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AmeriCorps Member Reflects on a Special Day

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The Most “Habitat” Day

By Sydney Monshaw (pictured center and top far R)

Towards the end of October I experienced a day so quintessentially “Habitat” it was almost unreal. As an AmeriCorps member serving with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity on the Home Repair team, my days are fairly similar. Our small team works all over Buncombe County repairing everything from porches to roofs, and everything in between. On this particular fall day, however, my day started at a local attorney’s office and ended at a Habitat neighborhood of 10 new homes. On that singular day, I attended a closing with a new homeowner in the morning, worked on a Home Repair project down the road from Habitat’s newest neighborhood, and attended a 4-house dedication event in that same community later that afternoon.

I had never been to a house closing before and was not entirely sure what to expect. What struck me most was the palpable joy in the room as the mortgage details were explained, documents were signed, and a young couple became homeowners for the first time. These two were so proud of all of their hard work, and rightfully so! Not only had they physically contributed to the construction of their new home, they had also completed a full series of homeowner education classes. They were set to move into their new space that afternoon and were eager to get I’s dotted and T’s crossed so that they could get back to packing and moving. This couple has three small children who were also excited to help their parents move all of their belongings, pick out their rooms, and turn their new house into a home.

After the closing, I changed into my painting pants and work boots and jumped in our van to meet volunteers on our Home Repair job site. Our job that week was working on the home of the President of the Shiloh Community Association, scraping and repainting the exterior of her house. She is 80 years old and one of the busiest ladies I have ever met! She volunteers for a local radio station, goes on senior trips to explore nearby cities, and works tirelessly for the Shiloh community where she has lived for more than 50 years. It was great to be able to help her, and I could swear that on this day I saw the fresh coat of paint sparkle a little bit in the afternoon sun. Maybe it was just wet paint, but based on the way the whole day was unfolding, I think it was a little bit of Habitat magic.

Later, after thanking my volunteers and sending them home tired and covered in paint, I walked up the street to Habitat’s McKinley neighborhood where the last four houses in the 10-house community were to be dedicated. The event was just getting started and as I walked down the street towards the big tent I remember feeling overwhelmed by the gratitude I had for the amazing people working at our Habitat affiliate and the incredible community I am lucky to be a part of. The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and fall foliage, kids were playing in the street, and Habitat supporters were mingling with construction folks and homeowner families. The best way to describe the dedication is elation personified. There was joy on the part of the homeowners, the donors, the volunteers, the Habitat staff, and all of the community members who were there to celebrate homes, communities, and hope.

That day highlighted the incredible work that Habitat does every day. Homes are built by dedicated volunteers, with generous financial support of donors; homeowners pour themselves into their journey towards homeownership; and homes are repaired, enabling homeowners to live more safely and comfortably in their own homes. Habitat is a “hand up, not a hand out,” and that was especially evident on this special fall day. It was easy to see all the partnerships between homeowners, Habitat, and the Shiloh community. Together, we serve the needs of the community in a way that makes sense.

I feel extraordinarily thankful to be spending my AmeriCorps term with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. Days like this incredible October day will stay with me for the rest of my life as a reminder of what hard work, dedication, and love can do.

Shiloh: Let’s Build! Campaign Built More Than Houses

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This month, Asheville Habitat will complete the 10-home McKinley neighborhood off Taft Ave. in Shiloh, which also signifies the culmination of the three year Shiloh: Let’s Build! campaign. Houses built at McKinley (10), Creekside (4), and Caribou Corner (1) represent the 15 new homes that were part of the campaign. On the Home Repair side, we will come out ahead of the 30 project goal with 39 home repairs completed in Shiloh in the last three years!

Click here to see photos from the recent dedication of the last 3 homes in Shiloh (and one built in McDowell County).

We’d like to extend a big thanks to all the Shiloh: Let’s Build sponsors who supported this campaign to serve a minimum of 45 families in Shiloh through homeownership and home repair. Your support provided more individuals and families with the opportunity to build strength, stability and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent, affordable home.


Habitat has been active in the Shiloh community since the mid-1990’s when we built the Wilson Creek neighborhood of 32 houses. Since then, we have built new homes, repaired existing ones, and recently worked alongside the Shiloh Community Association towards the goals laid out in the Shiloh Community Plan 2025 approved by Asheville City Council in 2010. We proudly leveraged our skills and worked alongside others with different proficiencies to help collectively address needs that go beyond housing.

