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!

 

 

 

Kaaren and Lynn: A Meaningful Connection

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By Marty Steinberg

“The art wall is the first thing you see when walking into the upper showroom and Lynn and Kaaren keep it looking amazing,” according to ReStore Upper Showroom Assistant Manager Brian Haynes.

The proof is in the pictures. Or the paintings, or the movie posters or the occasional metallic wall sculpture. If it’s hanging on the ReStore art wall, ReStore volunteers Kaaren McNulty and Lynn Kirby probably put it there.

“I was looking for something meaningful to do so I offered to help with the art wall,” said McNulty, a longtime ReStore volunteer and an artist who also donates original paintings to be sold at the ReStore. “This is my first volunteer job and I love it. I feel a connection to the people I work with.”

Kirby, a glass artist, says she has made lasting friendships by volunteering at the ReStore. “I look forward to coming in to meet people and do something meaningful that helps the community.”

They both have personalized aprons that were embroidered by Kirby to wear for their volunteer shifts. Both women also have suffered a recent loss and they say that volunteering at the ReStore helps them personally.

McNulty, originally from Detroit, worked as a corporate meeting planner in Atlanta before retiring to Western North Carolina with her husband. “He died a year ago and volunteering at the ReStore has been even more helpful to me since that happened,” McNulty said.

Kirby, who spent a 20-year career with IBM, is from upstate New York and received a job transfer to Texas where she lived with her husband before they lost everything in their home to a wildfire. “We heard about Asheville and I came out in 2012 with my husband, three dogs and a cat,” she said.

Both volunteers agree that ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin helps make volunteering at the ReStore a positive experience. “Being on a set schedule helps as well because you know when you’re expected and you can plan around it,” said Kirby. Both women generally put in two four-hour shifts each week.

They both enjoy engaging with shoppers, staff, and other volunteers when they work behind the counter, after the art wall has been neatened and replenished.

“When you talk with someone who is doing sweat equity and they tell you what a difference a new home will make for their family, it’s incredible.” Kirby said. “And what a blessing it is to hear that people will be able to stay in their homes because of Habitat’s home repair program.” added McNulty.

For now, both of them plan to continue “hanging” around the ReStore.

 

If you’re interested in volunteering at the ReStore, please email Carrie Burgin.

 

Bernie Koesters: Making an Impact Locally and Globally

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By Ariane Kjellquist

From rehabbing a 100+ year old house in Portugal and installing smokeless stoves in Guatemala, to teaching woodworking to “street kids” in Bolivia and building Habitat homes here in Asheville, Bernie Koesters (pictured above with his wife Sue) is driven by the belief that “we need to give back, especially those of us that have more. We have an obligation to give back.”

Sue shares the same sentiment. She went back to school to get a nursing degree with the desire to work in under-served rural communities. It was that desire that took the couple to Bolivia for a 7-month stint. In addition to teaching street kids there woodworking skills, Bernie designed and built safety guards for existing equipment and helped refurbish used tools purchased with a grant.

When you hear Bernie talk about the work he does with Habitat and other non-profits, you might assume, as I did, that he is a retired engineer. Many Habitat volunteers are. Instead, his upbringing is what taught this retired CPA the skills he uses to give back. Raised one of seven on a farm in Ohio, he and his siblings learned to repair and rebuild farm equipment in the off-season. “We didn’t have a lot of money, so we needed to make things last.”

A seasoned Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip participant (in fact, he and Sue were just in Guatemala this month), Bernie has seen first-hand the impact that safe, decent and affordable housing has on families globally and locally.

“What I saw making the biggest impact on families in Guatemala was water filters and smokeless stoves. The stoves free families from respiratory illness and they see a healthier future for themselves and their kids.”

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala reports that 52% of Guatemalans have respiratory illness and 95% of water is contaminated. Asheville Habitat staffer and Global Village trip leader Joel Johnson added, “The cost of a smokeless stove is only $100 USD, but it will change the lives of Guatemalan women and children dramatically. Most have severe respiratory illness because they are not cooking or heating with proper ventilation.” A water filter costs a mere $35, makes water potable and significantly reduces water-borne illness.

Excited by the prospect of a healthier future and per the Habitat model, Guatemalan homeowners contribute “sweat equity”. This primarily happens before out-of-town work teams arrive. Using pre-made forms, families press adobe blocks that the volunteers later use to build smokeless stoves.

team at dinner in guatemala

“I really enjoy meeting people and realizing that no matter where you are, others are just like us– just trying to make it, day in and day out. Everyone is just trying to move to a level that is about more than just surviving; into a different position of living.”

