Tag Archive for: habitat volunteers

Volunteering as Job Skills Training

,

By Rachel Rasmussen

Jesse Trimbach initially reached out about volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH) because he was seeking more date entry experience. Since he started volunteering in Habitat’s administrative office in February 2016, he’s also enjoyed making friends with the staff and learning about Habitat’s work in the community.

Every Tuesday morning, Jesse logs on to the computer at his desk and gets to work entering ReStore donor information into Habitat’s database. A product donation to the ReStore triggers many behind-the-scene steps that help get a piece of furniture to the sales floor and a thank-you letter in the donor’s hands. Jesse specializes in the step that captures the appropriate ReStore donor contact information so that the donor can stay connected with the work Habitat is doing to help homeowners achieve stability through affordable housing.

When asked about one of his favorite memories of volunteering with Habitat, Jesse immediately recounted the afternoon he spent with other office volunteers on an educational tour of the Shiloh neighborhood. During the past 20 years, Asheville Area Habitat has built more than 40 single-family homes in Shiloh, and in current latest Shiloh: Let’s Build! initiative, Habitat is building 15 more new houses and completing 30 Home Repair projects. In order to highlight the strength of the Shiloh neighborhood and Habitat’s Home Repair program, administrative staff organized a tour for office volunteers to see the community impact of their volunteer commitment.

Volunteering at Habitat has also impacted Jesse. He says that he’s “getting more experience with data entry” and will eventually be looking for a job. Jesse isn’t the only volunteer who sees his time spent at Habitat as part of his job skills training. Asheville Area Habitat partners with AmeriCorps, UNCA, Hands and Feet of Asheville, and other organizations to offer internships and job training volunteer opportunities.

While Jesse strengthens his database and computer skills while volunteering at Habitat, he also does data entry volunteer work every week at the Western North Carolina AIDS Project. When not volunteering, he enjoys going for walks by himself, taking the bus around Asheville, and visiting his parents. Jesse says that he would recommend volunteering at Asheville Area Habitat “because it’s a friendly community and people are very helpful.”

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

Every hand makes a difference

,

With volunteers central to our business model, we are recognizing milestones and thanking volunteers with small gifts and mid-day meals during National Volunteer Appreciation Week Habitat (April 23-29).

Whether you’re swinging a hammer at the construction site, fixing a floor at a home repair project, accepting donations at the ReStore, answering the phone in the office, or serving on a committee, each volunteer action directly impacts Habitat’s ability to serve more families in need of a decent and affordable place to live. Last year, 1,800 volunteers contributed 65,000 hours of service – at a value of more than $1.5 million!* Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 30 full-time staff members!

Every hand makes a difference and Habitat is grateful for the commitment of all volunteers, whether they helped one time or once a week, for the first time or for many years. Speaking of longevity, a number of our core volunteers (those who make a weekly or bi-weekly commitment) reached noteworthy service milestones in 2016.

  • Ray Ducharme and Bob Laveck (Construction) and Phil Casey, Bill Crownover and Alan Williams (ReStore), met the 15 year service mark.
  • Husband and wife duo Ken and Carol Deal reached their 20 year anniversary of volunteering together on the construction site.
  • ReStore volunteers Helen Andrews and Bruce Tettemer have been volunteering in the ReStore for 20 years.
  • Shirley Studwell (ReStore) celebrated 25 years of service with Habitat!

Some fun facts about Asheville Habitat’s volunteer program:

  • In 2016, through programs such as Global Village, Thrivent Builds Worldwide, and Collegiate Challenge, as well as the signature “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand” volunteer event, Asheville Area Habitat hosted volunteers from 28 different U.S. states and 3 countries.
  • It takes 1,650 hours of volunteer labor to build one Habitat house.
  • Habitat utilizes about 140 volunteers in the ReStore each week.
  • Core volunteers (those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) contributed 43,038 of the 65,000 hours of service!

Thanks to our volunteers (and donors, sponsors and ReStore supporters), Asheville Habitat built 14 new houses and repair 43 existing homes last year, helping to address our region’s affordable housing crisis and providing opportunities for families to build better futures.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us, please click here to learn more and sign up.

 

Building More than Houses

, , , , ,

Each February, we celebrate our Construction Services volunteers with an Appreciation Breakfast. This year nearly 80 volunteers and staff members gathered as we celebrated collective accomplishments, honored longevity, recognized significant hourly contributions, and talked about the future.