For example, Habitat built a storage shed and raised garden beds in the Shiloh Community Garden, helped bring electric service to the garden and pavilion, and donated a parcel of land adjacent to the garden. A Habitat volunteer constructed a Little Free Library for the garden using materials donated by Habitat and the initial collection of books came from the Habitat ReStore, among other sources.

Habitat also partnered with Estes Elementary School to build a storage closet, install floors, and paint walls in their new Community Resource Center. The Resource Center provides food and clothing support for families of children attending the school and works to connect families to other resources in the community. The school serves approximately 75% of elementary school-aged children who live in the Shiloh neighborhood.

Paul Reeves, Director of Construction Services for Asheville Habitat adds, “It is truly a pleasure for Habitat to be working in a community that has a clear vision for its future and residents who are organized, motivated and actively working toward increasing the quality of life for all of its community members. Shiloh has embraced our work in their community and sees us as a strong partner in providing affordable housing and home repair.”

 

 

Six More Families Are HOME

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The heat and threat of storms didn’t deter homeowners, sponsors, volunteers, staff and community well-wishers from welcoming six more families HOME. These six new houses, one of which is our 300th, are part of Habitat’s McKinley neighborhood off Taft Ave. in Shiloh. The homeowners completed hundreds of hours of sweat equity and homeownership education classes before purchasing their homes from Habitat. They will repay a 30 year, interest-free mortgage – payments that Habitat uses to build more houses. And their annual property tax payments will bolster the local tax base.

These homeowners are putting down roots in a community, in a neighborhood where everyone already knows each another. They took classes together and helped build each others’ homes. Now, they sit on their front porches, watch kids ride bikes in the safe cul-de-sac, and host family and friends for BBQs. And they can plan and save for the future because they know the rent won’t go up, the house won’t be sold, and the children won’t have to switch schools due to yet another unwelcome move. They are building strength, stability, and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent and affordable home. Thanks to all of you who provided your time, your voice, and/or your financial support!

To see photos from the event, please click here.

The homeowner families and sponsors are listed below:

The Collington family’s home – Sponsored by Eaton #9/Alice D. Hamling Foundation/Asheville Duathlon/Anonymous Foundation House and Blue Ridge X-Ray Company, Inc. (Adopt-a-Lot sponsor)

The Heatherly/Leach family’s home – Sponsored by W&S Charitable Foundation with proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam and James Ferguson (Adopt-a-Lot Sponsor)

The Suber family’s home – Sponsored by W&S Charitable Foundation with proceeds from Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam and Virginia and Drew Litzenberger & Five Fingers Partnership (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

The Lucy family’s home – Our 300th house! Sponsored by Legacy Builder’s Society and Scott & Mary Gillam (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

The Fulga/Calburgan family’s home Sponsored by Land of the Sky Association of Relators House/Rusty Pulliam Foundation and Asheville Fence (Adopt-a-Lot sponsor)

The Knight family’s homeSponsored by Publix Super Market Charities House and Tom & Nancy Maher (Adopt-a-Lot sponsors)

New House, New Beginnings

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The nine year old girl, center of her mother’s world, is too young to fully comprehend what her new Habitat home means to her mom and to their family. But she sure is excited to decorate her room and play with friends in her new neighborhood!

Elizabeth, the young girl’s mom, credits her daughter for inspiring her to better her future, and her father for encouraging her in the right direction. With motivation and support, she enrolled at AB-Tech, become a CNA, and secured a good job with a local alcohol and drug treatment center. Her next goal was straightening out her credit and becoming a homeowner. Mission accomplished, as she just signed her mortgage documents and proudly accepted the keys to her new Habitat home!

“One day she will realize how strong she made her momma,” said Elizabeth while proudly showing photos of her daughter and son, and waiting to sign her closing documents.

“I’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in the last six or seven years. If I stayed with her dad, I was staying in an abusive situation. But if I left that would mean my daughter would grow up without a father.”

Ultimately, Elizabeth chose the latter and is overwhelmed by everything she has accomplished for herself and her family — by herself. She was overcome with emotion as she looked at the key in her hand and thought back to a time of hopelessness. Proud of her perseverance and excited about what the future holds Elizabeth headed to her new home where her friends and her father were waiting to help her unload a U-Haul truck and unpack a fresh start.

