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Out of the office and onto the land

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By Ariane Kjellquist

“Redistribution of dirt and water,” is not a phrase I expected to hear on my recent tour of Old Haywood, a future Asheville Habitat for Humanity neighborhood. But it’s one of the first things Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves started talking about as we watched the excavator move with precision and he pointed uphill.

Before my visit to the Old Haywood site, I thought I knew what infrastructure and development entailed. Grading, running water and sewer lines and underground utilities, pouring sidewalks and paving roads. It is that– and much more. Going from site identification to construction is a lengthy and complex process; one that includes design, engineering, bidding, contracting and more. It is 2-3 years of work for a project of this size before we can even pull the first permit, pour the first foundation, or frame the first wall!

Within minutes of arriving on site, I learned that the soil being dug up to create a water catchment system near the front of the parcel was going to literally be moved up the hill, redistributed, compacted, checked by an environmental engineer, and eventually built upon.

I also learned that the environmental engineer will visit the site no less than 30 times during the infrastructure and development phase!

I learned too that working with the contours of the land can be difficult. As we walked the property it was evident that building a neighborhood in a mountainous region comes with unique challenges that flatlanders don’t face. Adding townhomes to the mix adds to the complexity. With the larger footprint of townhomes it is even more important that we have – or in this case, create – flatter lots.

And about the water…catching storm water and run-off and moving it safely across the site so it does not impact homes and foundations is part of the development plan, too. For example, an existing culvert will be replaced with a newer and larger one for better flow and performance.

Though I did not fully understand all that is involved in taking an empty lot to a thriving community until recently, I did know that Asheville Habitat has been doing this successfully for decades. Hundreds of families and thousands of individuals have built better futures on the foundation of safe, decent, affordable Habitat homes.

Unfortunately, there are still thousands in our community who need a decent, affordable place to live. And others may have a roof over their head, but just barely. 1 in 6 families in the U.S. pay more than 50% of their income towards housing costs and are forced to make difficult choices when it comes to other basic needs like food, healthcare, and transportation. Asheville Habitat is committed to empowering 1,000 more families to improve their housing in the next decade, and Old Haywood is one step towards this goal.

Old Haywood will be our largest neighborhood to date, with 98 units of affordable housing comprised of both single-family homes and townhomes. This is a bold step for us. But we have a history of being bold– and successful. We invite you to be part of a solution to our region’s affordable housing shortage. Give a gift, become a sponsor, volunteer to help us build, advocate for smart housing policies. Thank you!

 

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!

 

 

 

Congrats to our Homegrown Leaders!

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Asheville Habitat’s Cassidy Moore (L) and Beth Russo (R) recently graduated from Homegrown Leaders program, a regional leadership and economic development program that develops and supports highly-motivated leaders who are committed to building regional collaboration across multi-county regions in the state. Homegrown Leaders is a program of the Rural Center and is sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and corporate, government and philanthropic partners.

NC Rural Center President, Patrick Woodie, presented certificates to the program’s 29 graduates on the last day of training. “Rural leaders like our Homegrown Leaders graduates are critical to the long-term growth and vitality of North Carolina’s communities,” said Woodie of this class of graduates.

Class participants included economic development professionals, educators, and civic and nonprofit leaders. “The Rural Center promotes leadership that is inclusive, connected, informed and creative. These graduates will join the Rural Center’s leadership alumni network of over 1,200 rural leaders across the state of North Carolina,” said Bronwyn Lucas, director of leadership for the NC Rural Center.

“This was an incredible learning experience. From developing new relationships with peers across the region, to discovering both new and long-existing programs in our area, I learned valuable information and skills to put to use in Western North Carolina. I also left refreshed – because it was so encouraging and inspiring to see so many talented and passionate people implementing and sustaining programs to make our communities safer and stronger,” noted Russo.

Three additional Homegrown Leaders trainings will take place across the Appalachian Regional Commission’s NC counties over the next year with the next one scheduled for May 29-31, 2019 at Western Carolina University. For more information, visit the Rural Center’s website.

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!

