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Garland Walker Helps Habitat Meet Growing Community Need

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By Sydney Monshaw

Every Wednesday, the Home Repair team knows that rain or shine, Garland Walker (pictured above, R) will arrive at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office ready to spend the day serving the families of Buncombe County. Along with his coffee mug and lunchbox, Garland brings with him a steadfast commitment to building strength, stability and self-reliance. For 5 years, this Core Volunteer has spent every Wednesday helping to provide Home Repair clients with affordable solutions allowing them to remain safely in their homes. The Home Repair operations would not be the same without Garland, the repair team’s first Core Volunteer.

Garland and his wife Ellen moved to Asheville in 2013 from Juneau, Alaska where he worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Throughout his career, Garland worked as an attorney in varied capacities from the military to private practice, finally spending the most time managing federal fisheries with NOAA in the North Pacific. When he arrived in Asheville as a recent retiree, Garland was eager to find volunteer opportunities that would be enjoyable and would show a visible difference in his community. That’s when he found Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Initially, Garland volunteered building new homes, and on his third volunteer day, he was assigned to work with Joel Johnson (pictured above, L) in Home Repair. He found that he really enjoyed this aspect of Habitat’s efforts. Garland’s volunteer day has always been Wednesday and often it was just he and Joel working on projects for Home Repair clients.

The thing that Garland values most about working on the Home Repair team is its mission. “Home Repair clients are generally older and economically challenged. Home Repair is a “home saver” because it allows them to maintain and improve their homes either at a small fraction of the local market cost or sometimes at no cost. Their gratitude for our work is infectious. I go home each Wednesday grateful for the contributions I made and more conscious of the many personal blessings I have.”

Garland has also built lasting relationships with the Home Repair staff that he not only views as team mates, but as friends. Every Wednesday he faces new challenges that require varied problem-solving skills and he enjoys the fact that no two projects are the same. He is excited to learn new skills that he can use on his own home, too.

Garland recently received his golden hammer pin in recognition of 5 years of volunteer service. He is proud of this but views the accomplishment as a testament to the people, environment, and mission of Habitat that makes volunteers like him so willing to support the organization with their time, talent and financial means.

Over the last five years, Garland has seen many changes on the Home Repair front.

“I’m glad to note the recent ramping up of Home Repair staffing and funding. For this, I credit the excellent leadership of Joel, now the Home Repair Manager, along with the support of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. While building new homes is incredibly important and an original core mission of Habitat, the need for home repair assistance among the elderly and economically disadvantaged is steadily growing in this area. Despite the great work of the Home Repair team, there still aren’t enough local resources to meet the growing demand for this type of service.”

Garland recognizes the value of his volunteer work in the larger picture of the Home Repair program. As this arm of Habitat service grows, Home Repair is in need of more volunteers they can count on every week. To learn more about volunteering with Home Repair, click here, and if you are able, consider committing one day a week as a Core Volunteer. The Habitat team is grateful for all of the volunteers, like Garland, who help to bring the growing vision of the Home Repair program, and Asheville Habitat, to life.

 

 

 

 

AmeriCorps Member Reflects on a Special Day

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The Most “Habitat” Day

By Sydney Monshaw (pictured center and top far R)

Towards the end of October I experienced a day so quintessentially “Habitat” it was almost unreal. As an AmeriCorps member serving with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity on the Home Repair team, my days are fairly similar. Our small team works all over Buncombe County repairing everything from porches to roofs, and everything in between. On this particular fall day, however, my day started at a local attorney’s office and ended at a Habitat neighborhood of 10 new homes. On that singular day, I attended a closing with a new homeowner in the morning, worked on a Home Repair project down the road from Habitat’s newest neighborhood, and attended a 4-house dedication event in that same community later that afternoon.

I had never been to a house closing before and was not entirely sure what to expect. What struck me most was the palpable joy in the room as the mortgage details were explained, documents were signed, and a young couple became homeowners for the first time. These two were so proud of all of their hard work, and rightfully so! Not only had they physically contributed to the construction of their new home, they had also completed a full series of homeowner education classes. They were set to move into their new space that afternoon and were eager to get I’s dotted and T’s crossed so that they could get back to packing and moving. This couple has three small children who were also excited to help their parents move all of their belongings, pick out their rooms, and turn their new house into a home.