If you’d like to learn more about Habitat’s affordable homeownership program, click here.

The Du is Done!

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We were absolutely thrilled to be the non-profit partner of the Asheville Duathlon, 10K Trail Run and Gravel Grinder Bike Events this year! And we are equally excited to say that we raised $17,000 which will directly support our Shiloh: Let’s Build! campaign. Funds will be used to help build 15 new houses and repair 30 existing homes (in Shiloh) by September 2017.
We are so very grateful to our Team Habitat athletes, Team Habitat sponsors, raffle prize donors, all the volunteers, and our dedicated staff — and their spouses! It really does take a village. Thank you!

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS!

EVENT SPONSOR: Alice D. Hamling Foundation

Champion Sponsors: Asheville Savings Bank | In Honor of Dr. Roger Domby by Bill Brown | Chris and Pam Cavanaugh | Steve and Debbie Miller | Silver-Line Plastics

Race Day Sponsors: Eaton Charitable Fund: Gail Stashick’s James Stover Award | Roston and Patricia Williamson

Finish Line Sponsor: Thomas and Gay Carman


To see the official race photos, click here.
To see full race results, click here. Congratulatons to these Team Habitat members for their podium finishes!
  • Stephanie Wallace – 10k, 3rd place overall (female open)
  • Sumaya El-Attar – 10k, 1st place age group
  • Ariane Kjellquist – Duathlon, 2nd place age group
  • Dotty McLean – Duathlon, 3rd place age group
  • Lucas Schuldt – Kids Du, 3rd place
To see a few of our photos, click here.
To see a video from one of our volunteers, click here.

From Trip Participant to Trip Leader

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By Madeline McIntyre

This week, we are saying thanks to Melissa Banks (pictured center in green shirt, and L and R), who recently led a Global Village (GV) trip to Asheville as a part of Habitat for Humanity International’s National Women Build Week. Melissa had already participated in four Global Village trips when she decided to become a trip leader. Lucky for us, her first trip in the leadership position, was to Asheville.

Melissa is from Maryland, where she had previously been involved with her local affiliate’s Women Build (WB) House. She volunteered on the WB House there, but that wasn’t quite enough for Melissa. So, when she was asked to lead a Women Build GV trip, she jumped at the opportunity. “It was nice having a group of women working together,” she said. “You know, women power!”

Global Village trips are the definition of a working vacation. The groups spend their days volunteering on the job site, and they have evenings to explore all the area has to offer. But you can’t just show up and expect a spot on these trips. Those interested must apply and be able to secure funding to cover expenses and a donation towards the house in which they will be pouring hours of work and sweat. “That’s always amazing to me,” Melissa said of the Global Village model. “People are willing to spend money to come and work incredibly hard. And it’s so worth it.”

Since the trip centered on Women Build, there was an incredibly high number of female applicants. Out of 30 applications, only 5 were from males. She credits this to the comfortable environment that Women Build offers, especially for those who are not experienced in construction. Women Build is a great way to learn new skills, or hone existing ones.

“I was really surprised that quite a few members of my team were between age 20 and 30,” Melissa said. “It was wonderful to see so many young women taking an interest in being on a job site!”

When asked the best way to describe the unique experience of Women Build, she could only come up with two words: generosity and compassion. “I keep using generosity and compassion, but those are the two words that kept coming up for me all week long,” Melissa said. “It was just incredible.”

That generosity and compassion created a camaraderie that bound her team together. “It was such a full commitment,” Melissa says of her group. “We came as strangers that first day, and by the last day, we were a family. Everyone just bonded together.”

Her team has already stated that they want to follow Melissa wherever she goes next, and that enthusiasm has her considering leading another Women Build trip. “I would like to see Global Village put more focus on Women Build and build it up more,” Melissa said. “It’s such an awesome experience, and I think getting it out more to the public and having people better understand it, would be great.”

Melissa didn’t immediately head back home though, and she continues to practice generosity and compassion by volunteering at the Women Build House during her extended stay in Asheville.

Melissa, Thank You for your leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to Habitat for Humanity, in Buncombe County and around the world!

If you are interested in learning more about Women Build, please visit our WB blog.