Diverse Group of Sponsors Help Empower Five Families to Build Better Futures

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By Zoe Trout 

More than 100 Habitat friends and supporters recently gathered at Givens Estates for a 5-Home Dedication. Typically held on the jobsite, we take this celebratory event indoors in February and serve a warm chili lunch. Given’s graciously donated the space this year and their amazing culinary team prepared a delicious meal. We are grateful for their ongoing partnership and this new form of support. 

With five homes being dedicated, the program was filled with words of joy from all different voices – faith communities, businesses, and individuals. The event started with music from Aaron Price, Music Director at West Asheville Presbyterian Church—a longtime partner in the Presbyterian Methodist House. Their annual benefit concert for the Presbyterian Methodist House will take place on February 24 (reschedule from January 20). Lynn Bledsoe, Chaplin for Givens Estates did the invocation for the event and recited the E.E. Cummings poem, “I thank You God for most this amazing day”. 

I thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes 

We celebrated more “yeses” with the 35th Anniversary House presented by AvL Technologies. On behalf of the company, Krystal Dredge presented a ceremonial key to Celia Ramirez, who closed on her home in Arden in December. Celia thanked everyone for their support– the sponsors of her house, her employer Diamond Brand, and all the volunteers that worked on her home. She choked up a little when describing what it meant for her and her son to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in their new home. 

Robyn Mondin of sponsoring business Wells Fargo presented a ceremonial key to Mary Leake, who purchased the Voluntourism House in January. This home celebrates the many visiting groups that come to Asheville and support Habitat’s work financially and through volunteer service. “My favorite part of the Habitat process was working on the jobsite building my house and my neighbor’s homes,” she noted. 

Merritt Moseley, a volunteer at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church presented a key to Shaketia Simpson and her two children, who had just closed on their home (the Presbyterian-Methodist House 27) the day before! Merritt has been volunteering with Habitat for 10+ years and coordinates volunteers from Asbury UMC annually for the Presbyterian Methodist House, or as he calls it – the Methodist Presbyterian House! 

Tyerecka Howell will purchase the 20th Interfaith House in March. There with her older son, she told the crowd about her struggles to complete her sweat equity after the pre-term birth of her youngest son a few months before. But with the support of Habitat and her family, she was able to complete most of her hours while on maternity leave. Presenting Tyerecka with her key was Nancy Sehested the pastor at Circle of Mercy, one of the Interfaith House congregations. She recapped her experience of participated in our “Clergy Build” day on the jobsite last year, noting how invigorating it was to build together with people of all different faiths and backgrounds. 

Jack Webb and Nancy Allen presented a key to Iurii and Galyna Lanovyi. Cassie Dillon was also a sponsor of this home. Of this family that immigrated to the US for religious asylum, Jack spoke about their incredible hard work and determination. Despite a language barrier, the connection between these sponsors and the homeowner family is very strong, and was quite evident.  

Near the end of the program, Marge Marsh, a longtime ReStore volunteer and a resident of Givens Estates, led guests in a lovely Litany of Dedication. This event celebrated the last of the homes in the 21-house Arden neighborhood. United around the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, this joyous event brought many different people from various backgrounds together to celebrate what is accomplished when people work together for a common goal.  

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

If you’d like to learn about Habitat sponsorship opportunities, please click here or contact Beth at brusso@ashevillehabitat.org 

 

A Light Bulb Came On

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By Marty Steinberg

A light bulb came on: it used less energy while helping to build affordable homes and it saved its purchasers a whole bunch of money. What a great idea!

The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore sells energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) light bulbs at deeply discounted rates. While many energy-saving measures involve a high up-front cost, purchasing LED bulbs at the ReStore allows homeowners to save both energy and money right away.

During a recent 12 month period, the Asheville ReStore sold nearly 80,000 LED light bulbs. General Manager Scott Stetson estimates that customers have saved a whopping $758,325 during that one-year period by purchasing bulbs at the ReStore. “I’m proud to represent Habitat for Humanity and play a role in reducing, reusing and recycling,” Stetson said. “And this energy-saving program helps us take it to a new level.”

