Tag Archive for: habitat volunteers

Computers and Phones, Not Hammers and Nails

by Jonathan Dermid

Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, there is a small but dedicated group of volunteers that helps carry out our mission – without wielding a hammer at the jobsite or sorting donations at the ReStore. These are our Office Volunteers and they work diligently every week in our Administrative building, supporting the staff by doing data entry, answering phones, and much more.

This week, we honored them with a special appreciation lunch to show them how important they are to our cause.

Seven of these volunteers work at the front desk (reception), answering phones and greeting visitors with an openly social and cheerful demeanor that reflects our drive to serve the community.

“The volunteers do a lot of miscellaneous stuff that most people wouldn’t even think about, but it’s all that really essential behind-the-scenes work that helps us out so much,” said Office Assistant Abby Suarez.

They also work “independently but together” on a large project for the ReStore. “Everyone who donates to the ReStore gets a receipt, whether it’s a pickup or a drop-off,” Abby said. “With the help of office volunteers, we can keep track of merchandise donations and repeat donors, including businesses.”

With various backgrounds, including current college student and retired teacher, there are some specialized skills such as technical support and dedicated data entry.

One volunteer, Carol, works with Communications to organize press clippings and highlight quotes about Habitat. Another, Aaron, is a wiz when it comes to data entry. Abby noted, “Someone said at the appreciation lunch that Aaron has a respect for data that not many people have, and that’s super helpful!”

Perhaps most important is our office volunteers’ dedication to serving as representatives of Habitat, simply through their position of being at the front desk of the main office. “Front desk volunteers are sometimes the first faces that potential partner families (and anyone) see when they come in,” Abby said. “They really have to believe in the mission of Habitat just as much as all of us, because they sit at the front and say ‘I’m Habitat, how may I help you?’”

Whether behind-the-scenes doing data entry or out front greeting visitors, office volunteers, like all of our volunteers, are dedicated to the Habitat mission. And for that, we thank them!

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer, please click here.

Asheville Area Habitat Volunteer Receives Statewide Award

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(extracted from NCHC press release)

At the recent NC Affordable Housing Conference in Raleigh, NC the North Carolina Housing Coalition (NCHC) honored individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help ensure North Carolinians have a safe and decent place to call home. Asheville Area Habitat’s own Spencer Duin (pictured, holding plaque) was the recipient of a statewide volunteer award! 

In recognition of his devotion and commitment to improving housing conditions for low-income families through volunteer commitment and sacrifice, NCHC presented the Sister Barbara Sullivan Award to Spencer. He has been an extraordinary volunteer and advocate for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH) since 2001, when he was employed with the Eaton Corporation. He has served as a jobsite volunteer, a member of the AAHH Board of Directors, Finance Committee, Golf Tournament Committee and Fund Development Committee, and on a work team that went to New Orleans in 2007. Spencer also chaired our $5 million Building a Way Home Campaign which was just successfully completed. This campaign provided enough land for 9 years of building, expanded AAHH’s ReStore and launched a Home Repair program that annually assists 40 community homeowners.

Outside of AAHH, Spencer serves on the North Dakota State University Foundation Board and chairs their Investment Committee. He also volunteered as an assistant in the math program at the French Broad River Academy. He and his wife Carol are active members of their local faith community and Building Bridges of Asheville, NC, and have a long history as foster care parents.

NCHC also honored Patricia “Pat” Garrett, formerly with The Affordable Housing Group and current NC Housing Finance Agency Board Member, with the Bill Rowe Service to Affordable Housing Award.

“Each of these leaders is a tremendous example of the great network of organizations and individuals who are working hard every day to produce more quality affordable housing in NC,” said Satana Deberry, NCHC Executive Director. “We need our political leaders to recognize the great work that is happening in affordable housing and provide more resources and governmental support so that everyone in NC can achieve an affordable place to live.  If we are going to remain a state with a great quality of life, planning for superior affordable housing near where people work and shop will be vital.  Each of these folks recognized today represent the work we need to build on if we are to make this a reality.”

