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From Finance to the Fix-It Shop: Three Volunteers Find Their Niche in the Large Appliance Repair Area

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By Jonathan Dermid

Typically, when someone first enters the ReStore, some of the first items on display are our large appliances. A common question might be, “they look nice, but do they work?” Here at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, we individually test them to make sure they are in top shape!

Helping to clean, repair (if necessary), and prepare these appliances for sale is the large appliance team of Joe Kane (L), Bill Crownover (C) and Sid Finkel (R). They typically won’t be found out on the sales floor though, as they toil away in the repair area in the basement, checking out everything from refrigerators to ranges.

“Joe and I both started about the same time, back when the store was still downtown, and we started working on the delivery trucks,” Bill said.

Bill and Joe bonded quickly, and their mutual enjoyment of cycling led to another volunteer assignment in the store. “He and I have done a lot of cycling together, so we had a lot of fun fixing bikes. But bikes have kind of peaked out and there became a greater need for testing and repairing large appliances,” Bill said.

When Sid began volunteering, the diligent repairing of appliances really picked up. “Before Sid came along, we kind of just sold them as-is.” Bill said. This diligence shows, and Sid takes pride in the condition of the appliances that go out onto the showroom floor. “They’re reliable appliances, and they’re tested and clean,” Sid said. “When someone buys an appliance from the ReStore, they can be sure they’re getting something that works.”

Interestingly, none of the three men come from a background of repairs, but backgrounds of finance-related careers, from investment banking in New York to the North Carolina Department of Revenue. “It’s interesting that we all come from different backgrounds,” Joe said. “I think there’s an attraction about Habitat and you get to meet all kinds of different people in the process.”

Perhaps the most common thread between the volunteers is their dedication to Habitat for Humanity, allowing them to take pride in not only their repair work, but the mission of Habitat as well.

“It’s a win-win-win situation in a lot of ways,” Sid said. “We raise money for the cause, we repair appliances that might be otherwise thrown out, and we put them back in the system for people who might not be able to afford new appliances.”

Joe shares these sentiments, and has a personal motivation to help others achieve their goal of affordable housing. “The first time I ever heard about Habitat for Humanity, I thought it was just a great concept. Providing a person with the opportunity to own a house in a good neighborhood really struck my fancy,” he said. My parents struggled very hard for a house, and when we finally got it, it was a great feeling; and it’s a great feeling knowing that I can help someone else have that.”

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

Celebrating Our ReStore Volunteers

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by Jonathan Dermid

The bonding and teamwork among our volunteers is a common thread that links these blog profiles. Every week it seems, our volunteers share a similar sentiment – they love to volunteer because not only do they support the Habitat cause, but they also genuinely enjoy the bond they have with fellow volunteers.

So, it was very fulfilling to have so many of our volunteers under one roof as they ate, drank, and shared each others’ company at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at Highland Brewing Company. The event was graciously catered with homemade food from Alice Donnelly, chair of the Events Committee (and retired Asheville Area Habitat Accountant). The party also served as a way for us to celebrate the milestones of certain volunteers who have been with our affiliate for 5, 10, and 15 years.

The Enders, a partner family we highlighted in a previous blog post, offered remarks of gratitude before the awards ceremony. “We desired a home for a long time,” Michelle Ender said. “It’s a real blessing, and it changes our future completely. I’m very thankful that my children will have a place to call home.”

Michelle also shared her own experience in volunteering at the ReStore, saying “it really feels like a big family when I’m there.”

Lew Kraus, executive director of Asheville Area Habitat, shared a few words about how volunteering contributes to and ultimately shapes the work of Habitat. “I’m here to salute you for the wonderful things you have done and continue to do,” he said. “I reflect back on the many years I’ve spent here, and the true metrics of success are measured in the words of the Enders family. I don’t know how to measure the metrics when a family can come home at night, put their feet up, and say this is my home.”

While the event celebrated all ReStore volunteers, a handful were called out an recognized for longevity in service. Receiving the 5 year milestone award were Marge Marsh, Sheila Ray, Wally Lee, Norm Madden, Anne Tansey, Dick Hipp, Bill Kalavorich, and Tom Thompson. Denise Goodman and Sheri Waters received the 10 year award, getting their names on a plaque in addition to receiving a congratulatory pin. And Joe Kane, a volunteer of 15 years, received a hand-made copper tile (with a house design) to commemorate his many years of volunteer service.

Finally a very special award, the “Iron Man” award, was presented to our volunteer of 25 years, Allen Laws. ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson described him as being “just like family to us at the ReStore, and I think he gets as much out of helping us, as we do out of helping him.”