Here are a few highlights shared during the event:
• More than 50% of the total volunteer hours contributed to Asheville Habitat’s construction program in 2016, were contributed by 80 construction “core” volunteers! These folks volunteer on our jobsite at least one day each week.
• Collectively, construction cores provided 17,570 hours of volunteer service!
• 28 cores each contributed more than 250 hours of service last year. Each received a golden hammer pin.
• The highest hours earner was CJ Obara, with 641 hours!

Longevity awards recognize years of volunteer service:
• 5 years – Beth Greck and Buddy Tallant
• 10 years – Ross Akin, Alan Cutter, Joyce Davis, Lou Farquhar, Neil O’Sullivan, Ken Roth, Sharon Waugh, Jim Worley
• 15 years – Ray Ducharme, Bob Laveck
• 20 years – Ken and Carol Deal (pictured, R)

We celebrated staff milestones, too. John Meadows has been a Construction Supervisor for 10 years and Kenny Busch just reached the 15 year mark!

Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves noted that 2016 was a year of change, with multiple staffing changes and four different building sites. None the less, our staff and volunteers rose to the occasion and served the largest number of families to date. 44 Home Repair clients and 14 new homeowners in Buncombe County now have decent and affordable housing.

Looking forward, we’ll be moving to Arden in the early summer to begin a 21-house subdivision, and we’ll be building a Habitat house in McDowell County as part of the SECU Challenge to build or renovate 100 houses in 100 NC counties. Also, we will solidify plans to introduce multi-family housing on a 16-acre parcel in West Asheville that the City of Asheville is helping us secure.

Home Repair Supervisor Joel Johnson thanked his core volunteers, Lonnie Lief and Garland Walker, who have been volunteering consistently for 3 years. Home Repair is unlike new construction in that the scope of work varies from project to project and the jobsite often changes daily. It’s difficult to plan a volunteer calendar in advance, so we appreciate Lonnie and Garland’s flexibility and commitment to the growing Home Repair program.

We were also pleased to be joined by Jeff Staudinger (pictured below), the Community Development Director for the City of Asheville, who was able to put Habitat’s contributions into the larger affordable housing context. He expressed the City’s enthusiasm for Habitat’s upcoming higher density neighborhood in West Asheville (currently referred to as Cedar Hill). Staudinger also referenced statistics from the Bowen Report and reiterate the City’s commitment to creating new public/private partnerships, and continuing to work to remove barriers, increase density, and strengthen the relationship between housing and transportation. “Shelter is the foundation for everything else,” he noted. “And as Habitat volunteers, you are working directly on the affordable housing crisis.”

In closing remarks, Executive Director Andy Barnett reminded the audience, “You are volunteering regularly to build the kind of community you want to live in…you are the hearts, hands and voices of affordable housing. You embody our mission.”

Habitat volunteers build and repair houses – and they build community. They help families build strength, stability and self-reliance. If you would like to be part of the affordable housing solution, click here to learn about Habitat volunteer opportunities.

To see event photos, please click here.

 

Hudson Hills is complete!

, , , , ,

“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.

Hardware Heroes

,

By Kristen Keefer

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, contractor, or simply an avid thrift shopper, then you recognize the value of well-preserved secondhand tools. Every week the ReStore receives a mixture of hardware donations, from power tools like drills and table saws, to screwdrivers and hammers. Many of these items are quickly re-homed once reaching the sales floor, which results in funding towards Habitat’s mission and affordable tools for consumers in Asheville.

This smooth transition couldn’t take place without the helping hands of Richard Pollard, Harvey Sexton, and John Harvin (pictured above, L to R), the hardware crew behind the scenes. All three men were acquainted with Habitat long before retirement. Once retired, each sought a meaningful way to spend their time, which led them to volunteering at the ReStore. With all three having experience with tools, working in hardware was a natural fit.

Harvey and Richard explained how much of their personal experience using tools has given them an eye for hardware items at the ReStore. In fact, the two men often collaborate on pricing and identifying items. Richard said, “I’ll look at stuff he prices and we’re spot on with the same pricing. Unless you use a tool, you don’t know how valuable it is.” The value Richard speaks of isn’t solely monetary either. Having the right tool for a job can be the determining factor in whether or not a person can complete a project themselves. Access to affordable tools empowers individuals to be able to take on projects, develop skills, and improve their homes.