 

Side by Side for 17 Years and Counting

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by Jonathan Dermid

At the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, we have been diligently working for 25 years to fund our cause – affordable housing. As we have shown in previous blog profiles, none of this would be possible without the work of our wonderful volunteers. Some of our volunteers have even been here long enough to help us grow from the small Home Store in downtown Asheville to the expansive, multi-level ReStore we have today.

Lee Fadden (pictured, L) and Jan Wright (pictured, R) are two of these volunteers, having been here for 17 and 25 years, respectively. In Jan’s case, she has been volunteering with us since our inception, and Lee for only a few years less.

“We were downtown first, and when we had stuff to price, we just had a little tiny area and an old farm sink,” Lee said of her time at the Home Store downtown.

After retiring from a career at Eaton Corporation, Lee found that she wanted something new to do.

“I retired and I wanted something to do, and I believe in what Habitat does in terms of helping people and making homes affordable,” she said. This worked out well for Lee, because she was good friends with Jan even before volunteering.

“Jan is one of my best friends, and she’s been here since they opened downtown,” Lee said. “So when I was looking to do something, Jan suggested Habitat to me and I’ve been here ever since.”

Today, they volunteer side-by-side in the housewares department, cleaning and preparing various home goods for sale, just as they have for the past 17 years.

There has been a great deal of looking back the ReStore’s history in light of the store’s 25th Anniversary. It has been encouraging to see that not only have we grown in our ability to both promote and fulfill our mission, but that some aspects have remained the same, like the commitment of many of our volunteers. No matter how we grow and change throughout the years, it’s nice to know that there is a solid foundation of caring individuals like Jan and Lee that keep our cause alive in the community.  And for that, we thank them.

Gratitude for Givens Estate Partnership

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By Jonathan Dermid

At Givens Estates, a significant number of residents actively and happily participate in community service, which vitalizes their community and gives it an identity of meaning and purpose. Their volunteer program has the primary mission of promoting wellness throughout the community, and the effect is certainly felt here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Marge Marsh and John Nieburg are the two leaders of the volunteer program for Givens Estate residents, and under their leadership, 39 Givens residents volunteered with us in 2014. In the first six months of 2015, the residents collectively donated 500 hours of volunteer service to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and the ReStore!

Volunteers from Givens also spearheaded “The Givens Assemblers” – a group that assists with bulk mail for us and other non-profit organizations in the area. By preparing our bulk mailings for distribution, the Assemblers provide an invaluable service to us!

Some Givens residents volunteer on a single project like a bulk mailing. Others, including Anne Justice and Peggy Manz, are “core” (weekly) volunteers. Anne has become known as the ReStore’s  jewelry lady as she receives, sorts and prices jewelry that is donated to the store – an extension of what she does in the Givens community too. Peggy is wife to Habitat core volunteer Dick Manz, and has been a valuable addition to our bookstore volunteer team.

Givens Estates is also a generous contributor of merchandise, and they recently donated a plethora of nice cabinets and other furnishing to our ReStore by way of our Deconstruction program. Specifically, we participated in a Deconstruction of several apartment units this month as Givens prepares to build new facilities.

We are grateful for the partnership of Givens Estates and many of its residents; a partnership that includes volunteerism, financial support and the donation of merchandise to our ReStore. Thank you Givens Estates for all that they have done, and continue to do for Asheville Area Habitat!

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.

 

Volunteering to fix things, for the fun of it

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Spotlight on the ReStore’s Wednesday Small Appliance Repair Crew

By Jonathan Dermid

At the Asheville Habitat ReStore, we take great pride in our staff and volunteers. Not only are they the backbone of the store and its functionality, but their individual characters and personalities provide an energetic and welcoming atmosphere.

In the area of small appliance repair, “the Wednesday crew” is a particularly lively and affable group, who all shared the same notion about their volunteer work. They do it for the fun of the work and for the enjoyment of the company they share as they repair the appliances.

“I really like volunteering here because I get to interact with people that I get along with and have fun with,” Marty Toren said. “The work becomes secondary if you have that.”