How many of those customers does it take to change one of those light bulbs? Just one, but she will need to do it less often because the LED bulb last fifteen times longer than the incandescent. Available at the ReStore for as little as a dollar each, the bulbs have become a popular item with ReStore shoppers.

Not all of the bulbs sold at the ReStore are 60-watt bulb equivalents. In fact, the store carries a variety of styles and wattages, including energy efficient lighting fixtures. Customers will find a large selection and great prices on all of the store’s efficient lighting products.

ReStore Processing Supervisor Eric Tamila has overseen the energy efficient lighting program since 2013 as the program has grown. “The potential for our customers to save money while saving energy is tremendous,” said Tamila. People are definitely taking advantage of it but we definitely want to continue getting the word out.”

For some, the most important savings from changing to LED light bulbs is the reduction in carbon dioxide that it takes to keep those bulbs lit. LED bulbs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. While ReStore customers are saving money, tons of pollutants are kept from entering the atmosphere.

The brand new LED bulbs are supplied at no cost to the ReStore thanks to a program in which Duke Energy Progress pays for the light bulbs ordered by the ReStore. Duke Energy Progress customers use less energy meaning the utility may not need to add additional power generating capacity as soon as it would otherwise. Profits from the sale of energy efficient LED bulbs at the ReStore go directly to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity to help build and repair homes in partnership with hard-working local families.

At a recent event to publicize the program, 234 ReStore customers learned about the benefits of LED light bulbs and what types of bulbs would best suit their needs and they were able to purchase the bulbs at the discounted ReStore price. Additional events will be held in the future to keep building interest in the program.

Saving time, energy and money, and helping build affordable homes: all while shopping at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore. What a great idea!

A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

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The first week of September in South Bend, IN was what our Executive Director Andy Barnett affectionately coins “the Olympics of Habitat,” referencing the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. An annual “Blitz Build” this event unites upwards of 600 individuals around the common vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. This year, the 35th annual Carter Work Project was hosted by Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County where volunteers built or improved 41 home in Mishawaka and South Bend, Indiana in one week.

Kenny Bush, our Senior Construction Supervisor and South Bend native, and our Construction Supervisor Emily Stevens led a team of Asheville Habitat volunteers on this epic Habitat trip. The Asheville team worked alongside others on House #20 amidst a block of twenty-two single family homes. 25-28 volunteers worked on each house, every day. “We started the day under a huge tent with breakfast, daily updates and logistics report, and a devotional. There were 600 people under the tent every morning,” Emily remarked about the magnitude. “Being amid of sea of so many like-minded volunteers was amazing. That kind of energy would be hard to create anywhere else. Everyone was so positive, well-intentioned and there because of the cause.”

A homecoming for Kenny, the trip was the same for Ralph Johnson, an Asheville Habitat construction volunteer who also hails from South Bend. In fact, the street they worked on was just a block from where he grew up. The rest of our volunteers comprised four different work days; so although Asheville core volunteers, many did not know each other beforehand. But you can be assured that this trip created lasting friendships among these cores who have come back to Asheville with an even greater passion for the work we all do.

Having participated in Carter Work Projects in the past, Andy noted that “they are a concentrated dose of Habitat and a reminder that every local affiliate is a small part of a global network.”

There were many memorable moments experienced by each volunteer, but the one that stands out in the entire team’s mind was the “big reveal”. Future homeowner Loretta Adams had not told her two daughters about their future Habitat home. When Jimmy Carter himself broke the news to the young girls in the front yard of their future home, there was not a dry eye in sight. The Asheville team then showed the girls around their house and they each picked out their bedrooms and started talking about paint colors. Mom did have to draw the line and say no to pink walls in the living room.

Next year’s Carter Work Project will be in Nashville, TN, a short 4 hour drive for interested folks from Western North Carolina.

To see photos, please click here.

A Year of Service

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We are thrilled to introduce our newest class of AmeriCorps members. We welcome Nora, Kaitlyn and Mackenzie to our team. Sydney and Janice were with us last year and have returned for a second term!