Bernie also mentioned another highlight: lunch with the mothers and children (fathers are usually off working). “Language never seems to be a barrier. A lot can be communicated with hand signals, a friendly face or a smile.”

DYK? Asheville Habitat has been “following our tithe” to Guatemala for many years now and we are one of 77 Habitat affiliates engaged in the Global Village program.

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing, Singing and Celebrating Women Build

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By Sydney Monshaw

Third Annual Rock the House: A Downtown Event to Celebrate Women, Construction, and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity       

Tuton Hall at Trinity Episcopal Church certainly was rockin’ on Saturday, March 23rd in celebration of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s 14th Women Build House! In it’s third year, Rock The House provided a great opportunity to dance, sing, donate, and celebrate. This year’s Women Build House, of which the footers were poured last month, is financially supported thanks to this event and many generous sponsors and donors— and that is truly something to sing about!

For the last three years, the WomBATs (Women Build Advocacy Team) have thrown this event full of joy and love to fundraise for the Women Build House and celebrate the future homebuyer. There is live music provided by The Flashbacks, a group whose repertoire includes all of the fun classics that get folks out on the dance floor within the first few bars. There is delicious food, catered by Habitat’s own Alice Donnelly, which this year featured an antipasto bar, pulled pork sandwiches, and drool-worthy veggie sliders. And, two free drinks are provided thanks to generously donated wine from The Biltmore Company and beer from Catawba Brewing Co.

When the music starts, energy of fellowship and generosity fills Rock the House, in whatever space it’s in, to every nook and cranny. No matter where the event takes place – the warehouse at the Habitat office in 2017, The Crest Center in 2018, or Tuton Hall this year – the fun and excitement are rockin’ and the gifts for the Women Build House are incredible. This year the WomBATs calculated nearly $7,000 in donations from the one night event. With just over one hundred attendees, this number proves the generosity of those involved. With those contributions, the 2019 Women Build House is now within $10,000 of being fully funded. If you would like to help get us to the finish line, please click here to donate now.

This year’s build will officially begin on Tuesday, May 7th , with the construction of a townhome in our Curry Court neighborhood in Candler! This is a fantastic opportunity for new volunteers, especially women, to feel empowered on a construction site and supported in learning a host of useful skills. If you enjoyed Rock the House and the energy of the WomBATs, you will love building alongside them and the incredible staff at Habitat.

Click here to see a few photos from the event.

To stay up to date on Women Build and Asheville Habitat in general, be sure to follow us on facebook and Instagram, check out website regularly, and subscribe to our e-newsletters. Thank you!

Businesses That Build Homes and Communities

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By Zoe Trout & Beth Russo

We love our business community!

Local businesses know that our entire community is stronger when residents – and employees – have decent and affordable housing. We see this throughout the year at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, but never more so than when building the Business Bungalow.

The fourth Business Bungalow started construction last week, and is a house sponsored by local companies of all sizes. Longtime supporters Eaton Corporation launched this year’s Business Bungalow with a $20,000 challenge gift. In their 11th year of sponsorship, Eaton made this gift and encouraged other businesses to get involved at any level. Business Bungalow 4 has raised more than $52,000 so far, with over 40 businesses participating!

This house sponsorship includes all size businesses (from very small to very large), who band together to help build an affordable, energy efficient home. Restaurants like Copper Crown give a percentage of their proceeds from one evening of sales, while Rezaz is running specials throughout the month of March to support this build.

Other companies, like Blue Ridge Orthodontics, use their sponsorship support to bring their employees from the office out to a Habitat jobsite to share a team building experience volunteering to build this house.

The financial support that local businesses provide – whether as a Housing Champion, Blueprint Sponsor or at a higher level – helps make Habitat homes affordable. Every dollar adds up to an affordable Green Built home that a deserving family will purchase. Asheville Habitat is proud to collaborate with so many local businesses to make affordable homeownership within reach for more local families. Click here to see all of our wonderful sponsors! We are especially excited that this year’s Business Bungalow is the first townhome built in our 36-year history. Now offering a mix of housing types, this is another way Habitat is working to create even more affordable homeownership opportunities for folks that live and work in Buncombe County.

If you are interested in joining this diverse group of businesses please contact Beth Russo at brusso@ashevillehabitat.org for more information. Thank you!

AmeriCorps Get Things Done

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By Maddy Alewine  It’s hard to put into a nice, neat paragraph how AmeriCorps impacts Asheville Habitat and in turn, the community. This year’s five AmeriCorps- Sydney, Billy, Nora, Kaitlyn, and Mackenzie- started their year with us jumping in head first, taking on each new challenge with gusto and passion.

