaid Bills,” Tuesday Bill Bechtold and Bill McDowall hold down the fort, Thursday Bill Winkler joins Bill Reid and Bill Ryan for his second shift of the week, and on Friday Bill Durant, Bill Kantonen, and Bill Lineberry are working hard to close out the week. All of these Bills are committed to building a better future, one day at a time.

When asked what they enjoy most about volunteering, here is what a few Bills had to say:

“I enjoy all aspects of volunteering -The work fits my desired activities and skill set; the other volunteers and staff are exactly the type of people I enjoy being around – the BEST! The satisfaction of contributing to the Asheville community is highly rewarding.” – Bill Winkler (Tuesday, Thursday)

“I enjoy most the camaraderie with my fellow volunteers and in helping people who are willing to try to improve their situation in life.” – Bill Durant (Friday)

Bill Durant

“Helping folks, camaraderie of the build teams, and learning how to build/repair things the right way. (Also the nutritious break time snacks.)” – Bill Reid (Thursday)

“Helping deserving people have a home of their own while working with great bunch of people. It has also been a great hands-on learning experience. Although I had done some construction work and have a General Contractors License, I was surprised at how little I really knew.”– Bill McDowall (Tuesday)

Bill McDowall

“There are multiple factors that I like about volunteering, foremost among these are:

  1. The efficiency of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Organization
  2. The professionalism of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff
  3. The camaraderie among Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers
  4. The opportunity to contribute to the local community in a meaningful way.” – Bill Bechtold (Tuesday)

Bill Bechtold

 

“What I like best is the combination of fun work that benefits the community and the opportunity to work with great future homeowners (super folks), great staff, and great volunteers. Making a difference.” – Bill Ryan (Thursday)

Bill Kantonen

You would never know that the Bills go unpaid at Habitat. They work with integrity and commitment, living out the mission of Habitat – bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. For them, it is about so much more than the lumber, nails, paint, and shingles that create a house – it is about the community, camaraderie, and sense of belonging that truly builds a home. Bill Bechtold captured perfectly the feeling of being one of the “Unpaid Bills.” He said, “Being an Unpaid Bill reminds me to feel grateful that I am healthy enough and fortunate enough to do something meaningful in the community for people who deserve a hand up.”

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is fortunate to have so many unpaid Bills who keep coming back week after week. They, like all of the core volunteers, take home their pay stubs in the form of muddy boots and strong friendships, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

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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.

Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project

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ASHEVILLE, NC – On Saturday August 25th team of 10- two construction staffers and eight volunteers- left for St. Joseph County, IN to participate in the 35th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. This entire week the team is working alongside former President and former First Lady Carter, future homeowners, and hundreds of other volunteers from Indiana and around the world to build or improve 38 homes in Mishawaka and South Bend.

This is the first year Asheville Habitat has sent a team to the Carter Work Build, a transformative and inspirational project to build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. The team will build a house for future homeowner Loretta Adams, a mother of two. For Asheville Construction Supervisor Kenny Busch and core volunteer Ralph Johnson, the chance to leave an impact on this community is particularly special. They’re returning home.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity and especially grateful to return to South Bend,” Johnson said. “Because I was born and raised there. My home is just a few blocks south of where we will be building.”

In 1984 the Carters led a Habitat for Humanity work group to New York, serving 19 families in need of safe, affordable housing. That was the inaugural Carter Work Project, which is now takes place every year in a different community around the world. The Carters have worked alongside over 100,000 volunteers in 14 countries to build decent and affordable shelter for all.

 

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When drug activity in her neighborhood led to increased violence, LaQuila Harris and her daughter began spending their days at work and school, and their evenings anywhere but at their apartment. It was exhausting and LaQuila knew they could not continue living like that.

Kedric Justice noticed increased drug activity and crime where he was living too. Having lost his own father to violence, he was painfully aware that crime wasn’t just something that happened to other people. And, his rent had sky-rocketed to $900/month.

Drug activity was on the rise where Staci Williams and her children were living too. And because it was an income-based apartment, she feared getting a raise at work.

Benitia Henson had to convert a closet under the stairs into a makeshift bedroom for her son.

A search for something better led all of these families to Habitat. Thank you for making the opportunity to purchase a safe, affordable Habitat house possible for local families. Together, we will empower 1,000 more families in the next decade to build better futures on safe, stable housing.

To view photos from the 4-house dedication, please click here.

Thank you to the businesses & individuals who sponsored these homes: Bank of America Merrill-Lynch, the coalition of local business that supported the Business Bungalow House, Eaton, Ernest & Shirley Ferguson, The Ferguson Family,  friends of Jerry and Lou Towson who sponsored a lot in their name, The Guthy Family, our Legacy Builders Society, Publix Supermarket Charities, The Pullium Foundation, and Wicked Weed.

 

 

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.

A Great Retirement Plan

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By Maria Angell

Volunteering with the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is great for retirees – like Lee Fadden and Jan Wright – who have, combined, nearly 50 years of volunteer experience with the ReStore!

Lee started volunteering with the Asheville ReStore in 1997 after she had retired from Eaton Corporation and decided to give her time to a worthy cause. She currently works in the ReStore’s housewares department where she cleans and prices items. Lee enjoys her volunteer position because of the people she works with and knowing that her “efforts will help to provide homes for those who would not be able to afford them without the help of Habitat.”

