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

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By Zoe Trout 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

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

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

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

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

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

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

To see photos, please click here.

Four More Families Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Build a Better Future With Your Holiday Gift

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Perseverance is the cornerstone of Lindsay’s life. It is how she cares for her son with cerebral palsy, how she is five years sober, and how she mentors families struggling with addiction in her job as a Peer Support Specialist. Now, this cornerstone is helping Lindsay build a better future — on the foundation of a Habitat home.

Make a gift this holiday season to support Lindsay, her sons, and other hard working families on their journey to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through decent, affordable housing.

Every child deserves a foundation to build their future, and
everyone deserves a decent place to call home.

Please give a gift today.

Note: If you’re making a holiday gift in honor of someone, let us know and we will mail a holiday card to them to acknowledge your gift. We request a minimum donation of $10 per card. If you live in Asheville and would like to pick up holiday cards to hand write, please stop by our office M-F between 8:30am and 5pm.

Habitat Construction Supervisor John Meadows and Habitat homebuyer Lindsay review the floor plans of her future home in Arden.

Homeownership Brings Friendship Full Circle

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By Shannon Kauffmann

I met Kelly Lucy (above R) about eight years ago when I was working as a childcare subsidy case worker. She was one of my clients. Kelly recalled, “I remember the very first time that I met you because I cried through the entire appointment. You probably thought I was crazy!” Nothing could be further from the truth. If she needed a case worker to cry to, she came to the right person.

As a stressed out single parent myself, I had been on the other side of the desk many time before. Being employed as a full-time case worker meant that I earned just enough to disqualify me from receiving any public assistance, but not enough to pay the bills. One bi-weekly paycheck went towards paying the rent without a dollar to spare. I remember crying at the grocery store because I didn’t have enough change to buy a box of tissues for my sick child. Kelly may have been embarrassed about crying in my office, but seeing a single parent in tears was neither surprising nor memorable; it was my life reflected back at me.

Over the next eight years, I met with Kelly 2 or 3 times a year to renew her vouchers. I was always happy to see her name on my calendar because she came prepared and she made me laugh. We swapped stories about our boys and commiserated on the woes of single parenting. With our boys being close in age, we seemed to live parallel lives. If my son had gotten into trouble for making noises in class, I could be confident that Kelly had a similar story to tell. One appointment at a time, Kelly and I had become friends. We were no longer constrained by the case worker/client relationship.

That being said, it’s no surprise that when I purchased a home through Habitat, I was eager to share my excitement with her. I explained that purchasing a home through Habitat completely changed my life, and my son’s life. Having a mortgage that was half of what I had been paying for rent, not only provided financial relief, it allowed me to be a better parent. The stress that came from not being able to pay my bills had turned me into someone I barely recognized. When I made my first mortgage payment and realized I had money “left over,” I literally felt as though pressure had been lifted from my chest. Knowing that Kelly was still experiencing that same suffocating stress, I encouraged her to apply to Habitat’s Homeownership program and hoped for the best.

I had no way of knowing then, that when she applied, I would be the one to process her application. But that’s exactly what happened! When Kelly was in the process of applying for Habitat homeownership, I was in the process of applying for a job with Asheville Habitat. Without either of us knowing, Kelly and I had continued on separate, yet parallel paths. When I sat down at my new desk and saw her application, I was elated! Our friendship had come full circle.

Kelly was the first homeowner I saw all the way through the process – from application to closing – as Asheville Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Coordinator, and I was invited to go with her to the attorney’s office to sign her mortgage documents.

Watching Kelly sign her closing papers and accept the keys to her house brought tears to my eyes. It took me back to our first meeting many years ago, when Kelly was crying and I couldn’t afford a box of tissues! Back then, thinking that both of us would become homeowners was as absurd as thinking that both of us would win the lottery; and yet here we are. Because of Habitat’s interest-free loan and affordable monthly payments, Kelly and I can focus on being present for our children, and also for each other. With both of our boys approaching puberty, we will continue on our parallel paths as single mothers, meeting every few months to commiserate, to laugh, and to cry — and for old time sake, we will take turns buying the tissues.

Kelly’s new Habitat home in Shiloh is our first Legacy Builders Society House and Asheville Habitat’s 300th house!

