Working on a Dream

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by Jonathan Dermid

Some might consider “The American Dream” a bygone ambition, the idea of owning one’s own home a pipe dream. Thanks to perseverance, hard work, and a caring community, the Ender family will soon realize their dream and purchase a home of their own.

“The American dream is to have a house of your own. Over the years, and coming out of a place of poverty, to try to get to that has been a struggle,” Michelle Ender said. “We’ve moved from New Jersey to Leicester to Weaverville to West Asheville. Not because we couldn’t pay rent, but something would happen where the landlord would be selling the home or something like that.”

After hearing about Habitat’s homeownership program through their church, the Ender family began the application process and was absolutely thrilled to be approved. “We know it’s not a giveaway; we have to pay a mortgage and work (do sweat equity). But thank God the house will be in our name and Habitat makes it possible to have affordable housing,” noted Michelle.

More than anything, Michelle looks forward to the sense of permanence that her own home will provide.

“With the kids now, we’ve moved 6 times, so just having a place to call our own, to decorate on our own, is wonderful,” she said. “It’s a place to call home, a place the kids can come back to when they’re older.” Adequate space is also desired, as they currently live in an overcrowded situation. Their youngest child sleeps on the couch.

On their journey towards homeownership, they are spending a good bit of time at the ReStore earning sweat equity hours and getting to know volunteers. “Becoming a homeowner through Habitat also shows you what it’s like to volunteer here…everyone is so positive and nice and welcoming and they obviously care.”

Eric Ender, Michelle’s husband, a handyman by nature, has found a niche in the appliance and electronics repair area. One of their (3) children, Eric Jr, is also volunteering in the ReStore alongside his dad. Sharing a passion for music and the technology involved, the father-son duo was very excited to learn of a sweat equity opportunity in the repair area. Brian Haynes, a ReStore Assistant Manager, is equally excited. “This is a big help to the ReStore as electronics had been piling up because we did not have anyone to test them.”

In addition to volunteering at the ReStore, the Enders have spent many hours helping to build their home and the homes of their neighbors. Echoing his wife’s sentiments about the hard work that goes into Habitat homeownership, Eric Sr. adds “Habitat houses are built with love, and you can feel that.”

The Enders 4-bedroom/2-bath home in West Asheville is the 17th Interfaith House, sponsored by a diverse coalition of local faith congregations.

More Than Meets the Eye

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Thrivent Financial supports Habitat in many different ways.

 

It was still early morning on the jobsite, but I could feel that the day was going to be a hot one. There was a group of volunteers that had traveled from Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and New Jersey. There were some locals too. I could see three individuals high up on ladders, hammering down top plates across the tops of the interior walls of the newly-started Thrivent Builds house.

I snapped a few photos (the reason for my visit) and went inside the neighboring house, which already had a roof and drywall. There were a few people from the group, Thrivent Builds Worldwide, working on painting; another was learning how to install trim. “Hi, I’m Greta. I work for Habitat,” I say to the first stranger I see. She was a smiling blonde woman, seemingly happy to be here to help. I inquired about her name and how far she’d come. “Did you know that the house next door is the Thrivent Builds house?” she asked. Yes, I did. It was neat to see the pride in her face when she said it, though.

The Thrivent Builds Worldwide team takes a break for a group photo.

The Thrivent Builds Worldwide team takes a break for a group photo.

This group of 13 had been here in Asheville only one day, yet they were already so attached to the new Thrivent Builds Habitat house going up. That’s representative of the community of Thrivent Financial members. Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization. It’s the only Fortune 500 Company that is a not-for-profit—a unique kind, for that matter. It’s a fraternal benefit society which, by definition, requires Thrivent Financial to provide insurance to its members and carry out social, educational, and charitable purposes for the benefit of its members and the public.

Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity is a multi-year, multi-million dollar mission partnership between Thrivent Financial and Habitat for Humanity International. It’s the largest non-government partner and sponsor of Habitat for Humanity. Through that partnership, local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, like Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, can apply each year for funding from Thrivent Financial. This is the eighth year that Thrivent Financial has sponsored a Habitat house in Buncombe County – each time, donating 50% of the affiliate’s construction costs ($75, 693), which is 1½ times more than the designated full-house sponsor level. They also get local Lutheran churches involved in helping by providing funds and volunteers. That’s something to be proud of.

