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After All These Years

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Susan Diehn Old Store Original

Volunteer Susan Diehn in the Biltmore Ave. store

By Klesa Ausherman

Susan Diehn walked into her first volunteer shift with the Asheville Habitat Home Store on a Monday in 1994. She had inquired about the volunteer opportunity after a friend who knew of Susan’s love for vintage items recommended it to her. Howard Trimble, the Home Store Manager at the time, quickly invited Susan to join the volunteer team. It wasn’t long after she started that the Tuesday Volunteer Manager position became open, and Susan stepped up to the job. “I was the first woman manager,” Susan remembers, “all the rest were retired men.” Of course, the dynamic has since changed, and more and more women have joined Susan in volunteering throughout the ReStore.

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Susan, second from R, alongside fellow volunteers in the Meadow Rd. store

Twenty six years later, Susan can still be found at the upper register on Tuesdays, chatting with regular customers and welcoming new customers to the store. “My tenure with Habitat has been twenty six years of amazing experiences. Knowing our repeat customers and getting to know customers who are new to our store is always fun for me. I always tell them it is the best place in town to shop!” And customers equally enjoy chatting with Susan and learning from her depth of knowledge on all things ReStore.

As much as Susan enjoys interacting with customers, it’s someone else who keeps her commitment to the ReStore strong. “The reason I keep coming every week is knowing that maybe I am helping a family have a positive new beginning. I love working with the homeowner families, getting to know them and seeing the excitement and pride they have about building and owning a home for their family. That experience has been such a joy to me over the years. Times have changed, for sure, but the mission is still the same. Even in these times of the pandemic, it has truly been a pleasure for me to be  a part of this fabulous organization.”

And of course Susan isn’t alone in this sentiment, and she recognizes the like minds around her. “The whole atmosphere of the ReStore is positive and the staff and volunteers are here because they want to be a part of something positive for our community. Plus, the staff are very supportive of the volunteers.” Susan fondly recalls the leaders she has served with over the years, many of whom have since retired. The man behind it all, Lew Kraus, left quite an impression on Susan. “I have always admired Lew Kraus for having the vision to start this wonderful piece of Habitat for Humanity in our area. He was able to bring the vision of a thrift store to benefit the community and build affordable homes for families living in substandard housing, to self-sufficient reality. Through his efforts the tiny store downtown evolved into the large warehouse we are working from now.”

Jay Sloan, ReStore Manager from 1998 to 2014 she says, “He was like my brother. He treated everyone fairly. He brought a new energy to the operation and really made the store grow. He was instrumental in getting the big warehouse up and going. It was a sad time for the staff and volunteers when he made the decision to retire. He surely is missed.”

It would be impossible to reflect back on 26 years of service with the Habitat ReStore and not recall some of the amazing donations that have come in. Susan remembers, “The wonderful and unusual things that have come through our store from our fabulous donors, always surprise me. We’ve had cut gemstones, a baby elephant made of leather, and the horse and buggy. All were quite a spectacle, and sold quickly.” Though Susan didn’t take the horse and buggy home, she does recall the many items that have come home with her over the years. “I have purchased so many wonderful things, I can’t even think of the best. I’ve purchased beds, desks, many chairs, tables, couches, fabrics, dishware, artwork, gemstones, and rugs.”  She’s noticed, “Asheville locals and businesses have become very interested and generous with their donations. Our customers can’t wait to find a treasure for their homes.”

In a time when over 20% of millennials have changed jobs in the past year, Susan Diehn’s  twenty six years of volunteer service with Habitat for Humanity stands out as rare. If anything, after all these years, her engagement is only increasing. Susan even capped her quarter century of service with a mission trip to Ethiopia with Asheville Habitat earlier this year. And with her easy to approach attitude, constant smile, and consistent humility, she certainly sets a high bar.  Asheville Habitat ReStore staff continued to be inspired by her commitment to the organization, and look forward to serving alongside her into the future.  Three cheers to Susan Diehn! Hip, hip, hooray!

A Story Worth Telling

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Covid-19 precludes us from hosting a big event and sale for the 1-year anniversary of the Weaverville store and the 30-year anniversary of the Asheville ReStore. But we know there will be many more milestones to celebrate going forward. Please take a moment to read the Asheville Habitat ReStore story.

Evolution of a Secondhand Store

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Thirty years ago, Asheville Habitat opened a used furniture store on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville. Today, the affiliate operates two successful stores, is one of the highest performing ReStores in the country, and is annually recognized as #1 Used Furniture Store in WNC.

