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ReUse and Rolemodel: Just a Few Reasons These Two Choose to Volunteer

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by Kristen Keefer

Every Monday, Roger Gauthier and Stephanie Plemmons team up to assist people dropping off donations at the ReStore receiving dock. Their efforts help make the transition of items into the store efficient; while their kind approach to helping customers and donors keep people coming back.

Roger, a retired plastics engineer, has been volunteering his time to Habitat since February 2012. In addition to volunteering with Habitat, he won the Habitat for the Holidays First Annual 3D Ornament Contest in 2014. He has also participated in the ReStore ReUse contest. The “reuse” aspect of the ReStore’s mission is important to Roger. In fact, it is one of the factors that motivated him to become a ReStore volunteer. He has even repaired damaged donated items to prevent them from being discarded into the landfill.

Stephanie, a longtime fan of Habitat’s mission, decided in October of 2015 to offer a helping hand at the ReStore wherever it was needed. Furthermore, she wanted to set a good example for her son. She explained, “I wanted to show my son that volunteering is cool!”

Both Roger and Stephanie have always volunteered in receiving. They work fluidly together, happily greeting every car as it pulls up, unloading and sorting items, and keeping receiving in tip-top shape. They’re an all-star team, attentively putting care into even the simplest of tasks.

And, through these selfless efforts, Roger and Stephanie have experienced the gift of service, a kind of gift that is rewarding to the giver, not just the receiver. Both agree that it is encouraging to see so many items donated to Habitat and to know that the proceeds from the sales of these items will go towards affordable housing. Stephanie explained, “Building homes for families that really need them, that is just a fabulous cause!” And Roger confirmed, saying that the work they do in receiving generates a sense of accomplishment.

Thank you Roger and Stephanie for being a rockin’ receiving crew! Having you onboard helps keep receiving running smooth and contributes greatly to the ReStore’s mission. We are thankful for all you do!

From Bookstore to Boardroom: How One Volunteer Serves Habitat

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By Kristen Keefer

It was over twelve years ago that Cassie Dillon (above, R) began her service at the Asheville ReStore. At the time, she was traveling throughout the week for work but was still determined to find time to serve her community. She pursued a weekend opportunity with the ReStore and since then, has become a core volunteer in the bookstore. A book and music enthusiast herself, she puts care into connecting with shoppers who frequent the bookstore. Cassie plays an important part in ensuring that every ReStore shopper has a delightful experience, but this is not her only involvement with Habitat.

In 2014, Cassie joined the ReStore Committee and has been creatively collaborating with other committee members to keep the ReStore at its best since. She has also served on the Fund Development Committee for over a year, helping brainstorm ways to raise funds for Habitat’s building programs as well as special campaigns like Shiloh: Let’s Build!

Recently, she was asked to join the Board of Directors, which she says has already been a fascinating experience. Cassie says that becoming a member of the Board has furthered her understanding of Asheville Habitat in its entirety. She explained, “There is so much that goes into Habitat – mortgage lending, construction services, operating the ReStore, and ultimately serving the community.”

She also had a recent opportunity to experience a homeowner closing firsthand. She reminisced about the homeowner’s excitement and how impactful hearing “zero percent interest” was when reviewing and signing the mortgage documents. This is the moment that Cassie – and all Habitat volunteers, staff, and homeowners work together towards; the moment when a family achieves their dream of affordable homeownership.

Upholding Habitat’s mission is at the core of Cassie’s devotion to her to many roles within Habitat. She said, “I’d recommend volunteering here to anyone who has free time that wants to serve their community. Volunteering with Habitat is a worthy use of anyone’s time!”

With over a decade of service under her belt, Cassie Dillon’s contributions across so many areas of the organization have been greatly impactful and are deeply appreciated. Thank you Cassie, for your unwavering service to Asheville Area Habitat and your community!

Fellow North Carolinians need our help!

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Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and its community of homeowners have suffered a terrible fate in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Of Fayetteville Habitat’s 154 homes, 93 Habitat houses have been flooded extensively, and 66 may be complete losses. “There are powerful and heartbreaking stories of families swimming out of their homes to reach rescuers, lost possessions, and the loss of beloved family pets. Habitat homeowners work hard to pay their mortgages but it will be difficult, in some cases impossible, for most of them to pay both a mortgage and also rent a place to live,” stated a representative from Fayetteville Habitat. Please keep these families in your hearts and prayers and read below to see how you can help.

Make a donation to Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat
DonateJoin us to help Habitat neighbors in need! Asheville Area Habitat is donating to the hurricane relief efforts of Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity in honor of our Board of Directors. We invite you to do the same. Donate online and select Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat in Area of Support. Thank you!