Jan’s volunteer work with the Asheville ReStore began nearly 28 years ago in 1990 after she retired from Mission Hospital.

“I began volunteering because I felt I needed and wanted to give back because I have been blessed in many ways. Habitat appealed to me because it was at that time a Christian organization based on biblical principles, helping to provide homes for people who, without their help, would never own their own home.”

Jan works alongside Lee in the housewares department. She enjoys getting to socialize with people who have the same goals. She too finds her volunteer work rewarding because she knows she is helping contribute to the funding Habitat needs to build homes. Volunteers help keep Habitat’s costs down, and proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat’s home building and home repair programs.

“I would recommend volunteering at Habitat. You have great people to work with and at the same time, you provide a needed service,” Jan concluded.

Thank you Lee and Jan for the combined 50 years of service you have given to the Asheville ReStore! We appreciate both of you and all of your hard work!

Interested in joining Habitat’s volunteer team? Click here to learn about opportunities.

 

A Strong Start for Women Build #13

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Women Build House #13 officially began construction April 17, and since then Asheville Habitat has seen numerous dedicated groups of sponsors out at the jobsite in Arden lending a hand. There may have been a lot of rain, but that didn’t put a damper on the volunteers or the house progress. Volunteers worked diligently, under the watchful eye of Construction Supervisor John Meadows, to build frames for the walls and raise them. Several Blueprint Sponsors were present at the jobsite- WomBATS kicked-off the build and this week the Fiji Hammerheads, Peggy Crowe Realtor, and the Wild Bodemas all spent a day working together on Ashley Blankenship‘s future home.

For the 11th year, Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s are engaging women nationwide to work together to build Habitat homes during this year’s National Women Build Week from May 5-13, 2018. On Friday, May 11th Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s hosted a special volunteer work day where Women Build and Lowe’s volunteers worked alongside future homeowner Ashley Blankenship on Women Build House #13 and then celebrated together with a potluck lunch and a home dedication. Renowned cookbook author and homesteader Ashley English of Small Measure joined and talked about the importance of community and home.

To see a WLOS clip, click here.

Click here to view a photo gallery from the event!

Community Connection

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By Maria Angell

Interested in volunteering? Then maybe the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is the place for you; as it is for Mark Carter.

Mark just started volunteering with us in January of this year and already loves the work he has done with the Asheville ReStore.

He started volunteering with Habitat because he wanted a way to connect with people locally and help a charity that offers long-term value to our community. He has past experience volunteering with the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry and the Western Carolina Rescue Ministries.

Mark operates the building supplies register at the front of the ReStore where he assists customers and fellow volunteers. He says he loves his position because it’s action-packed and a lot of fun; he particularly loves meeting the customers, hearing their stories, and the overall camaraderie of the Habitat team including fellow volunteers Laurie Vint, Andrew Simons, and Rhonda McKenna (pictured above).

Seeing customers leaving with items that they would not be able to afford without the ReStore, never fails to put a smile on Mark’s face. And knowing that he’s helping so many people, in and out of the store, have a better quality of life, is what Mark finds most rewarding about his volunteer work.

Mark highly recommends that anyone looking to serve the community should consider Habitat. “The culture is very positive, and they let you know you are appreciated. There are opportunities for every personality, and they are open to utilizing your individual talents. Working with an organization that requires recipients to take an active role is very rewarding.”

Thank you Mark for sharing your time with Asheville Habitat to ensure more families have safe, stable homes!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Asheville Habitat, click here.

 

 

Thank You March Madness Volunteers!

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As we near the end of this year’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity takes a look back to recognize all the amazing students and Collegiate Challenge groups who traveled to Asheville in March to volunteer with us. Students came from all over the country including the University of Florida, College of Charleston, University of Wisconsin, and Lesley University (Massachusetts).

Click this photo to view an album!

Students worked at the jobsite in Arden, alongside future homeowners and core volunteers. The highlight of the week is always a group dinner with a homeowner family. Lesley University students and future homeowner LaQuila Harris celebrated Pie Day on March with pizza and dessert pies!

“It’s amazing to see different people coming together, and see the students really learn and connect,” Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace recalled. “Core volunteers rallied together to get Biltmore Estate tickets for each group of students, going above and beyond to make the students’ experience in Asheville that much more memorable.”

Lesley University students with LaQuila Harris and her daughter in the ReStore.

Stephanie added, “The generosity around this particular month was really special.”

For many of the students, this experience is one they will never forget and leaves a lasting impact. Stephanie recalled Sofia Atzrodt, a University of Florida student, who began the week very timidly and lacking confidence in her building skills at the jobsite. Throughout the week, with mentorship from the construction staff, Sofia became empowered and really flourished.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a week long Habitat trip with eight strangers, but I have come out of it with close and meaningful friendships, a new sense of purpose, and a different perspective of the world,” Sofia remarked.

University of Florida student Ajay Patel offered this reflection: “The experience of building something for another human cannot be paralleled. These people blew us away with their hospitality, life knowledge, and especially warm hearts. If done correctly this experience should help restore your faith in humanity.”