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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.

A Great Retirement Plan

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By Maria Angell

Volunteering with the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is great for retirees – like Lee Fadden and Jan Wright – who have, combined, nearly 50 years of volunteer experience with the ReStore!

Lee started volunteering with the Asheville ReStore in 1997 after she had retired from Eaton Corporation and decided to give her time to a worthy cause. She currently works in the ReStore’s housewares department where she cleans and prices items. Lee enjoys her volunteer position because of the people she works with and knowing that her “efforts will help to provide homes for those who would not be able to afford them without the help of Habitat.”

Jan’s volunteer work with the Asheville ReStore began nearly 28 years ago in 1990 after she retired from Mission Hospital.

“I began volunteering because I felt I needed and wanted to give back because I have been blessed in many ways. Habitat appealed to me because it was at that time a Christian organization based on biblical principles, helping to provide homes for people who, without their help, would never own their own home.”

Jan works alongside Lee in the housewares department. She enjoys getting to socialize with people who have the same goals. She too finds her volunteer work rewarding because she knows she is helping contribute to the funding Habitat needs to build homes. Volunteers help keep Habitat’s costs down, and proceeds from ReStore sales support Habitat’s home building and home repair programs.

“I would recommend volunteering at Habitat. You have great people to work with and at the same time, you provide a needed service,” Jan concluded.

Thank you Lee and Jan for the combined 50 years of service you have given to the Asheville ReStore! We appreciate both of you and all of your hard work!

Interested in joining Habitat’s volunteer team? Click here to learn about opportunities.

 

Community Connection

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By Maria Angell

Interested in volunteering? Then maybe the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore is the place for you; as it is for Mark Carter.

Mark just started volunteering with us in January of this year and already loves the work he has done with the Asheville ReStore.

He started volunteering with Habitat because he wanted a way to connect with people locally and help a charity that offers long-term value to our community. He has past experience volunteering with the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry and the Western Carolina Rescue Ministries.

Mark operates the building supplies register at the front of the ReStore where he assists customers and fellow volunteers. He says he loves his position because it’s action-packed and a lot of fun; he particularly loves meeting the customers, hearing their stories, and the overall camaraderie of the Habitat team including fellow volunteers Laurie Vint, Andrew Simons, and Rhonda McKenna (pictured above).

Seeing customers leaving with items that they would not be able to afford without the ReStore, never fails to put a smile on Mark’s face. And knowing that he’s helping so many people, in and out of the store, have a better quality of life, is what Mark finds most rewarding about his volunteer work.

Mark highly recommends that anyone looking to serve the community should consider Habitat. “The culture is very positive, and they let you know you are appreciated. There are opportunities for every personality, and they are open to utilizing your individual talents. Working with an organization that requires recipients to take an active role is very rewarding.”

Thank you Mark for sharing your time with Asheville Habitat to ensure more families have safe, stable homes!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Asheville Habitat, click here.

 

 

A True Passion for Habitat

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By Maria Angell

As soon as you walk into the Asheville Habitat ReStore, volunteer Rhonda McKenna’s smiling face is going to be one of the first things you see.

Rhonda has a long history of volunteering, including her volunteer work with homeless shelters, churches, and her daughter’s school back in Atlanta, Georgia. Over twelve years ago, she and her family left Georgia and moved here to Asheville, North Carolina. With her daughter in school and her husband travelling for work, Rhonda decided to go back to volunteering in order to keep herself busy. She is a firm believer in service and thought that working with a local organization would give her an opportunity to meet new people in a new town. She tried volunteering with a few organizations, but none of them seemed to be the right fit. That’s when she decided to reach out to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, as she had previous experience with Habitat back in Atlanta. “Habitat was organized right from the start. They immediately got back to me and had a position for me right away. I loved working with them in Atlanta. I love the cause and the whole mission.”

Rhonda now has experience in just about every volunteer position Asheville Habitat offers, from working on the construction site and in the administrative office, to serving on the Events Committee and participating in a Global Village Trip to Guatemala. These days though, she is most often found at the lower register in the ReStore. On Fridays, she runs the cash register, assists customers, puts out merchandise, and engages in her favorite aspect of her work – socializing with customers, fellow volunteers, and staff.

Anytime she has the opportunity, Rhonda recommends others volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. She states that the organization is perfect for adults of any age and any walk of life. According to Rhonda, it is an amazing place for older people to put their lifelong skills to use, especially on the jobsite, and it is a great environment to socialize and make new friends. Rhonda also encourages young people (ages 16+)  to get involved.

“I think it’s important for young people to volunteer because they learn to give back. At a young age, you’re generally very into yourself. And I think it’s a good thing for young people to look outside of themselves. When you’re at a certain age you think your life is terrible…until you get some perspective.”

Rhonda also loves how Habitat gives people the opportunity to learn new skills. In one instance, she was working at a jobsite with a group of nurses with no construction experience; some of whom had never hammered a nail. At the beginning of the day, the women were incredibly nervous about the tasks at hand. But by the end of the day, they had built an entire porch by themselves and were beaming with pride!

It is apparent that Rhonda has a true passion for volunteer work and for Habitat for Humanity. “I really love the whole mission. I love the fact that we help people help themselves. It’s so wonderful to see how we’re changing people’s lives.”

Thank you Rhonda for the twelve years of service you have given to our organization! We appreciate you!

If you would like to volunteer with Asheville Habitat, click here to see the opportunities and sign up.