“Round Up” at the ReStore registers
From November 1st through December 31st donations collected through the register Round Up program will be donated to Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity for hurricane relief efforts. For example, if your purchase totals $9.40, please round up to $10.00. Small amounts can really add up to make a big difference!

Go to Fayetteville to volunteer
Please clear your calendar and join one of our service trips, if you’re able. The work will be basic demo/muck/gut. No experience necessary. Transportation and lodging will be provided. Some meals may be provided but each volunteer should be ready to pay the majority of their food expenses.
Sunday, November 13 (noon departure) – Friday, November 18 (dinnertime return) 4 ½ work days
OR
Thursday, December 1 (noon departure) – Sunday, December 4 (dinnertime return) 2 ½ work days.
Please email Stephanie asap if you’d like to participate.

Thank you for helping our fellow North Carolinians in need!

Hudson Hills is complete!

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“I come home each day through the street filled with smiling children on bikes, playing on the sidewalks and shooting baskets through hoops. I come home to people visiting and sharing and laughing and smiling on their porches or walking their babies or puppy dogs. I come home to a sanctuary. A place filled with so much love. Hudson Hills Soulshine.”
~ Rhonda, Habitat homeowner

Successful affordable housing initiatives require the partnership of many constituent groups – public, private and municipalities. Last week, we celebrated the completion of our most recent neighborhood, Hudson Hills. It was made possible with the support of the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, the W&S Foundation (through Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam), and many local businesses, individuals, faith partners, and foundations. Funding was also provided by Habitat homeowner mortgage payments and ReStore proceeds. And in addition to funding, thousands of community volunteers – alongside future homeowners – built these homes.

House sponsor representatives presented ceremonial keys to the last six homes in the neighborhood, among a sea of children and large group of well-wishers. Executive Director Andy Barnett pointed out that three of the program participants have dedicated their careers to affordable housing: Bill Dowse from NCHFA (North Carolina Housing Finance Agency); Lew Kraus and Joan Cooper who recently retired from Asheville Area Habitat; and Jeff Staudinger, the City of Asheville’s Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development. Leadership from affordable housing advocates like these three, coupled with diverse funding partnerships, dedicated volunteers,  and future homeowner participation has proven time and again to be a recipe for a successful Habitat community.

With the strong foundation provided by decent and affordable homes, 24 more local families now have the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future for themselves. With a decent place to live and an affordable mortgage, these homeowners can save more, invest in the future, pursue opportunities, and have more stability. THANK YOU to everyone who helped us build Hudson Hills, a beautiful community of decent, affordable, energy-efficient houses, that are being turned into homes.

To see photos from the October 14th dedication event, please click here.

To see a short video produced by Buncombe County TV, click here.

Safe home in a tight-knit community is a dream come-true for the Trantham-Roper family

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By Kristen Keefer

This past June, Vicki Trantham and her two sons Geoffrey (Roper), 25, and Rowan, 10, moved into their Hudson Hills home, made possible by proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam. The family harnesses a special dynamic, with oldest son Geoffrey (who is also on the deed) helping his mom Vicki raise her youngest son Rowan. The path that led this family to their forever home was filled with hard work and dedication. And today, the family is deeply rooted in the Habitat community.

Though their plates were already full when they began the journey to become homeowners, Vicki and Geoffrey enthusiastically embraced putting in sweat equity. Geoffrey shared, “It never felt like extra work. Volunteering on the weekends never felt overwhelming after the full 40 hour work week.” For him, being on the construction site was a valuable time to work with his neighbors, develop carpentry skills, and share the company of great people.

Geoffrey viewed sweat equity as an opportunity not an obligation. Geoffrey recalled, “The overall experience has been full of hope and very eye-opening.” He shared memories from his first meeting with Habitat homeowner selection committee members. Saying, “We felt so welcomed into the Habitat family. The committee members genuinely wanted to work with us.”

Currently Geoffrey is quite busy, working as a full-time pastry chef at Filo and actively playing guitar in local band The Spiral. And, though he has already completed his sweat equity, in the future he plans to return to the construction site to continue to volunteer his time to Habitat.

Geoffrey also lends his time to his younger brother Rowan. Vicki, who is a breast cancer survivor, expressed how helpful this has been to her, allowing her the opportunity to engage in activities away from home, including continuing her service with Habitat. Vicki is now a “core volunteer”, volunteering her time weekly in the administrative office, as well as at the ReStore. Being able to continue her service has filled her with happiness. She shared, “It’s wonderful to be able to give back and help other families. It’s what we wanted to do!”

