Meet office volunteers Aaron Finkel and Steven Casciato
By Emily Davis
Every Thursday, rain or shine, a dynamic duo sets up shop at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office. Affectionately dubbed “The Boys,” Aaron Finkel (L) and Steven Casciato (R) are our exceedingly dedicated volunteers tasked with conquering piles of waivers and sign-in sheets – a task vital to the efficient operation of our large volunteer program.
Aaron is an old-hat at this work. He began volunteering in May of 2011, when his father Sid, a ReStore volunteer, encouraged him to tag along. Aaron quickly became an essential part of the team, and recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with the affiliate. For much of that time he singlehandedly processed all of the waivers required to safely facilitate volunteer work at both the ReStore and the Construction site. Aaron took this task on twice a week until, during a year when the department was short-staffed, he needed extra help.
Cue Steven. Steven joined Habitat as a volunteer in 2017. Our Construction Services Volunteer Manager, Stephanie Wallace, assigned Aaron to show Steven the ropes, and so their partnership began.
Steven, a former graphic designer, is semi-retired. He likes to stay active through his work, and hopes that in full retirement he can be a regular construction volunteer in addition to his office duties. “Assuming we don’t get replaced by iPads,” he jokes.
There is no danger of that, though. It is our volunteers and their dedication that drive Asheville Habitat’s mission. Jessica Auer, our AmeriCorps member in Volunteer Services, works closely with Steven and Aaron.
“For our volunteer program especially, data is both absolutely essential and the bane of our existence,” Jessica says. “Aaron and Steven are magicians with the database. They bring so much knowledge and care to making sure our data reflects the sweat and time our volunteers give to our mission.”
The enthusiasm they bring to the office is particularly valued by the team, Jessica says. “Thursday afternoons are so much livelier in the office and that’s because of them. They bring such an awesome energy and positivity that helps us all get through the Thursday doldrums.”
When Aaron is asked what he likes the most about this work, it’s an easy answer. “The people,” he says.
Steven agrees. They both enjoy the social aspect of the office, including the birthday celebrations and occasional parties. Aaron’s favorite memory at Habitat so far, he says, is attending the affiliate’s big 30th Anniversary party. He and another volunteer, both members of the Asheville Scrabble Club, got to play on a giant, hand-crafted Scrabble board that stole the show.
Aaron and Steven are both transplants to the Asheville area that have found a supportive community here. Aaron moved to town from Buffalo with his parents, who wanted to retire near his mother’s hometown of Bryson City. Steven, born and raised in Alaska, has lived in Asheville on and off since 2001.
When Steven returned to Asheville in 2017, he sought out volunteering, in part, as a way to process his grief. He had lost his wife, he says, and working at Habitat allowed him to stay productive and dedicate himself to an important cause. You don’t have to talk to Steven long to discover that his conviction in Habitat’s mission runs deep.
“Housing is a human right,” he says. “It really should be treated like that.”
Steven sees the work he and Aaron do as the best way that they can give back to the community.
“It’s the responsibility of everybody to contribute to their community in some way, and I can’t think of a better way than housing,” he says. “I mean, that is the single most important thing that you can have in your life, somewhere safe and warm and clean to stay.”
If you ever find yourself in our offices on a Thursday afternoon, you can find the dedicated duo making our work possible. Thank you, Aaron and Steve!