Grand Opening Set for New ReStore

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Following a 9:30am ribbon cutting, we will officially open the doors to shoppers at 10am for the Weaverville ReStore Grand Opening celebration on Saturday, August 24th.  The community is invited to celebrate, shop, and enjoy give-aways, refreshments, and live radio (98.1).

Located in the Weaverville Crossings shopping plaza (61 Weaver Blvd.) in the space previously occupied by ACE Hardware, our new ReStore will offer much of the same merchandise as the flagship Asheville store: gently used furniture, housewares, appliances, building supplies, art and more. There will be a donation drop-off lane and plenty of parking. Hours will be 10am-6pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are thrilled to join the Weaverville community and look forward to providing the northern part of the county with another source of affordable home goods, as well as a place for people to donate building materials, appliances, furniture and more,” added Susan Haynes, Weaverville ReStore Manager. Haynes, previously Assistant Manager of the Asheville ReStore, is joined by Eric Tamila, Weaverville ReStore Assistant Manager. Tamila is a long-time supervisor from the Asheville Habitat ReStore. Two ReStore associates will round out the small team.

One of the first Habitat ReStores in the country, the Asheville Habitat ReStore opened in 1990 on Biltmore Avenue where it remained for thirteen years. After a major renovation of the donated Pearlman Carpet warehouse, the ReStore settled into its existing site at 31 Meadow Road near Biltmore Village in 2003. Today, the Asheville Habitat ReStore is a leader among 900+ Habitat ReStores nationwide, garners annual recognition as best Used Furniture Store (non-profit) in the Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC, and has become a destination for shoppers in Buncombe County and beyond.

Please join us in Weaverville on Saturday, August 24th to celebrate the much-anticipated opening of our second ReStore!

 

Kaaren and Lynn: A Meaningful Connection

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By Marty Steinberg

“The art wall is the first thing you see when walking into the upper showroom and Lynn and Kaaren keep it looking amazing,” according to ReStore Upper Showroom Assistant Manager Brian Haynes.

The proof is in the pictures. Or the paintings, or the movie posters or the occasional metallic wall sculpture. If it’s hanging on the ReStore art wall, ReStore volunteers Kaaren McNulty and Lynn Kirby probably put it there.

“I was looking for something meaningful to do so I offered to help with the art wall,” said McNulty, a longtime ReStore volunteer and an artist who also donates original paintings to be sold at the ReStore. “This is my first volunteer job and I love it. I feel a connection to the people I work with.”

Kirby, a glass artist, says she has made lasting friendships by volunteering at the ReStore. “I look forward to coming in to meet people and do something meaningful that helps the community.”

They both have personalized aprons that were embroidered by Kirby to wear for their volunteer shifts. Both women also have suffered a recent loss and they say that volunteering at the ReStore helps them personally.

McNulty, originally from Detroit, worked as a corporate meeting planner in Atlanta before retiring to Western North Carolina with her husband. “He died a year ago and volunteering at the ReStore has been even more helpful to me since that happened,” McNulty said.

Kirby, who spent a 20-year career with IBM, is from upstate New York and received a job transfer to Texas where she lived with her husband before they lost everything in their home to a wildfire. “We heard about Asheville and I came out in 2012 with my husband, three dogs and a cat,” she said.

Both volunteers agree that ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin helps make volunteering at the ReStore a positive experience. “Being on a set schedule helps as well because you know when you’re expected and you can plan around it,” said Kirby. Both women generally put in two four-hour shifts each week.

They both enjoy engaging with shoppers, staff, and other volunteers when they work behind the counter, after the art wall has been neatened and replenished.

“When you talk with someone who is doing sweat equity and they tell you what a difference a new home will make for their family, it’s incredible.” Kirby said. “And what a blessing it is to hear that people will be able to stay in their homes because of Habitat’s home repair program.” added McNulty.

For now, both of them plan to continue “hanging” around the ReStore.

 

If you’re interested in volunteering at the ReStore, please email Carrie Burgin.

 

A Million Dollar Idea

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By Ariane Kjellquist

The upper level of Asheville Habitat’s ReStore is regularly abuzz every other Wednesday around 2pm when the bi-monthly Silent Auction closes. But the level of excitement will be anything but typical on March 20th, when auction proceeds reach the $1M mark!

Call it “a million dollar idea” by retired teacher, self-proclaimed antiques freak, and ReStore volunteer Alan Williams (pictured above with Ann Justice) who was inspired by the TV program Antiques Roadshow. He recognized that some of the items donated to the ReStore held significant value to the right buyer. A Silent Auction, he believed, could help the ReStore raise more money for Asheville Habitat’s programs.

Williams has been spearheading the curation of each auction (there have been 278) since its May 18, 2005 inception. From rare items and collectible memorabilia to local art and handmade crafts, the auction has featured a cross-section of American history and pop culture. Each auction contains, on average, 65-70 items. Some, no one can even identify!