Marty (pictured, center) came to Asheville from Salem, Oregon, where he volunteered on Habitat job sites until a back injury made him unable to do so. Upon moving to Asheville, he discovered that he could volunteer in the ReStore instead of having to do a great deal of physical work.

“I had a part-time job, so I had time to volunteer, and I thought I should volunteer for Habitat again,” he said. “I love being able to contribute to the buildings of homes for families who would be otherwise unable to afford them, just by volunteering here in the store.”

One of his team mates in the small appliances area is Bill Kalavorich (pictured, R), a retired physical therapist, who has been volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for seven years now.

“I was exposed to Habitat through the United Way Day of Caring, Bill said. “Through that experience, I saw what a worthwhile organization Habitat is, and what they care about in their core business; so I wanted to do stuff with them.”

Both Bill and Wally Lee (another small appliance repair volunteer) echo Marty’s sentiment of how much fun volunteering at the ReStore can be.

“I started volunteering in the ReStore while I was still working, so I could only contribute one day a month,” said Wally (pictured, L). “When I retired, I moved to volunteering at the construction site weekly, but kept my position in the ReStore because it’s just so much fun.”

Wally is an Air Force veteran of four and a half years, and with his background in mechanical engineering, he has found a niche at the ReStore doing what he is both skilled at, and loves.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved taking things apart and putting them back together, so that also makes this kind of work really fun for me,” he said. “Plus, Habitat is one of the premier organizations, in my opinion, because they do so much between the ReStore and the building of homes and everything else.  It’s really rewarding to volunteer here every week.”

If you’d like to learn about volunteering in the Asheville Habitat ReStore, click here to learn more and sign up for a volunteer orientation session.

Core Construction Volunteers Honored

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“Core” Construction volunteers are those who help Habitat build and repair homes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Last year, these core volunteers helped Asheville Area Habitat build 14 new Habitat houses in Swannanoa, Shiloh and West Asheville. They also repaired 33 existing homes in Buncombe County. We thanked and recognized them with a breakfast event at Warren Wilson College recently. Click here to see photos.

“While these folks don’t volunteer for the recognition or the accolades, we feel it’s important to thank them and honor the immense contribution they make to our organization and the community at large. Without volunteers – especially the cores who we can count on week after week – we would not be able to build and preserve communities,” notes executive director Lew Kraus.

In 2014, 74 core construction volunteers collectively contributed more than 16,000 hours of service to Asheville Area Habitat! To put that in perspective, 1,700 individuals volunteered on a construction site last year, collectively providing a whopping 35,000 hours of service! 46% of those total hours (16,000 hours) were completed by just 74 individuals – the “core” volunteers!

Among this core group, were 10 individuals who contributed more than 300 hours and one who topped the scale at more than 600 hours! Habitat congratulated and thanked:

Top Ten Hours volunteers

CJ Obara – 640 hours
Dick Allen – 622
Ken Clark – 454
Bob Laveck – 424
Jerry Ray – 407
Bill Reid – 343
Ray Ducharme – 321
Kevin Cox – 316
Ross Akin – 315
Paul Finegan – 309

In total, 32 core construction volunteers were recognized for contributing more than 250 hours of service last year, each receiving a golden hammer to signify the milestone.

Habitat also recognized those who hit significant longevity milestones. The honorees were:

10 Year Award – Alan Lang and CJ Obara
15 Year Award – Ted Faber and Cliff Joslin (pictured

In addition to Construction volunteers, Habitat utilizes volunteers in the ReStore, administrative office and on committees. These volunteers are recognized in separate appreciate events. Collectively and across the entire organization, nearly 2,100 volunteers contribute more than 64,000 hours to Asheville Area Habitat in 2014.

With a volunteer hour valued by Independent Sector at more $21/hour, this equates to a “gift” of more than $1.3million. Volunteer labor helps keep construction costs low and houses therefore affordable to the families who purchase them (from Habitat). Kraus added, “The Habitat model only works with a strong volunteer component. We cannot overstate the value of volunteers to our organization”.