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!

Building in Honor of Pope Francis

This May, we began construction on The Pope Francis House, the first Habitat house in the nation built in honor of the beloved leader. This house is fully (financially) sponsored by an anonymous donor; local Catholic churches will take the lead in volunteer recruitment. Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers, local and non-local groups, will be invited to participate in the build. This house will become home to the Meadows family.

The Pope Francis House broke ground on May 13th and we raised the first wall on May 21.

To see photos from the wall raising, click here. To see the news coverage on WLOS, click here.

The purpose of this house is threefold:

• To honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church;
• To provide a unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work together towards a common goal (as Pope Francis says, “Work confers dignity.”); and
• To further Habitat’s mission of building and preserving homes.

Being built on an infill lot on Jeffress Avenue in Shiloh, the Pope Francis House is just around the corner from the Shiloh Community Garden, where Habitat helped build a garden shed and raised beds in 2013. Habitat also completed a number of Home Repair projects in the Shiloh community in the last few years and starting in 2016, ten new Habitat houses will be built just up the road off Taft Avenue.

“It is our hope, and that of the donor, that this project will serve as a model for other Habitat affiliates to partner with local Catholic churches and build in honor of Pope Francis,” said Lew Kraus, Executive Director of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Interested in bringing a group to volunteer on this house? Please contact Stephanie.