A Million Dollar Idea

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By Ariane Kjellquist

The upper level of Asheville Habitat’s ReStore is regularly abuzz every other Wednesday around 2pm when the bi-monthly Silent Auction closes. But the level of excitement will be anything but typical on March 20th, when auction proceeds reach the $1M mark!

Call it “a million dollar idea” by retired teacher, self-proclaimed antiques freak, and ReStore volunteer Alan Williams (pictured above with Ann Justice) who was inspired by the TV program Antiques Roadshow. He recognized that some of the items donated to the ReStore held significant value to the right buyer. A Silent Auction, he believed, could help the ReStore raise more money for Asheville Habitat’s programs.

Williams has been spearheading the curation of each auction (there have been 278) since its May 18, 2005 inception. From rare items and collectible memorabilia to local art and handmade crafts, the auction has featured a cross-section of American history and pop culture. Each auction contains, on average, 65-70 items. Some, no one can even identify!

The most unique auction by most accounts was the Grove Park Inn auction, held in celebration of Asheville Habitat’s 30th Anniversary in 2013. All of the items were donated by the Grove Park Inn and included: purple velvet loungers, “car” couches, copper wall lights, a player piano, mannequins and dress forms, many whimsical floor and table lamps, leather club chairs, arts & craft-style furniture and more. It raised more than $13,000!

While staff readily embraced the Silent Auction concept from the start, they never anticipated its impact. “We never could have foreseen what Alan would build these past 13 years, or that it would gain such a loyal following from community members,” remarked ReStore Assistant Manager Susan Haynes who supports Alan and the auction volunteer crew, which includes Anne Justice and Rob Carroll. Donation processing staff and volunteers also help by keeping an eye out for items they think Alan may want to consider for the auction.

On Wednesday, March 20th at 1pm, guests will gather in the upper showroom of the ReStore to celebrate the auction’s $1 million milestone, recognize Alan Williams, and present ceremonial keys to Habitat’s newest homeowner, Courtney Hoglen. 

Silent Auction proceeds, like all ReStore proceeds, help fund Asheville Habitat’s affordable home building and home repair programs.

What time is it? It’s Women Build time!

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By Betsy Warren
Question: What time is it when power tools, social justice, hands-on activism, dancing, laughing, learning, and hundreds of Buncombe County women come together?Answer: It’s time for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s WOMEN BUILD!!!

Bucking the National Trend

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By Ariane Kjellquist

Women in Construction. While it is no longer an anomaly, it is far from the norm. According to the National Home Builders Association, “the share of women in the construction industry is currently at 9 percent, although women make up almost half—47 percent—of the total working population.”

Bucking this national trend is Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity where women make up more than 50% of the organization’s Construction staff, the Construction Manager is a woman, and women work in diverse Construction positions including new construction, home repair, volunteer coordination, and construction administration. Furthermore, an annual Women Build led by a team of volunteers affectionately known as the “WomBATs” (Women Build Advocacy Team) recruits hundreds of female volunteers to help build—and raises $55,000 to build the house. Construction will begin on Asheville Habitat’s 14th Women Build House on May 7.

Asheville Habitat also has a number of women “core” construction volunteers, those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. One such volunteer is Melissa Banks, who brought a team of volunteers to Asheville in 2016 to work on the Women Build House, and soon thereafter relocated to Asheville. She is now a core construction volunteer, a “WomBAT”, a member of both the Global Engagement Committee and Community Engagement Committee, a Global Village Trip leader, weekly ReStore volunteer, donor and advocate!

On the staffing side, Construction Manager Robin Clark previously owned her own construction company, and worked with Asheville Habitat as a sub-contractor during the annual Women Build. She joined Asheville Habitat as a full-time staffer in 2010, and was promoted to manager in 2016.

AmeriCorps members are invaluable, especially to the Home Repair program. Second year AmeriCorps member Sydney Monshaw and first year member Nora Gilmer, both “WomBATs”, work on “Aging in Place”, a subset of the Home Repair program. The work is often anything but glamorous, but its importance is paramount enabling elders to stay in their own homes longer and live more safely and comfortably as they age. Sydney stated, “I love being a woman in construction and especially as part of a team like ours. These women – employees, volunteers, and WomBATs- are forces to be reckoned with, and it fills me up with strength and hope to fight for affordable housing alongside them!”

Asheville Habitat’s executive director Andy Barnett added, “Women bear the brunt of our housing crisis. I am proud that at Habitat women lead in the solutions, from the construction site to the board room. I hope our story of gender equity in the construction industry inspires others, locally and nationally.”

See/hear this story in the press!
Mountain Xpress
the828.com
Biltmore Beacon
Capital at Play
AVL Today (DYK)
ashevillefm (March 6, Slumber Party)

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.