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After All These Years

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Susan Diehn Old Store Original

Volunteer Susan Diehn in the Biltmore Ave. store

By Klesa Ausherman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ReStore Reflection

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I was hooked on the Home Store after my first shift and committed to several Saturdays each month. Two years later, a new staff position had been created and it was suggested that I apply. I wasn’t looking to make a move, I enjoyed teaching and loved the high school environment, but the opportunity to be a part of this mission was far too strong of a pull. My time in the Home Store, now the ReStore, yielded far more than I ever expected.

Evolution of a Secondhand Store

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

A Volunteer’s Memorial

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By Klesa Ausherman

If you’ve visited the Asheville ReStore lately, you may have noticed two handsome, custom built flower boxes that recently came to live at the ReStore. Their outward appearance may suggest nothing more than a tasteful new addition to the Asheville Habitat property- they are notably well built, with custom woodwork, attractive proportions, and overflowing with botanical potential. However, their real value lies not in their timeless appearance, but in what and who they represent to the Asheville Habitat family.

Being a core Asheville Habitat volunteer in many ways resembles being part of a large extended family. Hundreds of volunteers showing up to serve every week for years, even decades, in some ways mirrors the consistency of certain family members in our lives. Like blood in a family, the commonality of purpose brings Habitat family members together. Inevitably, this consistency of showing up together for a common purpose forges friendships and builds relationships that are rich and meaningful. For staff and volunteers alike, the benefits of joining the Habitat family are deep and wide. And naturally, when it comes time to say goodbye, it’s never easy.

Mike Burke

Mike Burke

Mike Burke was the picture of familial consistency in the almost eight years he volunteered with the Asheville ReStore. He brought fun, laughter, and commitment to his Wednesday shifts in the bookstore- and he never showed up without a new joke for shoppers and staff.  With an outgoing, comedic charm, it may have come as a surprise to some that he was a master history teacher for the majority of his professional life. After many years of teaching, he enjoyed retirement with his wife, Asheville native Marthann Coleman, travelling the world and leading groups of students on international adventures. After losing his wife in 2009, he joined Asheville Habitat’s team of volunteers in a new season of volunteer service and philanthropy. It was during this season that Mike commissioned a local craftswoman to custom build two large wooden flower boxes, reminiscent of the patio gardens his wife would plant and tend each year. And although Mike grieved deeply at the loss of his bride, his new volunteer commitments opened doors for new friendships to bloom.

The Asheville ReStore bookstore was among several nonprofit recipients of his time, and they were the perfect pair. The bookstore benefited from his organization and detailed attention, and Mike delighted in meeting  customers and developing friendships with staff and fellow volunteers. He made fast friends with a few gentlemen on the ReStore Appliance Repair team, and their stand up coffee break in the bookstore became a weekly ritual. A well-read, enthusiastic lover of music, Mike was at home in the bookstore among new friends and even some family, too.

Kit Rains, Mike’s daughter and Development Director at Asheville Habitat, remembers looking forward to her break on Wednesdays to go visit her dad in the bookstore. It was a relationship dear to her heart, one which she says, distilled down to her dad’s greatest qualities- “He was one of the finest examples of his generation”, she says. “He was fair-minded, he was truly charitable, he was very practical, and he loved his family.”

Perhaps at the heart of each volunteer’s choice to serve, is a desire for equality. Kit’s description of her father substantiates this. “My dad was one of the most fair-minded people I’ve ever known; he always listened to both sides of an issue. He felt that Habitat treated people with respect in recognizing the need for a stable, affordable home, but also requiring people to get down to work and pay for it. There was a real practical fairness to him that I think was characteristic of his generation and really resonated with Habitat’s program.” Among the Asheville ReStore staff, Mike’s sense of humor, engaging personality, and his willingness to help out wherever he was needed still stand out as memorable qualities.

When it came time to say goodbye to Mike last August after a 6-month battle with bladder cancer, he made sure to do things his way. Always practical, Mike organized his own memorial service to be held at the weekly Asheville Beer and Hymn night, an event he routinely attended with his Habitat friends. All Habitat staff and volunteers were invited to come have a final beer on him, celebrate his life, and toast him into what comes next.

Mike was a beloved member of the Asheville Habitat family. His beautiful flower boxes, now surrounded by rose bushes between the ReStore and the administrative offices, are a constant reminder of how deep and wide this family really is. The boxes remind us of Mike- his joy, his humor, his incredible character. They remind us of the hundreds of volunteers who show up weekly to serve. And they remind us of the entirety of the volunteer family who has served with us over the past three decades, who have made Habitat’s mission of stable, affordable housing for everyone who needs it, an ever growing reality in our Buncombe County community.

