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!

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 constributions, 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.

To see a few photos from the event, click here.

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!

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)

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!

Local Realtors Continue to Support Affordable Housing

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Candy Whitt holds up a piece of siding while it’s nailed into place Aug. 8 at Women Build House #12 in Arden.

Just about everyone in Asheville knows how serious of a problem affordable housing is, but probably no one understands it better than our local realtors. For the month of August volunteers from Town and Mountain Realty, Candy Whitt and Associates, and Peggy Crowe Realtor, Coldwell Banker King came out to lend a hand with our new home construction at our Shiloh and Arden job sites. In addition to volunteering, these three realty firms are also proud Blueprint Sponsors ($1,000 +)!

“It’s important for local realtors to get involved with Habitat because we make a living off of housing. These (Habitat homeowner) families are so important; they are the heart of our community. Without Asheville Habitat, they would not be buying because Asheville’s affordable housing market is woefully pitiful,” Candy Whitt, of Candy Whitt and Associates said.

For Peggy Crowe, Habitat’s mission is one that resonates with her deeply and even affects the way she does business. For every sale, she donates a portion of that to Asheville Habitat’s Women Build House! In addition, Crowe is in her third year as a Blueprint Sponsor.

Town and Mountain Realty at the McKinley job site in Shiloh.

Also in August, was the closing of a Habitat home sponsored by the Rusty Pulliam Foundation and the Land of Sky Association of Realtors, located in Shiloh’s McKinley neighborhood. For $40 more a month than the Fulga-Caburgan family paid for rent, they purchased this four-bedroom/two-bath home allowing their three boys and two-month old girl space to live and thrive!

These agencies are just a few of many local realtors that volunteer time, funds, or both throughout the years to support Asheville Habitat. With each dollar donated and volunteer hour contributed, our local realtors are making a lasting impact on affordable housing around Buncombe County and Asheville. We feel proud to know that those selling homes here believe in our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Thank you!

Volunteers from Peggy Crowe’s team at the Arden job site this month.

From Trip Participant to Trip Leader

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By Madeline McIntyre

This week, we are saying thanks to Melissa Banks (pictured center in green shirt, and L and R), who recently led a Global Village (GV) trip to Asheville as a part of Habitat for Humanity International’s National Women Build Week. Melissa had already participated in four Global Village trips when she decided to become a trip leader. Lucky for us, her first trip in the leadership position, was to Asheville.

Melissa is from Maryland, where she had previously been involved with her local affiliate’s Women Build (WB) House. She volunteered on the WB House there, but that wasn’t quite enough for Melissa. So, when she was asked to lead a Women Build GV trip, she jumped at the opportunity. “It was nice having a group of women working together,” she said. “You know, women power!”

Global Village trips are the definition of a working vacation. The groups spend their days volunteering on the job site, and they have evenings to explore all the area has to offer. But you can’t just show up and expect a spot on these trips. Those interested must apply and be able to secure funding to cover expenses and a donation towards the house in which they will be pouring hours of work and sweat. “That’s always amazing to me,” Melissa said of the Global Village model. “People are willing to spend money to come and work incredibly hard. And it’s so worth it.”

Since the trip centered on Women Build, there was an incredibly high number of female applicants. Out of 30 applications, only 5 were from males. She credits this to the comfortable environment that Women Build offers, especially for those who are not experienced in construction. Women Build is a great way to learn new skills, or hone existing ones.

“I was really surprised that quite a few members of my team were between age 20 and 30,” Melissa said. “It was wonderful to see so many young women taking an interest in being on a job site!”

When asked the best way to describe the unique experience of Women Build, she could only come up with two words: generosity and compassion. “I keep using generosity and compassion, but those are the two words that kept coming up for me all week long,” Melissa said. “It was just incredible.”

That generosity and compassion created a camaraderie that bound her team together. “It was such a full commitment,” Melissa says of her group. “We came as strangers that first day, and by the last day, we were a family. Everyone just bonded together.”

Her team has already stated that they want to follow Melissa wherever she goes next, and that enthusiasm has her considering leading another Women Build trip. “I would like to see Global Village put more focus on Women Build and build it up more,” Melissa said. “It’s such an awesome experience, and I think getting it out more to the public and having people better understand it, would be great.”

Melissa didn’t immediately head back home though, and she continues to practice generosity and compassion by volunteering at the Women Build House during her extended stay in Asheville.

Melissa, Thank You for your leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to Habitat for Humanity, in Buncombe County and around the world!

If you are interested in learning more about Women Build, please visit our WB blog.

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.

 

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!