And so the night wound down, with the volunteers and staff gradually going their separate ways, the spirit of giving and selflessness filling the room. In only a couple hours’ time, the entire mission of Habitat for Humanity was conveyed by a simple dinner party, because without the efforts of the volunteers, there would be no party; there would be no Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity; there would be no homeowners receiving an opportunity to change their futures.

If you would like to be part of our life-changing work, click here to learn about volunteering.

 

Couple Bonds Over Volunteerism

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By Jonathan Dermid

At the Asheville Habitat ReStore, no single volunteer is an island unto themselves. They all work together in collaboration to effectively further the cause of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, and for some, this team effort extends beyond the store itself. Some are married, as is the case with Lou and Jerry Towson.

“My husband got started first. We’re both very interested in providing affordable housing for people, and I just wanted to do something where I’d be with other people,” Lou said. “I started at the cash register, but every time we had a lull, I’d be back there organizing and trying to ‘stage’ the shelves because I’m an interior designer.”

Both Lou and Jerry have been volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity for more than ten years. While Lou has found her niche at the ReStore, Jerry has been primarily involved on the affiliate side of things.

“He works regularly on the construction site, he was on the Board of Directors, and he was on the family selection committee,” Lou said. “He has a background in civil engineering, so he has been able to use that, because he likes to build and that’s a big help on the job site.”

Both share the common values that Habitat was founded upon: community members working together to enable everyone to have a safe, decent and affordable place to live.

“One of my core beliefs is that home ownership helps build family stability,” Jerry said. “A safe haven for parents and children usually reduces the stress of day-to-day living.”

He also sees the process of volunteering as being a positive in his own life, because it allows for an outlet for his energy.

“In my retirement years, by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, I can use my physical energy to help other families accomplish their goal of homeownership, and it has been pleasure to do that,” he said.

Lou echoes this sentiment, as she sees volunteering as satisfying for a few reasons.

“It makes me feel good because it’s what I like to do, but also because it lets me do a small part to help people who are seeking affordable homes,” she said. “The most satisfying things to me are making the ReStore look attractive and interacting with the other volunteers.”

Their volunteerism has also created a nice bond in their marriage, according to Lou.

“It’s kind of nice for us to volunteer together, because even if we’re not in the same place, we still go to all the functions together and we understand what the other is doing,” she said. “It’s something we’re both very committed to, and it’s nice to have that bond.”

If you would like to explore volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity on your own, or with a friend or family member, click here to learn more about opportunities and how to sign up.

 

Two Former Government Employees Find Fulfillment and Fun at the ReStore

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By Jonathan Dermid

If you’ve ever dropped off items on a Wednesday morning, you might never have guessed that two of the men helping you unload your donations are former employees of the US Department of State and the National Security Agency (NSA).

These two men are Bruce Ammerman(R), former foreign services agent for the State Department, and Dick Hipp (L), former technical writer for the NSA. In this photo, they are joking around with staffer Jason Butler (center).

Both men felt compelled to volunteer after retiring to Asheville, for similar reasons.

“I started volunteering because I moved to town, and I had retired, and I didn’t have anything to do with my time,” Bruce said. “I also think that it’s a laudable goal, making housing affordable for people who need it.”

Dick has a similar story of how he came to volunteer at the ReStore. “Pretty much like Bruce, I retired here from Washington D.C. and was looking for something to do that might be helpful to people,” Dick said. “I had a cycling friend that volunteered here and after asking him about it, I looked into it and I was interested. And since I’m not much of a handyman, I figured the loading dock sounded like a good fit.”

Dick worked for the NSA as a technical writer, which usually involved working with engineers and mathematicians and editing technical manuals and documentation.

He points to the social opportunities of volunteering here as another motivating factor, re-emphasizing the nature of teamwork that we have highlighted in past volunteer profiles.

“It’s nice to get out and have the opportunity to interact with people and work together with them for a goal; and I can do that here,” Dick noted.

For Bruce, volunteering was a venture that he only became able to do after retiring, and he exhibits a positive spirit in doing so.

“When I was working, I didn’t really do any volunteering because I was busy either with my family or with work, so I just didn’t have time,” Bruce said. “My dad volunteered for Meals on Wheels for decades, though, so I wanted to eventually do something similar in terms of volunteering.”

Bruce also points to a certain spirit of selflessness that permeates the volunteers at the ReStore and is worth honoring – it’s more for the sake of the cause than for individual praise. “I don’t think the people who volunteer here are necessarily interested in recognition,” he said. “Either something is worth doing or it’s not, but if it is a worthwhile endeavor, then it’s worth getting the word out.” In addition to volunteering in the ReStore, Bruce is also on our Outreach Committee so he can sometimes be found out in the community, staffing a Habitat table at a resource fair, for example.

Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, we pride ourselves on our volunteers; both for their selflessness and for the breadth of past and present life experiences that unite under the common goals of Habitat for Humanity.

A big thanks to Dick, Bruce and all the volunteers who fuel our organization!

If you want to join our volunteer team, click here to read about opportunities or sign up for an orientation.

On Sale Day and Every Day, Volunteers Contribute to ReStore Success

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by Jonathan Dermid

Last Saturday, September 12th, we celebrated the ongoing support of our wonderful community with the annual Fall Customer Appreciation Sale at the ReStore. The celebration was an all-day affair, with everything from a live remote by 98.1 The River and a free hot dog lunch, to a special Silent Auction with items donated by the Grove Park Inn. These things, in addition to the 25% discount, were just a few ways for us to say thank you to the generous community who supports Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity by shopping, donating and volunteering at the ReStore.

Speaking of volunteering…In order for this event to come together seamlessly, 38 caring volunteers donated a combined total of 125 hours between Friday night (preparation) and Saturday (sale day)! This effort included everything from setting up merchandise to be sold (well into the evening on Friday) and answering customer questions, to diligently running the registers and helping load much of the large merchandise that was sold on Saturday.

ReStore volunteer coordinator Carrie Burgin pointed out, “This effort is not unique to Sale days. Our fantastic volunteers are the backbone of the ReStore, and their service keeps us running to support the affordable housing cause every day. But, the combined initiative that was shown last weekend displayed the essence of what we all take pride in here at Habitat: a kind of selfless giving of time and energy for the betterment of our community that not only made the Fall Sale a success, but continuously makes the Asheville Habitat ReStore a positive place to be.”

From all of us at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, a big thanks to you – our community – for allowing us to serve you. And of course, Thank You to all the volunteers who worked so hard last weekend (and every day). We appreciate you!

If you’d like to learn more about volunteering at the ReStore or in another department, please click here.

Reading enthusiast finds volunteer home at Habitat

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By Jonathan Dermid

If the Asheville Habitat ReStore has a hidden gem, it would be the used bookstore. Tucked away in the back of the upper showroom, it may seem to be just another thrifty book corner. But as soon as you enter, you feel how it is different from other used bookstores.

Our bookstore is meticulously organized and operated through the care of several staff members and volunteers, who provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere which can be felt throughout the upper showroom.

One such volunteer is Katie Caron, who has been volunteering with Habitat for five years now. A former English teacher, Katie retired to Asheville and almost immediately found a place within Habitat.

“I went to an orientation at an organization called Land of Sky and they had different representatives from different organizations, and Habitat interested me,” she said. “I really believe in the purpose of the Habitat program and the way that it’s carried out.”

A self-proclaimed “book nut”, Katie gravitated towards the bookstore, where she volunteers on both Tuesdays and Thursdays. She chose to volunteer two days a week because she loves the idea of donating her time to the cause.

“It’s nice to donate your time instead of just writing a check,” she said, “and that time is equally donated by the people you’re helping.” Katie is referring to the Sweat Equity, or volunteer hours, that Habitat homeowners contribute on their path to Habitat homeownership.

She attributes her passion for volunteering to a sort of team mentality. “I like that idea of everyone working together,” she said, “it’s like a team, and that’s what this place is all about.”

As a team player, Katie will jump in when and where she is needed. Early in her tenure as a volunteer she helped our Communications department by cleaning and painting donated windows and doors which now comprise the “Habitat mission wall” in the lower showroom – a display that explains what Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, and the Asheville Habitat ReStore, is all about.

It’s the teamwork and the end result for the partner families (homeownership) that make volunteering so satisfying for Katie.

“When I see all the people around me that work so hard for this purpose, and when I see a family that we’ve helped, it makes me think ‘wow, that’s why I go in there and do that’,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling for me.”

If you’d like to learn about becoming a Habitat volunteer (in the ReStore or another area of the organization), please click here.

 

ReStore Silent Auction Celebrates 10 Years & Another Home for a Local Family

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In May 2005, Habitat volunteer Alan Williams set up the very first ReStore Silent Auction. In the ten years since its inception, the auction has raised $670,000, grown to be an important part of the Asheville ReStore, and is now the envy of Habitat ReStores around the nation. Williams still manages the auction but today he has help from staff and other volunteers.

The auction, like the ReStore itself, provides funds for Habitat’s building programs. The ReStore Silent Auction House currently being built in West Asheville will become home to the Frisbee family this fall. At the close of the auction on May 27th, there was a small celebration with the Frisbee family. WLOS interviewed Williams and Deanna Frisbee, and ReStore customers and Habitat supporters had the opportunity to meet the Frisbee family and sign a guest book and a stud wall. The signed 2×4 studs will used in the construction of a Habitat house.

