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The Service Experience – Thus Far

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This reflection was written by AmeriCorps Member Thomas Brennan. He works on Asheville Habitat’s New Home Construction team.

“This first quarter has been an amazing experience for me as I worked on all of the houses in our Candler neighborhood (Curry Court), which includes 4 single homes and 8 townhomes. In these past few months I started learning all of the construction skills I want to learn and use as I develop my career – including wall framing, stucco, flooring, painting, roof installation, insulation and more.

I have made more 80-year old friends than I ever would have thought! And I have worked with, and learned about, some of the amazing future homeowners as they slowly picked away at their “sweat equity” hours.

My time so far has been meaningful to me in a few ways, the first being it has been extremely beneficial in helping me start to understand what type of field I may want to go into. One of the reasons I wanted to take on this experience was to see if I enjoyed doing construction and to see how the whole project was run. I have learned so much, and I have also gathered priceless tips, stories, and advice from my many volunteer friends.

The second reason is that I have learned so much about affordable housing and our community. I was not aware of the lack of affordable housing and the unfortunate reasons behind it. This new knowledge has pushed me to further help our future homeowners, and made me start thinking about ways to address the problem and consider alternative solutions. As I drive around and explore new areas I am now always considering prices of land/buildings and what could be turned into housing alternatives.

The third reason my service so far has been meaningful, is hearing how thankful the future homeowners are, and how their lives will be changed. What they may not realize is I am just as thankful for them and their stories. They will continue to stay with me and influence my life as well.”

Want to hear from other AmeriCorps members who have worked with us in the past? Watch this video.

 

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.

AmeriCorps Get Things Done

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By Maddy Alewine  It’s hard to put into a nice, neat paragraph how AmeriCorps impacts Asheville Habitat and in turn, the community. This year’s five AmeriCorps- Sydney, Billy, Nora, Kaitlyn, and Mackenzie- started their year with us jumping in head first, taking on each new challenge with gusto and passion.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Charting New Territory: From Office Intern to Construction Crew Leader

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By Kristen Keefer

Enthusiastic Emily Stevens excels in new situations. Perhaps her ability to succeed is a reflection of how she fearlessly charts unfamiliar territory. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio, she dove into professional work experience. In the summer of 2015, Emily joined Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity through a program administered by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called Young Adult Volunteers. She left her hometown of Rochester, NY behind, and began working in Asheville as a Construction Services Volunteer Intern.

Emily gave a year of service in that internship position. During that time, she strengthened her office skills while developing a deeper understanding of Habitat’s mission and values. She gained an appreciation of all the “behind the scenes” work that goes into creating a community where people can have decent and affordable places to call home. Emily recalled, “Hearing the partner family’s stories really helps you understand the importance of the work being done by Habitat.” She recounted that these stories inspired her to feel an extra burst of enthusiasm when working in the office, knowing that her contribution to Habitat’s mission was important. Emily’s heart is truly in her work.

As her internship was coming to an end, she was uncertain of her future steps. She had successfully established herself in Asheville and had confirmed through her internship experience that she wanted to continue working in the non-profit sector. She explained, “Becoming more acquainted with Habitat’s mission has influenced the work I want to do in the future.”

During this same time, interviews were being conducted for a Construction Crew Leader position at Asheville Area Habitat through AmeriCorps. Emily applied for the program and was accepted! Interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work in the future, she considers this on-site job experience to be a valuable supplement to her professional and personal development.

Emily couldn’t be more excited about working on Asheville Area Habitat’s construction site. She is eager to advance her construction skills and share that knowledge base with volunteers. In addition, she fondly anticipates developing friendships with the volunteers. Working in the office, she became very familiar with volunteer names and their shifts. “I’m excited to learn and get to know the volunteers better, to put faces to names!”

Strengthening relationships is at the core of Emily’s values. She demonstrated this by prioritizing getting to know and helping her peers and mentors while she was an intern. She always felt satisfied when she had time to lend a helping hand to others.

Whether by offering a helping hand or listening to other’s stories, Emily values people. She is someone who pursues life fearlessly and is not held back by the unfamiliarity of new people, places, or opportunities. On the contrary, she courageously welcomes change and development. Though Emily’s cheerful presence will be missed in the office, it is suffice to say that we are all excited for Emily as she transitions into this new opportunity on the construction site. Congratulations and best wishes, Emily!

Check out what Emily has to say about the spirit if volunteerism, in this short video.