But there’s more. Thrivent Financial also pays a portion of the travel costs for its members to participate in Thrivent Builds Worldwide trips, like the one that has brought this group to our Asheville jobsite for the week. But, what if you’re too young to go on a trip, or to volunteer locally on the Thrivent Builds house? That doesn’t stop the local youth from the four Lutheran churches that also fundraise for this house: Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church of the Nativity, and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

Several years ago, the pastor at one of the churches came up with an idea to get their young people involved in the excitement of the Thrivent Builds House. He started Thrivent Youth Build. Each year, Asheville Area Habitat core volunteers, who are also Thrivent Financial members, devise a construction project appropriate for youth. They prepare the lumber, make the plans, and supervise the build, which takes place at one of the local Lutheran churches. Girls and boys come out to help build something useful for Habitat. One year they built dog houses that were sold in the Habitat ReStore; another year it was picnic tables for the jobsite volunteers to use during their breaks. Twice now they’ve built components like headers and ladders that will be incorporated into the Thrivent Builds House. It’s a great way to introduce youth to Habitat and get them thinking about volunteering and giving back.

The first wall of the 2015 Thrivent Builds House was raised in early June.

The first wall of the 2015 Thrivent Builds House was raised in early June.

It’s apparent that Thrivent Financial members are fired up about being a part of such a giving organization. In building the Habitat house, they are building a future for a family they may not even know, and they are also building community among themselves. The trip leader, Tim Bauer, summarized it well. “This type of trip has people working together, forming great friendships, and helping the community—it’s a great program.”

We think so too. Thanks, Thrivent Financial, for your continued support over the years.

ReStore Silent Auction Celebrates 10 Years & Another Home for a Local Family

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In May 2005, Habitat volunteer Alan Williams set up the very first ReStore Silent Auction. In the ten years since its inception, the auction has raised $670,000, grown to be an important part of the Asheville ReStore, and is now the envy of Habitat ReStores around the nation. Williams still manages the auction but today he has help from staff and other volunteers.

The auction, like the ReStore itself, provides funds for Habitat’s building programs. The ReStore Silent Auction House currently being built in West Asheville will become home to the Frisbee family this fall. At the close of the auction on May 27th, there was a small celebration with the Frisbee family. WLOS interviewed Williams and Deanna Frisbee, and ReStore customers and Habitat supporters had the opportunity to meet the Frisbee family and sign a guest book and a stud wall. The signed 2×4 studs will used in the construction of a Habitat house.

To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Silent Auction, Williams and a small team of staff and volunteers curated a collection of mid-century furniture including Norman Cherner molded plywood chairs, a set of six J.L. Moller Model chairs, a L. Jacobson Model table with 2 extending leaves, and other collectible items. The set of six J.L. Moller Model chairs went for more than $1,100 – still a bargain since they’ve sold recently on eBay for twice that amount. Plus, ReStore purchases help build Habitat homes, so it was a win-win.

“We thought a mid-century furniture focus would be fun for the 10th Anniversary auction because this design style is so hot right now,” said Susan Haynes, ReStore Sales Manager. “We feel extremely fortunate to have received these incredible donations and by including them in the special 10th Anniversary auction, we hope to generate some buzz in the ReStore, expand the community’s awareness of our Silent Auction, and help ensure that these special pieces end up in a home where they will be appreciated and loved for many years to come.”

The auction included many other non mid-century items too.

To see photos from the event, please click here.

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s teamed up for National Women Build Week

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On Friday, May 8th, local Women Build volunteers and Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers were among more than 20 volunteers who joined Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity to help build affordable housing in Asheville as part of National Women Build Week, May 2-10.

In recognition of National Women Build Week and in celebration of a well-loved Women Build volunteer, Habitat hosted a dedication ceremony mid-day in honor of Barbara Reynolds, a woman known by Habitat volunteers as the “Women Build Lunch Lady.” For many years, as a way to stay involved after aging out of swinging hammers, Barbara made lunch once a week for the Women Build volunteers, always with a secret ingredient, which she made them guess. Barbara died suddenly last year. To honor her, the Women Build Advocacy Team raised $10,000 for the “Barbara Reynolds Memorial Kitchen” with an online crowdfunding campaign and through memorial gifts given after Barbara’s death. After a potluck on the jobsite, an apron embroidered with the Women Build logo and “Barbara Reynolds Memorial Kitchen” was presented to Christina Demorgoli, the future homeowner of the Women Build House.