The family is incredibly grateful for the opportunities they’ve been able to pursue since joining the Habitat community. Vicki shared that prior to purchasing a Habitat home they had been staying in a rural setting, in dangerous and nearly unlivable conditions. Relocating to Hudson Hills has not only given them a safe place to call home, but integrated them into a tight-knit community. Geoffrey explained, “We’ve never lived in a neighborhood before. It’s cool to see Rowan have so many friends in the neighborhood. I’m secondhand-excited for him!”

Vicki, Geoffrey, and Rowan are an inspirational family. When you meet them, you instantly feel at ease. Together they embrace a unique dynamic, sticking together through thick and thin. Their commitment to each other and the hard work they’ve put in to reach their dream of homeownership represents everything Habitat strives to support in building homes and building communities.

Creating Community Through Service

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by Kristin Keefer

Every Saturday, brothers Kris (far L) and Wayne (L) Ruth lend their time to the ReStore receiving area. They unload donations from vehicles, sort through a mixture of merchandise, and take time to really connect with donors dropping off previously loved goods. Whether it be by lending an ear to donors who have a story to share, or attentively greeting everyone who pulls up to the loading dock with a friendly smile, the duo consciously and caringly engages with ReStore donors, customers, volunteers, and employees.

The two men, now retired, became connected to the Habitat ReStore through a friend when the store was still downtown. Years later, after the ReStore relocated from Biltmore Avenue downtown to the current Meadow Rd/Biltmore Village location, they began volunteering. The gig was a perfect fit and it wasn’t long before they both became core volunteers.

Wayne has been with the ReStore for 13 years and Kris for 12 years. They both agree that they keep coming back for a simple reason; to help one another. Every week, they work together to help other volunteers and employees, and to contribute to the ReStore’s mission. They come back because the people they’re helping are their friends. It is from interactions like these that community sprouts.

For Kris and Wayne, volunteering at the ReStore is about more than processing items in the receiving area, it’s really about the people. Wayne shared, “We really enjoy visiting with folks. We meet some wonderful people!” And, they agree that what they most enjoy about volunteering at the ReStore is the sense of community that is present amongst volunteers and employees. Kris said, “Employees at the ReStore don’t tell you what to do, they help you do it. The people here are really community-oriented.”

If you dig into the brothers’ background, Kris and Wayne’s friendliness comes as no surprise. Both have enjoyed traveling the globe; exploring new places and meeting new faces. In fact, they spent a notable portion of their youth living in Germany.

Recently, Wayne took inspiration from his time spent in Germany (and also Austria), when he remodeled his home in Western North Carolina — ironically located on Munich Street. He compiled materials like metal roofing, windows, a pallet of boards, and even a hot tub from the Restore to use in the restoration. With the reusable materials he constructed a live and work space that includes a bier garden. The space won the “Best Live /Work Space category in the 2014 ReStore ReUse Contest! The following year, Wayne applied his creativity to the contest in a different manner – by participating as a judge.

For over a decade, Kris and Wayne have dedicated their time and talents to the ReStore. Their commitment to helping their peers and customers while making meaningful connections is a wonderful contribution to the tight-knit ReStore community. It is volunteers like this duo that make the ReStore a special place to be. We are grateful for all that you do, Kris and Wayne! Cheers to another decade!

Commitment to Service Deserves Celebration

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By Kristen Keefer

Through a combined effort led by ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin, the annual ReStore Volunteer Appreciation Party was a huge success! On Tuesday, September 20th, more than 150 attendees gathered at Highland Brewing Company in their new event space and savored a beautiful spread of food prepared lovingly by Events Committee chair Alice Donnelly. Volunteers, staff, and their guests also enjoyed live music performed by Hank Bones while sharing in the company of one another throughout the evening.

ReStore Manager Scott Stetson, began the program with a warm welcome while sharing his appreciation for how largely volunteer efforts contribute to a thriving ReStore; efforts that ultimately contribute to the Habitat’s ability to create affordable housing. Future homeowner Heidi Chapman and her two sons took the stage next, expressing excitement and gratitude. Executive Director Andy Barnett followed, interweaving volunteer contributions to the global impact of Habitat’s tithing program. For every home built in Buncombe County, Asheville Habitat tithes to affiliates in Guatemala, Malawi, Haiti, Bangladesh, or Egypt. This incredible tithe program is made possible through many efforts, including our volunteers’ unwavering commitment to service at Habitat.

