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Welcome This Year’s Service Members!

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is pleased to add seven new team members who, through programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Hands and Feet of Asheville, are beginning their year of service. Service program participants significantly increase Asheville Habitat’s ability to empower Buncombe County residents with affordable housing.

Their impact is felt in nearly every corner of the organization. On the construction side, Jeannie Goldenberg and Chris Nolan have begun their year with the Home Repair team and will be joined by another AmeriCorps member, Lucas Hanson, in October. Accompanying Asheville Habitat’s three full-time Home Repair staffers, the AmeriCorps members double the team’s efforts to reach the fiscal year goal of 70 families served through the Home Repair program.

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Americorps Mackenzie Hampson served from 2018-2019 with the New Home construction team.

“We would not be able to meet this aggressive goal without the increased capacity provided by our AmeriCorps members,” notes Home Repair Manager Joel Johnson. “Specifically, having AmeriCorps members has enabled us to work with partner agencies to do more Aging in Place work in the past 12-18 months. This program serves some of the most vulnerable people in our community and is an increasingly large part of our team’s work.”

On the new home side of construction, Thomas Brennan is now leading volunteer groups in the building of new affordable homes at Curry Court in Candler. And in the administrative office, Krysta Osweiler, Cecily Schenimann, and Deanna McDonnell are working behind the scenes on volunteer management and recruitment, family services support and outreach, and office management.

While Asheville Habitat benefits from the generosity of these talented and driven individuals, participants benefit too. They look back

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Sydney Monshaw, AmeriCorps member from 2017 – 2019 spent two terms with Home Repair. She was recently hired on full-time as a Home Repair Supervisor.

at their service year as immensely rewarding and a powerful growth experience. In the past two years, after completing their terms, three AmeriCorps members were hired on as full-time Asheville Habitat staffers in the ReStore, in new home construction, and in the Home Repair department. Other service year members have gone on to graduate school, joined the workforce, or signed on for another year of service with Asheville Habitat or elsewhere.

Ryan Bing, an AmeriCorps member in 2017-2018 with Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair team, went to graduate school at Clemson University after completing his service year. During his year repairing homes in all corners of Buncombe County, he learned a wide range of technical skills as well as a lot about himself, he said.

“Honestly the nature of our job and the nature of Home Repair, involves doing a lot of unpleasant things sometimes and it can be incredibly humbling,” Bing said. “Not doing it specifically for a thank you or a salary or something like that- is something you can really carry forward in many aspects of life.”

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Ryan Bing, right, working alongside a volunteer during a community project at Asheville High School.

Got $10? Consider a monthly donation.

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by Greta Bush

Do you ever look at your credit card bill and wonder how it got to be so high? You didn’t make any major purchases. Then you look closely…$10 spent on a whim here, $6 spent there…it adds up! I, for one, can’t be trusted to walk into Target without a strict list or my husband holding onto my hand. (I kid! Sort of…) Everything is so pretty…so innovative…so alluring. And priced at that sweet spot! Meanwhile, I get to the checkout and immediately regret my life choices.

Think about how easily you spend $10 a month on consumer products without even realizing it. Now, consider making an intentional choice to make a recurring donation of $10 a month to Habitat! Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity builds affordable, energy-efficient homes and sells them to qualified buyers at no-profit. A monthly donation to Habitat’s #build828 sustained giving club will help Habitat raise money for this cause.

We’re all guilty of blowing cash from time to time. Here are some examples of how easily that money slips from our wallets…but would be put to better use supporting Asheville Habitat:

  1. Target

Let’s get real. Who only spends $10 on a Target run? Help build a house rather than filling yours with stuff from the Dollar Spot.

  1. Starbucks

$10 = 2 venti caramel macchiatos. Coffee tastes sweeter made in your own home—donate your money to Habitat to help keep housing affordable!

  1. Netflix

$10 is the cost of a monthly subscription. Rather than watching a family on reality TV, help change a real family’s future with a monthly donation to Habitat for Humanity.

Speaking of Netflix…

  1. T-mobile

Your Netflix subscription is included if you have T-mobile…so you’ve got an EXTRA $10 a month! Why not donate that money to a good cause?

  1. Spotify

$10 is the cost of a monthly subscription. Create a new soundtrack filled with the sound of kids playing safely outside in their Habitat neighborhood.

If this is ringing even a little bit true for you, click the button. Set it and forget it. #build828 is the kind of recurring spending we can all get behind!