Demorgoli noted that although she never had the opportunity to meet Barbara, she felt a closeness with her because of all the love shared among the people that were present at the event and even those who loved Barbara but were not able to be there today. “All this love for Barbara will be felt in my new kitchen, in my new house,” she said.

In addition to the dedication of the kitchen, Lowe’s presented a $5,000 check to Asheville Area Habitat. Those funds will pay for materials used in the Women Build House.

To see photos from the event, click here.

National Women Build Week is a week-long event created by Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program that challenges women to devote at least one day to help build affordable housing in their local communities. Across the nation, more than 15,000 women volunteered at Habitat construction sites last week to spotlight the homeownership challenges faced by women.

Lowe’s helped launch National Women Build Week in 2008 and each year provides the support of Lowe’s Heroes and conducts how-to clinics at stores to teach volunteers construction skills. “National Women Build Week has made a difference in the lives of thousands of families since its inception,” said Joan Higginbotham, Lowe’s director of community relations. “We’re grateful to all the women in Asheville who got involved this week and were part of something bigger with Lowe’s and Habitat.”

Lowe’s donated nearly $2 million to this year’s National Women Build Week, including $5,000 to Asheville Area Habitat. National Women Build Week is one of the major initiatives supported through Lowe’s national partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Since 2003, Lowe’s has committed more than $63 million to Habitat and helped more than 4,000 families improve their living conditions.

Habitat’s Women Build program recruits, educates and inspires women to build and advocate for simple, decent and affordable homes in their communities. Since the program was created in 1998, more than 2,300 homes have been built in partnership with low-income families using Women Build crews. For more information on Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program and to learn about Women Build events in communities across the U.S. year-round, visit Habitat.org/wb or the Women Build tab on http://www.facebook.com/habitat.

 

Update on the Student Build House

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Our Sponsorship Coordinator, Betsy Warren, writes wonderful updates for our house sponsors. We just had to share her latest one to the sponsors for the Student Build House (students and faculty at Asheville Christian Academy, Carolina Day School and Christ School). It’s a great peek into the goings-on here at Habitat. Take a look!

Student Build Construction Update

Wicked Weed_4.29.15 (4)Have you been out to the Hudson Hills jobsite lately to check on the progress of the 2015 Student Build House? It’s looking great! The photograph to the right was taken last Wednesday, April 29. The group on the porch is from Wicked Weed, who made a Blueprint Sponsorship  donation towards the Student Build House, solicited by Carolina Day School.
Notice the railing lining the roof of the house in the picture. That’s a safety system called the “Hugs.” The orange pins are clamped to the entire perimeter of the roof; once those are in place, boards are threaded through to create a fence. The Hugs system prevents volunteers or construction staff from tumbling to the ground.
Construction sites can be dangerous — we’re proud that our jobsite crew does everything possible to make safety the top priority.

Trish Wolfe enrolled in Homebuyer Class

PF classTrish Wolfe, the Partner Family for the Student Build House, is hard at work on her 250 required hours of Sweat Equity. Besides visiting both Asheville Christian Academy and Carolina Day School to meet and speak to students, she is currently enrolled in Habitat’s 50-hour Homebuyer Class. In those classes, Trish and other future Habitat homeowners will dissect and analyze the closing process and mortgage documents, as well as study such things as budgeting and basic home maintenance.
Last month, the Homebuyer class welcomed guest presenters from the Fire Department, where the topic was fire prevention and safety. That’s Trish on the far right, concentrating hard on the presentation.
In future classes, Habitat board member Skip Helms and volunteer attorney Brattan Gelder will teach Trish and the other Partner Families about asset protection, retirement planning, saving for education, health care directives, and simple wills. It’s no wonder our Partner Families are so well-prepared for homeownership and for the future by closing time!

Aerial View of Hudson Hills

HH-aerial_4.28.15 (3)Check out this aerial view of Hudson Hills, taken by a high-flying volunteer just this past week. That’s the Student Build House second from the left — look closely and you can tell the roof was in progress when the picture was taken. If you zoom in, you might see the faint outlines of the Hugs system lining the Student Build roof.
New homes are just beginning on both sides of the Student Build House — the house on the left has its first wall in place; the one on the right is just a foundation. Hudson Hills is a busy place! Come out when you can — you’ll be amazed at how the neighborhood has changed and grown since our kick-off celebration at the end of March.

See you on the jobsite!