Next came awards for length of service. Katie Caron, Diane McLean, Dan Shackelford, Arnold Willen, and Marci Windham were all recognized for volunteering for 5 years at the ReStore. Anne Connelly, Bruce Emory, Daphne Fox, Jim Goodson, Sherry Griffith, Connie Koiner, Laura Lowe, Jane Parmley, Betty Jo Readling, Ron Schmid, and Trina Summers were recognized for 10 years of volunteer service. Phil Casey, Bill Crownover, and Alan Williams were recognized for 15 years of service. Additional awards went to Helen Andrews and Bruce Tettemer. And, Shirley Studwell was presented with a special award for sharing her time and talent with Asheville Area Habitat for 25 years!

Thank you volunteers, new and long-standing, for all of your efforts! Day after day your talent, effort, and spirit make the ReStore a special place to be. Without your dedication, operating the Restore, and building homes both locally and globally would not be possible. Your joyful participation at the ReStore and your commitment to Habitat’s mission truly does make a world of a difference!

Summer Intern Brings Energy, Enthusiasm and Willing Spirit

Isabel Arredondo does not come across as the nervous type. She is a confident, cheerful and very funny 16 year old. She hopes to be a physical therapist one day, but medical internships are hard to come by in Asheville. She was a little nervous though when she learned her summer CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) internship assignment was with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. She worried that people might be mean to her, or that she would put in a screw the wrong place and a whole house would crumble to the ground. And she envisioned having to get up early to be on a jobsite while her peers were sleeping in every day. Isabel quickly realized that Habitat staff (and volunteers) are kind, that she could not single handedly ruin a Habitat house, and that being on a jobsite is actually a lot of fun — and includes lots of cookies, muffins and watermelon.

She noted these and other observations recently when she made a short presentation to our Board of Directors during which she recapped her internship as “a very positive experience overall”. The bilingual SILSA student admits she had many misconceptions about Habitat and the Habitat ReStore. They were shattered within the first few days though as she stepped out of her comfort zone and into work in Construction, Home Repair, the ReStore and the Office. She said attending the key passing for a family whose house she had worked on is something she will always remember. The internship “was life-changing” and she now tells her friends that they should volunteer with Habitat.

Ed McGowan, Asheville Habitat’s Finance Director, expressed his gratitude for Isabel’s help: “We were truly blessed to have Isabel with us this summer. She is a very poised, intelligent and helpful young woman who has continued the strong partnership between Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH) and the City’s CAYLA program. She has set the bar very high for future CAYLA interns at AAHH. I am very proud of Isabel’s contribution to our mission and I’m very proud to call her my friend.”

Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something to make that possible for another family. Isabel did that by volunteering with us for six weeks. Like our past three CAYLA interns, Isabel is now an advocate for our work. And although she still plans to pursue physical therapy, we have a feeling she will always have a heart for Habitat. Thank you Isabel for sharing your warm smile, your contagious enthusiasm, and your willing spirit with us this summer!

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.

Celebrating Those Who Share Their Time and Talent

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Volunteers support Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff and homeowner families in every aspect of their work. Last year, 2,000 volunteers contributed more than 60,000 hours of service – at a value of more than $1.38 million, according to independentsector.org. Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 28 staff members working 40 hours each week!

Volunteers have been receiving notes, small gifts and special treats through out the week, as well as free lunch. Local SUBWAY® restaurant owners are again saluting approximately 2,000 Habitat for Humanity volunteers by providing boxed lunches at Habitat work sites in Asheville and across the Carolinas.

And there is no better time than this week to mention milestones. Two core volunteers, Joe Kane (ReStore) and Bob Swartz (Construction) have reached the 15 year milestone; Core construction volunteer Bill Kantonen, known as “singing Bill”, is celebrating 20 years as a volunteer with Asheville Area Habitat; and ReStore volunteers Jan Wright and Allen Laws have been volunteering for 25 years! Habitat is grateful for the commitment of these folks, and of all volunteers, whether they have helped once, or they help once a week.

Some fun facts about Habitat volunteers:

  • In 2015, through programs such as Global Village and Collegiate Challenge as well as the signature “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand” volunteer event, Asheville Area Habitat hosted volunteers from 31 different U.S. states!
  • Habitat utilizes about 135 volunteers in the ReStore each week.
  • It takes 1,650 hours of volunteer labor to build one Habitat house.
  • Core construction volunteers (those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) contributed 68% of total construction volunteer hours in 2015!

And if this isn’t enough, hear what our 12 month intern Emily Stevens has to say about Habitat and volunteerism in this short video clip.

Want to get involved? Please click here to learn more about volunteering and how to sign up. Thanks!

 

 

 

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