The most unique auction by most accounts was the Grove Park Inn auction, held in celebration of Asheville Habitat’s 30th Anniversary in 2013. All of the items were donated by the Grove Park Inn and included: purple velvet loungers, “car” couches, copper wall lights, a player piano, mannequins and dress forms, many whimsical floor and table lamps, leather club chairs, arts & craft-style furniture and more. It raised more than $13,000!

While staff readily embraced the Silent Auction concept from the start, they never anticipated its impact. “We never could have foreseen what Alan would build these past 13 years, or that it would gain such a loyal following from community members,” remarked ReStore Assistant Manager Susan Haynes who supports Alan and the auction volunteer crew, which includes Anne Justice and Rob Carroll. Donation processing staff and volunteers also help by keeping an eye out for items they think Alan may want to consider for the auction.

On Wednesday, March 20th at 1pm, guests will gather in the upper showroom of the ReStore to celebrate the auction’s $1 million milestone, recognize Alan Williams, and present ceremonial keys to Habitat’s newest homeowner, Courtney Hoglen. 

Silent Auction proceeds, like all ReStore proceeds, help fund Asheville Habitat’s affordable home building and home repair programs.

And the Winners are…

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The Asheville Habitat ReStore is pleased to announce the winners of its seventh annual ReStore ReUse Contest. Ranging from fire pits and bars to pet beds and benches and everything in between, the 32 entries were constructed predominantly of reused materials. A panel of five judges selected winners in six categories: Furniture, Homesteading, Live/Work Space, Home Décor, Youth, and Best in Show. A winner was also selected in an added category, Community Contribution. The 2018 winners are:

Best in Show – Philip Davis (Waynesville); A beautiful bar crafted from a piece of a 100 year old equestrian barn door and salvaged pallets and recycled metal pipe and iron.

Furniture – David Devine (Anderson, SC); A garden chair for his daughter crafted from recycled junk metal.

Homesteading – Gigi Presta (Weaverville); A greenhouse constructed of old doors from the ReStore, a dome top seen/found in a ditch while cycling, and wood scraps.

Live/Work Space – Jill Adams (Asheville); Turned an area that was a catchall for junk into an outside bar, entertainment area, and closet made from primarily salvaged wood.

Home Decor – Cindee and John Rudel (Asheville); A wood mural that references the mountains, trees, plants, streams and swimming holes that they love. It was crafted from recycled wood and scraps that were found during the renovation of their home. “We were inspired to create this wall for our sitting room in homage to the decades that Cindee’s grandfather (the previous owner of the house) spent working for the Drexel furniture plant starting in the 1940’s,” noted John.

Youth – Tootsie Jablonski (Candler); Called “Pine Play”, this loose-parts playground is made entirely of reused or creatively purposed materials that were donated from community members or Smith Mill Works. Although very simple, this area inspires hours of focused, team-work-driven play as children build and re-build to create whatever type of play they want.

Community Contribution – Michael Van Hall (Weaverville); In this added category, the winner was selected for the community resource he created for this neighborhood – a Little Free Library made from an old tool cabinet, salvaged cabinet doors, and salvaged stamped tin ceiling tile.

Photos of all entries, including the winners, can be seen in this FlickR album.

Entries were judged on quality of design and execution; replicability of concept; clarity of description; and quality of photos. Winner received gift certificates to the Habitat ReStore.

The judging panel included:
Scott Stetson, ReStore General Manager
Joel Johnson, Habitat’s Home Repair Manager
Blake Cloninger, VP of Biltmore Iron & Metal
Peter Steurer, ReUse Contest Winner (2017-Homesteading)
Elaine Sargent, Habitat homeowner and reuse enthusiast

A Great Retirement Plan

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By Maria Angell

Volunteering with the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is great for retirees – like Lee Fadden and Jan Wright – who have, combined, nearly 50 years of volunteer experience with the ReStore!

Lee started volunteering with the Asheville ReStore in 1997 after she had retired from Eaton Corporation and decided to give her time to a worthy cause. She currently works in the ReStore’s housewares department where she cleans and prices items. Lee enjoys her volunteer position because of the people she works with and knowing that her “efforts will help to provide homes for those who would not be able to afford them without the help of Habitat.”

Jan’s volunteer work with the Asheville ReStore began nearly 28 years ago in 1990 after she retired from Mission Hospital.

“I began volunteering because I felt I needed and wanted to give back because I have been blessed in many ways. Habitat appealed to me because it was at that time a Christian organization based on biblical principles, helping to provide homes for people who, without their help, would never own their own home.”