Shannon’s Habitat home in West Asheville was made possible by Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam (in 2012).

 

New House, New Beginnings

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The nine year old girl, center of her mother’s world, is too young to fully comprehend what her new Habitat home means to her mom and to their family. But she sure is excited to decorate her room and play with friends in her new neighborhood!

Elizabeth, the young girl’s mom, credits her daughter for inspiring her to better her future, and her father for encouraging her in the right direction. With motivation and support, she enrolled at AB-Tech, become a CNA, and secured a good job with a local alcohol and drug treatment center. Her next goal was straightening out her credit and becoming a homeowner. Mission accomplished, as she just signed her mortgage documents and proudly accepted the keys to her new Habitat home!

“One day she will realize how strong she made her momma,” said Elizabeth while proudly showing photos of her daughter and son, and waiting to sign her closing documents.

“I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in the last six or seven years. If I stayed with her dad, I was staying in an abusive situation. But if I left that would mean my daughter would grow up without a father.”

Ultimately, Elizabeth chose the latter and is overwhelmed by everything she has accomplished for herself and her family — by herself. She was overcome with emotion as she looked at the key in her hand and thought back to a time of hopelessness. Proud of her perseverance and excited about what the future holds Elizabeth headed to her new home where her friends and her father were waiting to help her unload a U-Haul truck and unpack a fresh start.

If you’d like to learn more about Habitat’s affordable homeownership program, 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.

Students Leading the Charge to House Sponsorship

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Students from Asheville Christian Academy, Carolina Day School, and Christ School are already well on their way to making the second Habitat Student Build House in Buncombe County a reality. These schools have committed to jointly raise the $55,000 it takes to fully sponsor an Asheville Area Habitat house and provide student volunteers (ages 16 and up) and adult chaperones to help build the house. Each school will raise $18,333. Construction on the house is slated to begin March 24th, with the first wall to be raised three days later.

Reaching such a lofty goal takes leadership. The schools have formed a Student Advisory Committee with students from each school who stepped forward to take on the task of leading the charge. The group met last fall in a preliminary Student Build Workshop, and recently met again for their second workshop at the Habitat office this past Saturday, January 24th.

13 high school student-leaders and a faculty member from each school spent Saturday morning with Habitat core volunteers and staff preparing and learning. They toured the ReStore, learned how to effectively recruit and schedule volunteers for the Student Build House, and were trained on how to use an online crowdsourcing campaign to raise money. They reported on what they had already done to raise money (as a total, they are already 63% to their goal!), and discussed what worked and what didn’t. Plans were also made to prepare for the 2016 Student Build House!

The icing on the cake that day was the presentation of a $4,000 check from State Farm. Proof that they had already come far since the first workshop, this check was the result of a grant proposal the students penned and submitted together. It’s amazing what a group of motivated young people can accomplish with a little bit of guidance and a whole lot of heart!

Building in Honor of Pope Francis

This May, we began construction on The Pope Francis House, the first Habitat house in the nation built in honor of the beloved leader. This house is fully (financially) sponsored by an anonymous donor; local Catholic churches will take the lead in volunteer recruitment. Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers, local and non-local groups, will be invited to participate in the build. This house will become home to the Meadows family.

The Pope Francis House broke ground on May 13th and we raised the first wall on May 21.

To see photos from the wall raising, click here. To see the news coverage on WLOS, click here.

The purpose of this house is threefold:

• To honor Pope Francis for his commitment to social justice and reinvigorating the Catholic Church;
• To provide a unifying, celebratory opportunity for both Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers to work together towards a common goal (as Pope Francis says, “Work confers dignity.”); and
• To further Habitat’s mission of building and preserving homes.

Being built on an infill lot on Jeffress Avenue in Shiloh, the Pope Francis House is just around the corner from the Shiloh Community Garden, where Habitat helped build a garden shed and raised beds in 2013. Habitat also completed a number of Home Repair projects in the Shiloh community in the last few years and starting in 2016, ten new Habitat houses will be built just up the road off Taft Avenue.

“It is our hope, and that of the donor, that this project will serve as a model for other Habitat affiliates to partner with local Catholic churches and build in honor of Pope Francis,” said Lew Kraus, Executive Director of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Interested in bringing a group to volunteer on this house? Please contact Stephanie.

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