Not only are the guys helping shoppers access affordable tools, but they also identify unique or antique tools for inclusion in the ReStore Silent Auction. John explained, “Sometimes I feel like an archaeologist digging into the past. It’s fun! What you find is a surprise!” He has discovered everything from run-of-the-mill tools to rare antiques. Being able to deliver a good value to the consumer is important to him, as is helping raise funds for Habitat’s mission through the ReStore.

John especially appreciates Habitat’s model to create affordable housing because it actively involves future homeowners in the process. Harvey also demonstrated an appreciation for the families that complete their sweat equity at the ReStore and remarked, “It is so pleasant to work with partner families and get to know them.”

The sentiment Harvey shared seems to resonate with all three of the men. Whether speaking with Richard, Harvey, or John, you’ll find what they enjoy most about volunteering are the people that fill the ReStore. The staff, volunteers, and partner families that they work alongside weekly are what keep them coming back. These three gentlemen volunteer their time, knowledge, and skills to the ReStore. In return, they receive a rewarding experience filled with valuable company and friendships. We are grateful to have them on board and appreciate their devotion to helping keep quality affordable hardware at the ReStore!

Charting New Territory: From Office Intern to Construction Crew Leader

, ,

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.

100 Years Young

,

By Ariane Kjellquist

Maybe it’s the 700 steps of exercise that he completes every morning at the Wellness Center. Maybe it’s good genes. Maybe it’s loving family and friends. Maybe it’s staying active and engaged in the community. Whatever his “secret to longevity”, longtime Habitat volunteer and supporter Clarence Schmidt turned 100 on Sunday, May 1; and he’s not resting on his laurels.

Clarence regularly visits the Asheville Habitat office and ReStore. He attends Skyland United Methodist Church and is involved with activities at Givens Estates, the retirement community where he lives. And he plays Wii bowling every Tuesday with a group that, only in recent years, switched from regular bowling to the computerized version.

When Clarence comes to the office, we all stop what we’re doing and listen. The stories of his life radiate with love, faith and purpose.

The son of a minister, Clarence was born in St. Francis, Kansas in 1916. He lived in many different places including Colorado, Nebraska and Jerusalem.

He and his late wife Lucille met in Chicago, IL when he was a junior and she was a freshman at North Central College. They waited until she graduated to be married at Thorndike Hilton Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. In 2014, they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

After searching high and low, their children pointed out that no greeting card company makes “Happy 75th Wedding Anniversary” cards – because very few couples reach that milestone. So they purchased a Happy 50th and a Happy 25th!

After marrying, he started his 44 year-long career with the YMCA. When he retired, he became a Habitat for Humanity volunteer; first in Tryon, NC and then for 20+ years with us at Asheville Area Habitat. He volunteered at the ReStore and on the ReStore truck loading and unloading donations until he was in his late 80’s. When his doctor advised him to find a less physically strenuous volunteer activity, he began collecting the recycling every week at the Habitat offices and taking it to the recycling center. It required less physical exertion, but he was still kneeling, squatting, lifting and pushing things around. He did this until he was age 97. Yes, 97.

Clarence exudes positivity and happiness like no one else I have ever met. He is always smiling.  Living to age 100 is impressive in and of itself. But Clarence did not just “make it” to 100. He is a centenarian who has, and continues to live a meaningful and active life, every day.  He is mentally acute and incredibly agile. I am not alone, when I say “I hope to be like Clarence some day.”

Clarence loves life and does not take it for granted. 100 years, two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren later, Clarence says “I have had a wonderful life. I am so blessed.”

He knows what is important – family, friends, faith and purpose. Personally, I think that – and probably good genes, too – is the key to his longevity.

From all of us at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Happy 100th Birthday Clarence!

Celebrating Those Who Share Their Time and Talent

, , , , , ,

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!

 

 

 

-more-

It’s March Madness Time!

,

March Madness is almost here, but for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that means an influx of college students spending their spring break volunteering rather than heating up the basketball courts. Each group brings 12-14 volunteers, funds, and a surge of energy that matches any overtime game.

This year we are hosting the following three Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge groups, as well as a high school team from Michigan.

Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace noted, “We are thrilled to welcome three Collegiate Challenge teams AND a high school group this year. This is a great mix of old and new with Villanova and Battle Creek Academy joining us for the first time, while Lesley and Ramapo are returning for the 5th time!”

Lesley University student Audrey remarked, “Working with Habitat has been one of those experiences where you gain just as much as you give…One of the Core volunteers said something that stuck with me: ‘The people that do service are the type of people who I’d like to have as either close friends or neighbors’.’”

The groups are housed at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, allowing them to enjoy the beauty of the mountains with access to hiking trails nearby. Each group will participate in a dinner with Habitat partner families who are in-process, allowing the volunteers an opportunity to get to know the people they are helping through their volunteer labor.

Past participant Victoria from Ramapo College, offered this reflection at the end of her alternative spring break with Asheville Habitat: “I think I really found myself by helping others, which is why when the partner families thank us, I just really wanted to thank them because without these opportunities to give back my life would be extremely different. Service has helped me find my passion and purpose in life and I’m so grateful for that.”

If you’d like to participate in some way (think: donate meals), please contact Stephanie at 828.210.9383 or swallace@ashevillehabitat.org.

Committed to Service, No Matter the Task

,

By Jonathan Dermid

The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is privileged to have a volunteer who embodies the spirit of being a “jack of all trades.” In his time with the ReStore, Ron Shimberg has volunteered in the bookstore, on the sales floor, and in the receiving department loading and unloading trucks.

Now, Ron can usually be found diligently cleaning the parking lots of both the ReStore and the Administrative building, a task that he took upon himself after noticing a tendency for mess.

“I noticed that there was some garbage in the parking lot, so I started cleaning the parking lot on Thursday, and rewarding myself with volunteering in the bookstore on Saturday,” Ron said. “No one asked me to do it, but I like doing it. And it’s important to me to make this place look nice, because the parking lot is one of the first things people are going to see.” He soon realized though, that once a week wasn’t enough for the parking lot and something had to give.

Giving up the bookstore was hard for Ron, as he says that he had a great time volunteering there. “It was hard giving up my bookstore shift, because it was my favorite gig in the ReStore,” Ron said. “But now I can really make an even bigger difference, by cleaning the lots twice a week.”

While in the bookstore, Ron said that he experienced and contributed to a warm and welcoming environment. “When I was in the bookstore, it was a great vibe,” he said. “I would engage the people and I would have them dancing. I even had one volunteer dancing with his dog!”

Ron attributes this partially to his love of music, which led him to create a lively atmosphere in the bookstore (which also sells vinyl albums and CDs) with the records he would play. “I’m a musician. I play blues harmonica and I’ve been in 3 bands around town,” Ron said. “That’s my soul, music. I love it.”

Ron ended up as a ReStore volunteer due to a total fluke, as he had just recently moved to Asheville and took a wrong turn. “I escaped South Florida, and was staying at my sister’s before I got my own place,” he said. “She sent me on a run to AB Tech, and I didn’t know where I was going and ended up going the wrong way and happened to pass by the ReStore. They had a sign that said ‘volunteers wanted,’ so I arranged to volunteer the very next day.”

In Florida, Ron worked with online sales and marketing, selling data and designing web content for Fortune 500 companies and helping to pioneer embedded advertising in email services. Even with the long hours he worked then, he still found time to volunteer in Florida with an organization called Horses for the Handicapped.

Ron has always really liked doing good things for the community, and he knew he wanted to do the same when he came to Asheville in March of 2013, which he considers a huge turning point in his life.

“Everything changed when I moved here,” he said. “I really dug the vibe and the energy of Asheville right off the bat.” Ron says that same atmosphere permeates the entire Habitat for community as well, which made him feel welcome almost immediately.

“I like the relationships I’ve made here, not just with the staff and volunteers but with customers too. I’ve even become friends with some of the customers.”

Ron has always taken a great deal of pride in his volunteer positions, whether it be making the bookstore customers smile and dance, moving merchandise in the receiving area, or keeping the parking lots clean. To Ron, all of these tasks are his way of making a positive difference for what he calls his family.

We’re glad Ron made a wrong turn back in 2013! We are fortunate to have him as part of the Habitat family and appreciate his ongoing commitment to service, no matter the task.