Betsy

Celebrating National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 12-18) with a very special house dedication and more

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Volunteers support Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff and homeowner families in every aspect of their work. Last year, 2,100 volunteers contributed more than 64,000 hours of service – a service valued at more than $1.3 million!* Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 30 full-time staff members!

As Executive Director Lew Kraus often says, “We can have all the money in the world, but without volunteers, the Habitat model doesn’t work. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization.” And what better way to honor them, than to build a house in their honor.

That house was started last fall and is known as the Hearts & Hammers House; built in celebration of all Habitat volunteers who make safe, decent, affordable homeownership a reality for local families. On Friday, April 17th at 12:30pm, Habitat will dedicate the Hearts & Hammers House and present a ceremonial key to future homeowner Gwen Jones and her family. The event will be held in Habitat’s Hudson Hills neighborhood in West Asheville and the public and media are invited to attend.

Habitat announced the idea for a house honoring volunteers last fall and the community responded swiftly to a $30,000 challenge match by generous sponsors New Morning Gallery and the local branches of BB&T, Carolina Alliance Bank, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo.  During the past six months core volunteers and visiting team alike, were busy building the Jones’ future home and Gwen herself contributed 200 Sweat Equity (volunteer) hours on the jobsite, in the ReStore and Office and in homeownership education classes as part of her partnership with Habitat. She is absolutely thrilled to soon move into her forever home. In fact, Habitat staffers heard her shrills of delight just the other day when Gwen received the good news that her closing would happen even earlier than anticipated!

During National Volunteer Appreciation Week, volunteers will receive small gifts of appreciation as well as complimentary lunch. On the construction site, lunches will be provided by Subway for the second year in a row. Subway will be saluting approximately 2,000 Habitat for Humanity volunteers working across the Carolinas by providing catered boxed lunches from local Subway franchises.

We hope you’ll join us on Friday, April 17 at 12:30pm to celebrate our volunteers and welcome the Jones family home!

 

Jobsites Heat up for March Madness

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March Madness is here, but for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that means an influx of volunteer groups spending their spring break volunteering rather than heating up the basketball courts. The groups come from all over the country and bring with them volunteers, funds, and a surge of energy that matches any overtime game.

“The students bring a lot of enthusiasm to the jobsite. You can see them go through a transformation over the week that shows it truly is a life-changing experience for many of them,” says Charlie Franck, core volunteer with Asheville Area Habitat.

Most groups will work mainly on Habitat’s construction site in West Asheville, but some will also try their hand in the Habitat ReStore and on Habitat’s Home Repair sites. This year brings a mix of Collegiate Challenge and Global Village groups, comprised of college students and one national IT business. The groups are housed at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, allowing them to enjoy the beauty of the mountains with access to hiking trails nearby. Each group will participate in a dinner with Habitat partner families who are in-process, allowing the volunteers an opportunity to get to know the people they are helping through their volunteer labor.

Visiting groups in March are:

Week One (March 2-6): Wilkes University (Pennsylvania), pictured above and in this Flickr album

Week Two (March 9-13): Heartland Technology Group (IT Company)

Week Three (March 16-20): Lesley University (Massachusetts); Ramapo College of New Jersey (½ week with Habitat, ½ week with other non-profits)

Week Four (March 23-27): University of Missouri

Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace noted, “We are thrilled to welcome both new and repeat groups this year. Wilkes, Heartland Technology and University of Missouri are joining us for the first time, while Lesley and Ramapo are returning for the 4th time!”

Core Construction Volunteers Honored

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“Core” Construction volunteers are those who help Habitat build and repair homes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Last year, these core volunteers helped Asheville Area Habitat build 14 new Habitat houses in Swannanoa, Shiloh and West Asheville. They also repaired 33 existing homes in Buncombe County. We thanked and recognized them with a breakfast event at Warren Wilson College recently. Click here to see photos.

“While these folks don’t volunteer for the recognition or the accolades, we feel it’s important to thank them and honor the immense contribution they make to our organization and the community at large. Without volunteers – especially the cores who we can count on week after week – we would not be able to build and preserve communities,” notes executive director Lew Kraus.

In 2014, 74 core construction volunteers collectively contributed more than 16,000 hours of service to Asheville Area Habitat! To put that in perspective, 1,700 individuals volunteered on a construction site last year, collectively providing a whopping 35,000 hours of service! 46% of those total hours (16,000 hours) were completed by just 74 individuals – the “core” volunteers!