After the closing, I changed into my painting pants and work boots and jumped in our van to meet volunteers on our Home Repair job site. Our job that week was working on the home of the President of the Shiloh Community Association, scraping and repainting the exterior of her house. She is 80 years old and one of the busiest ladies I have ever met! She volunteers for a local radio station, goes on senior trips to explore nearby cities, and works tirelessly for the Shiloh community where she has lived for more than 50 years. It was great to be able to help her, and I could swear that on this day I saw the fresh coat of paint sparkle a little bit in the afternoon sun. Maybe it was just wet paint, but based on the way the whole day was unfolding, I think it was a little bit of Habitat magic.

Later, after thanking my volunteers and sending them home tired and covered in paint, I walked up the street to Habitat’s McKinley neighborhood where the last four houses in the 10-house community were to be dedicated. The event was just getting started and as I walked down the street towards the big tent I remember feeling overwhelmed by the gratitude I had for the amazing people working at our Habitat affiliate and the incredible community I am lucky to be a part of. The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and fall foliage, kids were playing in the street, and Habitat supporters were mingling with construction folks and homeowner families. The best way to describe the dedication is elation personified. There was joy on the part of the homeowners, the donors, the volunteers, the Habitat staff, and all of the community members who were there to celebrate homes, communities, and hope.

That day highlighted the incredible work that Habitat does every day. Homes are built by dedicated volunteers, with generous financial support of donors; homeowners pour themselves into their journey towards homeownership; and homes are repaired, enabling homeowners to live more safely and comfortably in their own homes. Habitat is a “hand up, not a hand out,” and that was especially evident on this special fall day. It was easy to see all the partnerships between homeowners, Habitat, and the Shiloh community. Together, we serve the needs of the community in a way that makes sense.

I feel extraordinarily thankful to be spending my AmeriCorps term with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Days like this incredible October day will stay with me for the rest of my life as a reminder of what hard work, dedication, and love can do.

Shiloh: Let’s Build! Campaign Built More Than Houses

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This month, Asheville Habitat will complete the 10-home McKinley neighborhood off Taft Ave. in Shiloh, which also signifies the culmination of the three year Shiloh: Let’s Build! campaign. Houses built at McKinley (10), Creekside (4), and Caribou Corner (1) represent the 15 new homes that were part of the campaign. On the Home Repair side, we will come out ahead of the 30 project goal with 39 home repairs completed in Shiloh in the last three years!

Click here to see photos from the recent dedication of the last 3 homes in Shiloh (and one built in McDowell County).

We’d like to extend a big thanks to all the Shiloh: Let’s Build sponsors who supported this campaign to serve a minimum of 45 families in Shiloh through homeownership and home repair. Your support provided more individuals and families with the opportunity to build strength, stability and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent, affordable home.


Habitat has been active in the Shiloh community since the mid-1990’s when we built the Wilson Creek neighborhood of 32 houses. Since then, we have built new homes, repaired existing ones, and recently worked alongside the Shiloh Community Association towards the goals laid out in the Shiloh Community Plan 2025 approved by Asheville City Council in 2010. We proudly leveraged our skills and worked alongside others with different proficiencies to help collectively address needs that go beyond housing.

For example, Habitat built a storage shed and raised garden beds in the Shiloh Community Garden, helped bring electric service to the garden and pavilion, and donated a parcel of land adjacent to the garden. A Habitat volunteer constructed a Little Free Library for the garden using materials donated by Habitat and the initial collection of books came from the Habitat ReStore, among other sources.

Habitat also partnered with Estes Elementary School to build a storage closet, install floors, and paint walls in their new Community Resource Center. The Resource Center provides food and clothing support for families of children attending the school and works to connect families to other resources in the community. The school serves approximately 75% of elementary school-aged children who live in the Shiloh neighborhood.