To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Silent Auction, Williams and a small team of staff and volunteers curated a collection of mid-century furniture including Norman Cherner molded plywood chairs, a set of six J.L. Moller Model chairs, a L. Jacobson Model table with 2 extending leaves, and other collectible items. The set of six J.L. Moller Model chairs went for more than $1,100 – still a bargain since they’ve sold recently on eBay for twice that amount. Plus, ReStore purchases help build Habitat homes, so it was a win-win.

“We thought a mid-century furniture focus would be fun for the 10th Anniversary auction because this design style is so hot right now,” said Susan Haynes, ReStore Sales Manager. “We feel extremely fortunate to have received these incredible donations and by including them in the special 10th Anniversary auction, we hope to generate some buzz in the ReStore, expand the community’s awareness of our Silent Auction, and help ensure that these special pieces end up in a home where they will be appreciated and loved for many years to come.”

The auction included many other non mid-century items too.

To see photos from the event, please click here.

Earth Day Incentive – Get Cleaning!

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Clear the clutter, empty your attic and take back your garage! There is no better time than now to start your spring cleaning. To help motivate Buncombe County residents, during the month of March the Habitat ReStore will give merchandise donors a coupon for 25% off their total purchase during the week of Earth Day (April 18-26, 2015). Donations are accepted at the Habitat ReStore Monday through Saturday between 9am and 6pm. Or, for larger items, call 828-254-6706 to schedule a free pick-up (within Buncombe County).

In addition to feeling good about giving usable items a new lease on life by donating them, you can also feel good about supporting affordable housing; because that’s exactly what you do when you donate to (or shop at) the Habitat ReStore. Proceeds from ReStore sales help fund Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s building programs (new home construction and home repair) and cover administrative and fundraising expenses.

Since 1990, the Asheville Habitat ReStore has provided the community with a source for affordable, gently used—and sometimes new—building materials, furniture, appliances, housewares, books, art and much more. And thanks to this community’s strong commitment to reuse, the ReStore diverts 1,500 tons of usable materials from landfills annually. Please read the Donation Guidelines and drop off your donations or schedule a pick-up today!

Setting a Good Example

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What makes the current Silent Auction so special? Every item in it was donated by Brian and Susan Haynes! Looking to be a model for other families who are downsizing, cleaning out an estate, or simply pairing down their possessions, the Haynes family donated a collection of items to the ReStore specifically for the Silent Auction. Items include vintage toys and lunchboxes, a mid-century Drexel chest, instruments handmade in Black Mountain, NC, vintage barware, a collection of Beatles memorabilia, and much more. Brian and Susan are life-long area residents, they are the former owners of Almost Blue, and they also happen to be Habitat employees. Now with grown children, they recently down-sized and donated a collection of unique items to the Silent Auction. You can also find many unique albums, posters and music memorabilia in the ReStore’s Book and Music area, thanks to the Haynes family. To see photos of just some of the items in this auction, click here. Auction ends January 21 at 2pm.

ReUse Contest Winners Announced!

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We are pleased to announce the winners of the third annual ReStore ReUse Contest. The forty entries ranging from furniture to houses and everything in between, were built using predominantly reused materials. The judges selected winners in five categories: Furniture, Homesteading, Live/Work Space, Best in Show and the add-on category Most Unique. And for the first time, voting was also open to the public. Public voting in the ReStore and on Pinterest generated the winner in the People’s Choice category.

The winners are:

Homesteading – Tim and Amanda Sorrill

Furniture – Ana Medina

Live and/or Work Space – Wayne Ruth

Best in Show – John and Diane Vogt

Most Unique – Jeff Tallman

People’s Choice – Doug Parris

Photos of  these and all entries, can be viewed in this FlickR album.

The purpose of the contest is to showcase innovative projects constructed predominantly of used building materials. Entries were judged on quality of design and execution; replicability of concept; clarity of description; and quality of photos. “We really saw a lot of ingenuity and complexity this year,” said judge and ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson. “We even decided to add a Most Unique category to more fairly judge the entries that did not necessarily fit neatly into one of the other pre-established categories.”

In addition to Stetson, the judging panel included:

Joel Johnson, Asheville Habitat’s Home Repair Project Supervisor

Linda Keep, 2013 winner in the Furniture category

David Earl Tomlinson, local metalworker/metal artist and musician

Brigitte Bassham, Habitat homeowner, teacher, and reuse enthusiast

Keep, who won the Furniture category in 2013, especially loved this year’s winning entry in that category. “The door and bathroom vanity cabinet transformed into a mudroom bench is completely replicable – one of the criteria for judging. I could find a vintage door and old cabinet at the ReStore and make this project myself. And I think I might!”

 

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