When Quarantine Comes, Things Go

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When asked if they had fun reminiscing as they went through all their things, Charlie laughed and suggested I halt my inquiry unless I wanted Tricia back in the garage removing things from the donation pile! She confirmed they had lots of fun traveling down memory lane, and that some items were easier to let go than others.

Celebrating our volunteers!

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Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is recognizing milestones and thanking volunteers during Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 20-25). Though this year amidst Covid-19, it means ZOOM coffee breaks, mailed rather than hand-delivered cards, and gifts presented at a later date.

Serving Country and Community

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On Veterans Day and every day, we are grateful for the veterans on our staff and in the ranks of our volunteers who serve our community every day.

ReStore Shopping 101

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By Marty Steinberg

“Shopping at the ReStore isn’t like shopping at other stores,” ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson reminds his staff members. “First time shoppers might not know how the green tags work or they might inadvertently walk into the work area. It’s our job to help them navigate the concept of the ReStore.”

It’s true: a first time shopper at the ReStore is generally amazed and impressed, but sometimes a bit confused. Will they have what I’m looking for? Where should I look? What do I do when I find it?

If you’ve come for hardware, large appliances or building supplies, downstairs is the place to be. The lower showroom also features rugs, office furniture and sporting goods, as well as a selection of new tile, vinyl, and laminate flooring and discounted energy efficient light bulbs.

Small items can easily be placed in a shopping cart but large items generally will have a green tag affixed to the item with a date, description and price of the item. The tags are perforated in the middle and if you want to purchase a large item, just separate the bottom part of the tag and bring it to the register. After you’ve purchased an item we can hold it for up to five days so you can make arrangements to pick it up.

If you’re looking for furniture or housewares you may want to walk straight through the lower level to get to the upper showroom. As you proceed to the upper showroom, you’ll see our “mission wall” along the right wall of the lower level and you’ll come to our “donor atrium” once you’ve reached the upper level. Restrooms are located on the left, just before the doors to the upper showroom.

Reconditioned mattresses, new metal bedframes and more LED light bulbs are available upstairs, along with Asheville’s #1 used furniture store (according to Mountain Xpress, Best of WNC) and a large selection of kitchen supplies, linens, lamps, artwork, electronics and jewelry.

On your right, just past the art wall, is the Silent Auction, where shoppers may place bids on some of the most interesting items donated recently. The silent auction recently passed a huge milestone: as of March 20, 2019 one million dollars has been raised since it’s 2005 inception!

If you keep walking back and look left you’ll find our bookstore: it’s a store within a store! Offering much more than just books, it has movies, compact discs, vintage vinyl and Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam memorabilia. You can even buy a cup of fair trade Guatemalan coffee or tea to enjoy while you browse or sit and page through a book. Proceeds from the sale of this coffee and tea, as well as Guatemalan handicrafts (also in the bookstore area), go to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to provide coffee farmers with Healthy Home Kits (water filters, smokeless stoves and sanitary latrines).

A few additional tips will help you to shop like a ReStore regular – the kind of shoppers who bring a sharp eye and a pick-up truck when they come to look for bargains!

ReStore regulars know that they should jump on a bargain when they see it. Most people learn the hard way: you walk by an item thinking that you’ll get it on the way out, then you see it going by in someone else’s cart. Bringing a friend to watch an item for you while you ask a staff member or volunteer for help is a great strategy.

New products arrive every day that we’re open, so feel free to check back regularly. We are glad to help you find what you’re looking for on our sales floor: the one thing we can’t do is look through the work area where items have yet to be tested, researched, cleaned and priced.

We’re also glad to clarify a price if there’s any question, but we won’t lower a price on request. If an item sits on the sales floor too long – generally about two weeks from the date it was priced – we may decide to lower the price on our own, so feel free to check back on another day if an item you see is priced above your budget.

Shopping at the ReStore is a great way to stretch your budget, keep usable items out of the landfill and support the mission of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. In 2018, the ReStore diverted 1,800 tons of usable items from the landfill, provided 25 living wage jobs and raised funds to build affordable homes in partnership with hardworking families. The ReStore is able to have such an impact thanks to our donors, volunteers, staff members and of course, our satisfied customers.

To learn about the ReStore here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaaren and Lynn: A Meaningful Connection

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By Marty Steinberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Million Dollar Idea

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By Ariane Kjellquist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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