Paul Reeves, Director of Construction Services for Asheville Habitat adds, “It is truly a pleasure for Habitat to be working in a community that has a clear vision for its future and residents who are organized, motivated and actively working toward increasing the quality of life for all of its community members. Shiloh has embraced our work in their community and sees us as a strong partner in providing affordable housing and home repair.”

 

 

More than new homes: Habitat’s Home Repair is changing lives.

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Stuck. In an unsafe home. Without resources to make simple things work, like a toilet, or to hire an electrician to repair faulty electrical outlets. After twenty seven years of wear and tear, and without the skills or financial resources to make necessary repairs, this is the situation in which former seamstress Geneva was living. It is not how her story of home began, nor is it where she expected it to lead. But sometimes you can’t anticipate what life has in store.

Mold permeated her grandson’s playroom, dangerous makeshift electrical work dangled by a cord, and there was no functional toilet. For years she lived with her situation, believing there was no other option. But taking in her six-year-old grandson Kaleel motivated her to seek help. That’s when she discovered Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair program.

Volunteers help repair the playroom.

After her application was approved, our Home Repair team got to work, addressing the playroom first—a moldy converted garage. To remediate the moisture-induced mold problem, our team addressed drainage issues to divert water away from the house, pulled up the carpets, and removed and replaced the water-damaged sheetrock and framing. They installed new wall paneling and a new window and door. Growing Kaleel now enjoys a mold-free playroom. During the short time since the repairs were made, his asthma has improved!

Our crew also replaced one toilet and repaired another so that the family now has two working toilets. Several lights in this West Asheville house were not working and required improvements to the electrical system. The unsafe extension cords running throughout the house have been replaced and now light illuminates every room, safely.

Safety. Stability. Good health. It all starts at home. For nearly 35 years, Asheville Area Habitat has provided affordable homeownership opportunities to individuals and families through our new home program. But, for many people, the most affordable home is the one they already own. For the past six years, our Home Repair program has improved safety and accessibility for existing homeowners and their families. We’ve completed nearly 200 projects, and the majority of our Home Repair clients are elderly or disabled—some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

We repair and replace leaking roofs, update electrical and heating/cooling systems, add ramps and grab bars, and much more. Homeowners like Geneva pay only a fraction of the market cost of repairs, thanks to their sweat equity, our volunteers and affordable financing through Habitat.

Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something today to help make that possible for another family.

Geneva’s is just one of many stories of need in our community. Your donation can build a roll-in shower for a disabled vet who couldn’t bathe in his old claw foot tub. Or, it can install a new furnace for an elderly woman who has weathered the winters for years with dangerous kerosene heaters. These are real-life stories from Home Repair clients.

Your donation can change lives. Please make a gift today to help more families like Geneva’s have a safe place to live. 

Helping People Live Better in the Home They Already Own

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Not everyone needs a new home; some just need help repairing the home they already own.
Meet Abdul Ahmad, one of our Home Repair Clients

Written by Pat Bacon

Abdul Ahmad’s gently creviced face, framed in cropped shiny white hair, is equally as inviting as his bright yellow house where he has resided for the past twenty-two years. “Many people from the Caribbean like bright colors and now I see four other houses in the Shiloh community that people have painted yellow!” Originally from Barbados where life is sophisticated yet casual, warm and friendly, he and his wife, the late Betty Ahmad, were married in New York. When she wanted to move back home to Asheville to help care for her ailing mother, they rented this (now yellow) house and soon thereafter purchased it and made it their permanent home.

Abdul resoundingly endorses life in the Shiloh community and he quickly volunteers that he knows and likes all of his neighbors, and his neighbors know and like him. As he and I greeted each other on his front lawn, neighbors passed by waving their hands and tooting their horns, acknowledging Abdul. He waved and smiled back, the feelings mutual. “Shiloh reminds me of Barbados where days are sun-filled and the nights are balmy. There is nothing like being around friendly, caring folks who greet you and shake your hand and help each other. Shiloh is near almost everything – shops, stores, cleaners, restaurants, everything. There is no better place to live.”