My name is Nora Gilmer and I’m from Piney Flats, TN. I love being outside, coffee, and my goofy dog Gertrude. Last year, I served with AmeriCorps NCCC, Pacific Region. My team traveled to Washington, the U.S. Virgin Islands, California, and Oregon. As my time with NCCC came to an end, I was very excited to have the opportunity to move a little closer to home and start another year of service with Habitat!

 

 

My name is Kaitlyn Ferdinande and I am from Michigan. I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). I was really involved in the Alternative Breaks program at SVSU and worked my way up from Participant to Site Leader, and then served as the Fundraising Coordinator. The program opened up my passion for Social Justice issues such as affordable housing. I also worked as the Volunteer Coordinator in SVSU’s Student Life Center. I have worked with Asheville Habitat in the past as part of Alternative Break, and I am excited to now serve as the Volunteer Services Coordinator for the nonprofit during my AmeriCorps term.

 

Hi! My name is Mackenzie Hampson, and I’m originally from Baltimore, MD but have lived in Charleston, SC for the past five years. I went to the College of Charleston and earned my degree in Finance. I was a year round swimmer for nine years, but now I just enjoy any fun way of staying active. I love being outside as much as possible, whether it’s going to the beach, hiking, running, etc. I also love working with and helping people, and have found that joy through Habitat. I participated in two Collegiate Challenge trips through Habitat for Humanity and I’m thrilled to be continuing for a whole year!

 

My name is Sydney Monshaw and I am thrilled to be serving a second term as a member of the Asheville Habitat Home Repair Team! I graduated from NYU in 2017 with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Poverty Studies. Throughout my time in college I had the opportunity to work at several different non-profits including Appalachia Service Project, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, and The Corporation for Supportive Housing. I have known for a long time that safe, affordable, sustainable housing for everyone is something that I am passionate about and I am excited to spend another year working to make homes around the Asheville Area safer, more accessible, and more livable for families.

 

My name is Janice Marie Payne. I am originally a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, currently celebrating my 3rd year of residency in Asheville, NC and married to the best husband ever, Samuel. I have six siblings, one biological son, three step daughters and six grandchildren with my husband. Included in our family is Marty, my 9.5 lb. miniature Yorkie Terrier who I just happen to think he’s the smartest and cutest dog in Asheville!

Being a Pastor’s wife has proven to be one of the most fulfilling events of my life. It allows me to meet people and share my experience as a leading lady in the Church. Music and singing is a vital part of my life and I also enjoy Sudoku puzzles, reading, traveling, and experimental cooking.

I am currently serving my second term as an AmeriCorps Vista Outreach Coordinator at Asheville Habitat for Humanity. This position affords me the opportunity to educate the public about Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s affordable homeownership and home repair programs. The position has connected me to communities in Asheville in ways I could never have achieved on my own, and I enjoy meeting and collaborating with others for positive community change.

 

 

 

 

Four More Families Home

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When drug activity in her neighborhood led to increased violence, LaQuila Harris and her daughter began spending their days at work and school, and their evenings anywhere but at their apartment. It was exhausting and LaQuila knew they could not continue living like that.

Kedric Justice noticed increased drug activity and crime where he was living too. Having lost his own father to violence, he was painfully aware that crime wasn’t just something that happened to other people. And, his rent had sky-rocketed to $900/month.

Drug activity was on the rise where Staci Williams and her children were living too. And because it was an income-based apartment, she feared getting a raise at work.

Benitia Henson had to convert a closet under the stairs into a makeshift bedroom for her son.

A search for something better led all of these families to Habitat. Thank you for making the opportunity to purchase a safe, affordable Habitat house possible for local families. Together, we will empower 1,000 more families in the next decade to build better futures on safe, stable housing.

To view photos from the 4-house dedication, please click here.

Thank you to the businesses & individuals who sponsored these homes: Bank of America Merrill-Lynch, the coalition of local business that supported the Business Bungalow House, Eaton, Ernest & Shirley Ferguson, The Ferguson Family,  friends of Jerry and Lou Towson who sponsored a lot in their name, The Guthy Family, our Legacy Builders Society, Publix Supermarket Charities, The Pullium Foundation, and Wicked Weed.

 

 

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!

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