Among this core group, were 10 individuals who contributed more than 300 hours and one who topped the scale at more than 600 hours! Habitat congratulated and thanked:

Top Ten Hours volunteers

CJ Obara – 640 hours
Dick Allen – 622
Ken Clark – 454
Bob Laveck – 424
Jerry Ray – 407
Bill Reid – 343
Ray Ducharme – 321
Kevin Cox – 316
Ross Akin – 315
Paul Finegan – 309

In total, 32 core construction volunteers were recognized for contributing more than 250 hours of service last year, each receiving a golden hammer to signify the milestone.

Habitat also recognized those who hit significant longevity milestones. The honorees were:

10 Year Award – Alan Lang and CJ Obara
15 Year Award – Ted Faber and Cliff Joslin (pictured

In addition to Construction volunteers, Habitat utilizes volunteers in the ReStore, administrative office and on committees. These volunteers are recognized in separate appreciate events. Collectively and across the entire organization, nearly 2,100 volunteers contribute more than 64,000 hours to Asheville Area Habitat in 2014.

With a volunteer hour valued by Independent Sector at more $21/hour, this equates to a “gift” of more than $1.3million. Volunteer labor helps keep construction costs low and houses therefore affordable to the families who purchase them (from Habitat). Kraus added, “The Habitat model only works with a strong volunteer component. We cannot overstate the value of volunteers to our organization”.

Students Leading the Charge to House Sponsorship

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Students from Asheville Christian Academy, Carolina Day School, and Christ School are already well on their way to making the second Habitat Student Build House in Buncombe County a reality. These schools have committed to jointly raise the $55,000 it takes to fully sponsor an Asheville Area Habitat house and provide student volunteers (ages 16 and up) and adult chaperones to help build the house. Each school will raise $18,333. Construction on the house is slated to begin March 24th, with the first wall to be raised three days later.

Reaching such a lofty goal takes leadership. The schools have formed a Student Advisory Committee with students from each school who stepped forward to take on the task of leading the charge. The group met last fall in a preliminary Student Build Workshop, and recently met again for their second workshop at the Habitat office this past Saturday, January 24th.

13 high school student-leaders and a faculty member from each school spent Saturday morning with Habitat core volunteers and staff preparing and learning. They toured the ReStore, learned how to effectively recruit and schedule volunteers for the Student Build House, and were trained on how to use an online crowdsourcing campaign to raise money. They reported on what they had already done to raise money (as a total, they are already 63% to their goal!), and discussed what worked and what didn’t. Plans were also made to prepare for the 2016 Student Build House!

The icing on the cake that day was the presentation of a $4,000 check from State Farm. Proof that they had already come far since the first workshop, this check was the result of a grant proposal the students penned and submitted together. It’s amazing what a group of motivated young people can accomplish with a little bit of guidance and a whole lot of heart!

Habitat Celebrates Completion of 9th “Women Build” Home

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On Friday, August 22nd at 3:30pm in Swannanoa, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity will hold a key presentation ceremony to celebrate the completion of its 9th Women Build home and the beginning of the Stynka family’s new future. With Women Build as the sponsor, the majority of the home was built by women from all walks of life—from college-aged volunteers to retirees.

Andrei and Rodika Stynka, the partner family, are scheduled to officially close on the home the following week. After putting in 400 hours of “sweat equity” at Habitat’s jobsites, ReStore, and in homeownership preparation classes the family will become legal Habitat homeowners with an affordable 0% interest mortgage. With their two young children they will start a new life in a community surrounded by Habitat neighbors they met during their sweat equity process.

Women Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. The purpose of Women Build is not to exclude men, but to focus on including women in the home building process. The house is mostly built by female volunteers and construction supervisors. A team of women comprise the Women Build advocacy team (WOMbats), and the major sponsors are predominantly female. Major sponsors for this particular Women Build house are: Global Village Teams in Support of Women Build, Minigowin Fund, Publix Super Markets Charities, and “The Three Marthas”. Lowe’s is the national underwriter of the Women Build program. Additionally, the WOMbats raised money using an online crowd-sourcing platform.

This year, the WOMbats focused on a “recipe” theme. Event attendees are encouraged to bring a favorite hand-written recipe which will be included in an album and presented as a gift to the family. The recipe theme represents the many “ingredients” which are needed to build the home: community support, donors, volunteers, building materials, and a partner family. A recipe for success!