Like the outside, the inside of his house is bright, but it is a subtle brightness. It is also open – open because the living room, dining room and kitchen all easily flow together, reminiscent of gentle island life. It’s obvious that the dining room is the focal point of the house. A round table and comfortable chairs in the middle of the house make it ideal for all kinds of gatherings and the television has been placed high enough on the wall so that all can see the important sporting events. The cream-colored walls and flowing cream-colored curtains encourage the sunlight to stream in and fill the space. There are remnants of Betty’s plants in front of the windows; Abdul readily admits that caring for plants is not his strong suite. A bathroom and two bedrooms complete this cozy, compact home.

Upon arriving in Asheville many years ago and before getting a full-time job, Abdul fondly remembers volunteering on two Habitat houses. Thus it was natural for him to turn to Habitat for help when he learned about the repair program. With his modest retirement income derived from working with the City of Asheville and other private companies along the way, there was no budget for repair work.

Because of Habitat’s affordable home repair program, Abdul now enjoys a much-needed new roof, a walk-in shower, railing for his steps and the fresh bright yellow paint job. Abdul feels safer and he is renewed by the new look of his home. “It feels good to have these things finally done and at such a good price. I tell people about Habitat all the time. I even brought someone to the Habitat Office to pick up an application.”

Abdul has three adult children and two grandchildren who visit him, and he in turn visits them. He celebrates that his house is more inviting now. Thoughts of past gatherings, particularly around Christmas and Thanksgiving, bring a big ready smile to his face. These days it gives Abdul pleasure to help others; he often drives neighbors and friends to assorted destinations. Abdul, an avid reader, enjoys reading about current world events and he admits that he’d really like to write short stories. He’s promised to share them when he does.

If you or someone you know is interested in our Home Repair program, click here to learn more.

 

Home Repair Program Makes One Shiloh Resident Dance with Joy

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Written by Pat Bacon, Habitat’s Family Support Specialist

Eugene (Gene) Rone’s mother died in 1929, just thirteen days after he became a year old. On her death bed, his mother asked his seventeen year old sister, Willie Mae, to take care of him; and she did. Willie Mae also taught him to care for himself and to seek a good life. As a teenager, he cooked, washed and ironed his own clothes, cleaned house, went to school and worked a part time job. He earned $1.00 a week and every week he gave his dad fifty cents. Later he met and became “family” with a Cuban family that owned a grocery store. He started working for the family at $3.00 a week and when his income increased, so did his dad’s – “$1.50 a week.” Gene said that along the way he grew tired of “lamp light,” especially when he was entertaining friends, so he saved his money and before long and much to his and his family’s pleasure,  he was able to have electricity and a telephone installed in the family home.

After graduating from Stephens Lee High School in 1949, Gene started doing domestic work and in 1953 he married his sweetheart, Mary, who at that time lived in the Shiloh Community. From 1954-1956 he served in the Army, barely missing a stint in Vietnam. Upon his return to Asheville, fifty-eight years ago, he and Mary purchased their home in the Shiloh Community for what was then the colossal sum of $4,500.

The Rone house is modest by conventional standards – two bedrooms, one bath. But it is rich because of a unique nuance, wonderful pictures and a cadre of mementos from many years of special occasions, family and community events which adorn all the walls, nooks and crannies – including ballroom dances with Mary who died in 1993. On a wall in the living room is a smiling picture of Mary and a framed poem dedicated to her – lit by an eternal candle flame.

Gene indicating damage near a windowGene is very proud of his community and he knows everybody on his street and everybody knows him. They all take a lot of pride in their homes and their yards. When Gene noted that his house needed painting, downspouts and gutters, he learned from a neighbor who happened to be a Habitat volunteer, about Habitat’s Home Repair program. Gene obtained and completed an application and as we say, the rest is history. Habitat’s Joel Johnson assessed the work and made the needed arrangements to get it done.

Habitat did a variety of repair work including servicing the oil furnace; scraping and painting exterior windows, doors, and trim; replacing rotten window trim and broken siding; re-routing water runoff from downspouts away from the house; replacing missing gable vent trim and installing a new gutter.