 

A empty field to 21 homes, a thriving community

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Asheville Habitat is excited to announce the completion of its first neighborhood in South Buncombe- a 21-home community in Arden. Preliminary infrastructure began in the fall of 2016 and the last family bought their home, Student Build #4, in April of 2019.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

It begins with us

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By Maddy Alewine, Communications Specialist

The results of the 2018 midterms are usually described in superlatives. The 2019 congressional freshman class is the most racially diverse and the most female

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Partial group photo at Capitol Hill

group ever elected to the House. From the first Native American Congresswomen and the first Muslim Congresswomen to the most number of veterans, one of the largest freshman congressional classes is bringing a lot of diverse voices to the table. Last week, hundreds of Habitat for Humanity homeowners, volunteers, board members, and staff descended on Washington D.C. for the annual Habitat on the Hill (HOTH), to meet with this class of firsts and the hundreds of other legislators that represent our states.

Habitat also had a first. With over 350 attendees from 38 states and D.C., this was the largest Habitat on the Hill to date. Habitat representatives from Maine to Hawaii filled the conference room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in D.C., and Asheville was in attendance- myself, Homeowner Selection Specialist and Habitat homeowner Shannon Kauffman, and former Board chair David Whilden.

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[From left] Maddy, Shannon, and David

The three of us were new to HOTH and Tuesday Feb. 12 we dove headfirst into a day of training, speakers, collaboration, and learning to prepare us for our meetings with legislators the next day. While I could spend days writing everything I learned, my biggest takeaway is best summed up by Habitat International’s Chief Operating Officer Tjada D’Oyen McKenna: “Advocacy is vital to Habitat’s mission that everyone has a decent place to live.”

The whole time there was this sense of urgency that flowed between all of us, enforced by the fact that so many of us felt it important enough to travel from so far to D.C. (I see you, Hawaii) and devote time away from our usual tasks to become better advocates. The simple truth is this: Habitat for Humanity can no longer just build houses. That’s just not who we, as an organization, are anymore- we’re more than that. Advocating for affordable housing policies has to become a part of every Habitat affiliate’s DNA in order to a) be able to continue building and repairing affordable homes despite the rising cost of building and housing and b) advocate for policies so people don’t have to need Habitat to have a decent, affordable place to live.

In our day of training, author Richard Rothstein who wrote The Color of Law, spoke to the crowd about the history of how our government at the local, state and federal levels segregated housing. The harsh reality is that black homeownerhsip is at the same level as when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. Fifty-one years and it hasn’t changed. We cannot talk about affordable housing solutions without the undeniable truth that unconstitutional housing policy did and still does leave people of color, particularly black communities, far behind in the ability to accumulate wealth and have a decent place to live. We all have a responsibility to remedy this.

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Shannon and David outside Rep. David Price’s office after greeting his staff.

The next day armed with knowledge, our local stories, and specific policy asks, David, Shannon and I put on our best walking shoes and trudged around the Senate and House buildings to meet with our elected officials. While we did not have a scheduled meeting with Rep. Mark Meadows, while getting slightly lost on our way to drop off materials at his office, we ran into the Congressman and spoke for a minute. He seemed genuinely pleased we had come from Asheville to bring housing concerns of Western NC to the Capitol. We also stopped in the office of Rep. David Price. Although not our district, this NC Congressman chairs the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

For our next stop, we teamed up with about 15 fellow North Carolinians from Habitats around the state to meet with a staff member of Sen. Burr. While meeting with a staff member seems less exciting than the actual elected official, legislators’ staff often have more in-depth knowledge about specific issues and are the ones discussing these with their respective Senator or Representative. Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden asked questions and was engaged as homeowners shared how owning a home has empowered them, as eastern state Habitats talked about the need for disaster relief, the rising cost of housing, the importance of AmeriCorps and much more.

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A group photo after our meeting with Sen. Burr’s Legislative Assistant Robert Sneeden.

A much smaller group- the three of us from Asheville, two from Charlotte and one staff member from Fayetteville- then ran (literally) back to the previous Senate building to meet with staff from Rep. Patrick McHenry. Meeting with Rep.

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[Left to right] Shannon, David, and Brandon Price of Fayetteville Habitat in Rep. McHenry’s office.

McHenry’s Legislative Director Doug Nation, we got to have much more personal conversations. We talked a lot about a common stereotype about Habitat- that Habitat gives houses away to people that are homeless. Shannon shared her story that echoed the reality that people who qualify for Habitat homes are bank tellers, hospital workers, barbers, servers, teachers, and other full-time working professionals because housing is just that expensive and affordable housing is scarce. Mr. Nation even shared with us that he used to volunteer with Habitat while in college, which speaks to the wide reach Habitat has. It’s hard to meet someone who hasn’t volunteered with, donated to, worked for, bought a house through, or at least heard of Habitat.

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. I know I usually am. But something stuck with me that David Dworkin, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference said during our training. He said that yes, big money opens doors on Capitol Hill and that’s a fact. But, those money interests only lobby so hard as to compete with the power of all of our voices. As Asheville Habitat grows its ability to advocate more, we are alongside a network of thousands all across the country utilizing Habitat’s powerful voice- that reaches Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between- with the message that
everyone deserves a decent place to live.

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 

 

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