Jan works alongside Lee in the housewares department. She enjoys getting to socialize with people who have the same goals. She too finds her volunteer work rewarding because she knows she is helping contribute to the funding Habitat needs to build homes. Volunteers help keep Habitat’s costs down, and proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat’s home building and home repair programs.

“I would recommend volunteering at Habitat. You have great people to work with and at the same time, you provide a needed service,” Jan concluded.

Thank you Lee and Jan for the combined 50 years of service you have given to the Asheville ReStore! We appreciate both of you and all of your hard work!

Interested in joining Habitat’s volunteer team? Click here to learn about opportunities.

 

Local Artist Pat Perkerson Donates to the ReStore Silent Auction

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By Alex Cox

Here at the ReStore, we always try to showcase a diverse selection of unique and rare items in our bi-weekly Silent Auction, and this week we’d like mention a particular artist who donated generously to the current auction selection.

We are grateful to Pat Perkerson for donating a large amount of her personal artwork. Pieces range from paintings and collages to sculptures and pottery. These items are currently open to bidding, and this Silent Auction ends Wednesday, April 19th at 2 pm.

About the Artist:
Pat was born in what is now Zimbabwe, and has lived in England, Australia, and the Middle East. She now resides permanently in Asheville, but her work often reflects the influence of her travels. She attended art school in Australia, and holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from California State University, Chico. She has also worked in the fields of archaeological illustration and education.

Her work includes both two-dimensional pieces such as paintings, and three-dimensional ones such as sculptures and lifelike figures. She also creates porcelain dishes by hand which are painted and then protected with a food-safe glaze.

Pat’s work has sold internationally, but it is represented primarily at the Miya Gallery in Weaverville, N.C. and the Artist’s Coop in Laurens, S.C.

We couldn’t be more grateful for Pat’s generous donation of art for our auction!

If you have items that you’d like to donate, whether it’s your artwork or another kind of unique treasure, feel free to contact the ReStore at 828.254.6706. Proceeds from our Silent Auction, like all other ReStore proceeds, help fund Habitat’s construction of affordable housing in Buncombe County.

View Pat’s artwork below:

Volunteer Spotlight: Susie Emerick

By Alex Cox

Every Tuesday, Susie Emerick arrives at the ReStore and begins organizing and preparing her work space. Susie works in the linens area of the store, a department that receives, cleans, and prices various fabrics that are available for purchase. These tasks aren’t for everyone, but Susie enjoys volunteering her time in this capacity.

Susie’s days of giving back to her community through volunteerism began more than 30 years ago. Before moving to Asheville more than a decade ago, Susie lived in Baltimore for 30 years. She volunteered with various organizations there, including a hospital. “I used to volunteer at the Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, which was very important,” Susie explained. “We usually received babies that had had surgeries or other procedures, and they were with us for a while before going home.”

Her volunteering with Habitat for Humanity began in Brunswick County (NC) before starting with Asheville Area Habitat more than 12 years ago. She and her husband volunteer on house builds occasionally, but most of her work with Habitat has been with the ReStore.

“When I first called to volunteer (in Asheville), this was the only department that needed help,” Susie said. “This is good because cashiers and other volunteers often need to stay all day and get here early, but I don’t have to. I can be kind of behind the scenes, which I like.”

The ReStore utilizes the help of 140 volunteers every week. Many are like Susie – rarely seen by customers because they are busy in the backrooms. But their work as just as important as the work done by volunteers on the showroom floor. Susie describes a normal day of volunteering in the linens area, and the importance of behind-the-scenes work at the ReStore. “We clean the items, organize them, and hang them up. After that, we determine what sizes things are. Customers want to know that information, and it’s hard to just judge what size sheets or other linens are. They need to be measured.”

“My favorite part of working here is that it keeps me busy, but it’s also relaxed. I’ve volunteered in many places in the past, and I like the pace here,” said Susie. “It’s always something different and it’s always changing. It’s never boring.”

Susie also volunteers with Animal Haven, a local organization that receives abused or neglected farm animals and domestic animals such as cats and dogs, and provides them shelter, food, and rehabilitation. They also work with other organizations such as Meals on Wheels and New Leash on Life to provide support for low-income households that have pets. “I like the hands-on work at Animal Haven,” Susie explained. “I clean the habitats and feed the animals, and recently we did a metal run, where we do a large recycling project with aluminum.”

So on this Thank You Thursday, we thank Susie for her service with the Asheville Habitat ReStore and other organizations that need hard working and passionate volunteers to help them reach their goals. She is committed to making a difference in her community, and we thank her for putting in the time and the energy to do so.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Asheville Habitat, please click here to learn more.

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