Gene is very grateful to Habitat for repairing his cherished home. He readily admits that it would have been very difficult if not impossible, to afford the work on his retirement income. He said that “these days folks charge an arm and a leg for anything that they do for you. Folks like me need organizations like Habitat.”

Gene has wonderful recall of the past and a positive outlook for the future. He remembers riding street cars at six cents a pop and cutting wood for the kitchen stove. These days he enjoys the good feeling he gets from driving his 1995 white, convertible mustang and entertaining family and friends. He speaks readily about what it means to live a full, rich life with no regrets. He smiles and says, “I’m still dancing with Mary!”

Help for the Helpers

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Marion and Thelma Scott are delightful. They’re the kind of folks who make good neighbors and enhance neighborhoods. They moved to Asheville in 1995 after having lived in Norwalk, Connecticut for thirty-six years. In Connecticut Thelma was an accountant and Marion’s last work was with a cable company (where one of their three sons now works). Born in North Carolina, it was Thelma’s hope to move back to the state to be near family, particularly her mother. Upon retirement Thelma’s hope became reality, and Thelma and Marion moved to Asheville, twelve years before her beloved mother’s death. And though her mother has passed, family remains nearby as Thelma’s sister currently lives across the street.

The Scotts live in a well-kept house on a quiet, but well-traveled street in south Asheville. They are always mindful and attentive to the maintenance and care needed for their house and their yard. To the pleasure of their neighbors, the Scotts immediately took an interest in the people who lived around them. They particularly began to give attention to their aging neighbors by driving them to appointments, helping them to maintain their yards and doing other things to make their lives easier.

At one time it got to the point where Marion did not have to announce himself when he was entering one neighbor’s yard, and then when he wanted to borrow a certain tool, the neighbor said that he no longer needed to ask even for it. The neighbor soon let it be known that the tool seemed to belong more to Marion than to him. Before long the neighbor outright gave Marion the tool. Being the upright, responsible man that he is, Marion used it for the upkeep of both yards, until the neighbor’s death.

As mentioned earlier, the Scotts are attentive to their home and its ongoing maintenance needs. After following the maintenance schedule prescribed by a heating and air company for their entire tenure in the house, the heating system was not working properly. They had called the service provider several times, and each time the company employee came out to repair the furnace. Finally, the company employee surmised that the entire system needed to be replaced because it could no longer be repaired. The Scotts proceeded to get estimates for a new heating system and the cheapest one that they could find was $7,900.  This was an impossible amount because of their fixed income. And while the furnace was the major problem, the Scotts also noticed some other needs. The insulation underneath the living room floor had fallen away. There were places in their living room that the Scotts could not reach to paint. A wall was cracked and it needed to be repaired and painted. And finally the crawl space needed to be covered to prevent dust and dirt from finding its way into the living room.

It was time for the helpers to seek help of their own. Marion and Thelma had heard about the Habitat home repair program on radio station WRES and as directed, they phoned for a home repair application. Upon completing the application, they met with Habitat’s Family Selection Coordinator and he forwarded the application to the Home Repair Supervisor (Joel Johnson) who visited the Scott home to do an assessment.

Joel determined that the requested work was doable and he proceeded to get another heating company to look at the furnace. That assessment showed that the furnace was still good and it could be repaired at a reasonable cost.

Mr. and Mrs. Scott breathed a sigh of relief after Joel’s visit. The furnace has been repaired. The other repairs have also been completed and the Scotts are look forward to having their three sons, six grandchildren and all the rest of their family in their home for Christmas. Thelma said “It just wouldn’t do for my grandbabies to be cold.”

When asked about their experience with Habitat, Thelma and Marion were very complimentary. “We are grateful for the positive interaction with Habitat staff. We appreciate the professionalism exhibited by the workers and we could not be happier about the cost and terms of repayment.”

If you’d like to learn more about our Home Repair program services and qualifications, please click here.

Written by Pat Bacon, Family Support Specialist

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