Helping People Live Better in the Home They Already Own

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Not everyone needs a new home; some just need help repairing the home they already own.
Meet Abdul Ahmad, one of our Home Repair Clients

Written by Pat Bacon

Abdul Ahmad’s gently creviced face, framed in cropped shiny white hair, is equally as inviting as his bright yellow house where he has resided for the past twenty-two years. “Many people from the Caribbean like bright colors and now I see four other houses in the Shiloh community that people have painted yellow!” Originally from Barbados where life is sophisticated yet casual, warm and friendly, he and his wife, the late Betty Ahmad, were married in New York. When she wanted to move back home to Asheville to help care for her ailing mother, they rented this (now yellow) house and soon thereafter purchased it and made it their permanent home.

Abdul resoundingly endorses life in the Shiloh community and he quickly volunteers that he knows and likes all of his neighbors, and his neighbors know and like him. As he and I greeted each other on his front lawn, neighbors passed by waving their hands and tooting their horns, acknowledging Abdul. He waved and smiled back, the feelings mutual. “Shiloh reminds me of Barbados where days are sun-filled and the nights are balmy. There is nothing like being around friendly, caring folks who greet you and shake your hand and help each other. Shiloh is near almost everything – shops, stores, cleaners, restaurants, everything. There is no better place to live.”

Like the outside, the inside of his house is bright, but it is a subtle brightness. It is also open – open because the living room, dining room and kitchen all easily flow together, reminiscent of gentle island life. It’s obvious that the dining room is the focal point of the house. A round table and comfortable chairs in the middle of the house make it ideal for all kinds of gatherings and the television has been placed high enough on the wall so that all can see the important sporting events. The cream-colored walls and flowing cream-colored curtains encourage the sunlight to stream in and fill the space. There are remnants of Betty’s plants in front of the windows; Abdul readily admits that caring for plants is not his strong suite. A bathroom and two bedrooms complete this cozy, compact home.

Upon arriving in Asheville many years ago and before getting a full-time job, Abdul fondly remembers volunteering on two Habitat houses. Thus it was natural for him to turn to Habitat for help when he learned about the repair program. With his modest retirement income derived from working with the City of Asheville and other private companies along the way, there was no budget for repair work.

Because of Habitat’s affordable home repair program, Abdul now enjoys a much-needed new roof, a walk-in shower, railing for his steps and the fresh bright yellow paint job. Abdul feels safer and he is renewed by the new look of his home. “It feels good to have these things finally done and at such a good price. I tell people about Habitat all the time. I even brought someone to the Habitat Office to pick up an application.”

Abdul has three adult children and two grandchildren who visit him, and he in turn visits them. He celebrates that his house is more inviting now. Thoughts of past gatherings, particularly around Christmas and Thanksgiving, bring a big ready smile to his face. These days it gives Abdul pleasure to help others; he often drives neighbors and friends to assorted destinations. Abdul, an avid reader, enjoys reading about current world events and he admits that he’d really like to write short stories. He’s promised to share them when he does.

If you or someone you know is interested in our Home Repair program, click here to learn more.

 

Home Repair Program Makes One Shiloh Resident Dance with Joy

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Written by Pat Bacon, Habitat’s Family Support Specialist

Eugene (Gene) Rone’s mother died in 1929, just thirteen days after he became a year old. On her death bed, his mother asked his seventeen year old sister, Willie Mae, to take care of him; and she did. Willie Mae also taught him to care for himself and to seek a good life. As a teenager, he cooked, washed and ironed his own clothes, cleaned house, went to school and worked a part time job. He earned $1.00 a week and every week he gave his dad fifty cents. Later he met and became “family” with a Cuban family that owned a grocery store. He started working for the family at $3.00 a week and when his income increased, so did his dad’s – “$1.50 a week.” Gene said that along the way he grew tired of “lamp light,” especially when he was entertaining friends, so he saved his money and before long and much to his and his family’s pleasure,  he was able to have electricity and a telephone installed in the family home.

After graduating from Stephens Lee High School in 1949, Gene started doing domestic work and in 1953 he married his sweetheart, Mary, who at that time lived in the Shiloh Community. From 1954-1956 he served in the Army, barely missing a stint in Vietnam. Upon his return to Asheville, fifty-eight years ago, he and Mary purchased their home in the Shiloh Community for what was then the colossal sum of $4,500.

The Rone house is modest by conventional standards – two bedrooms, one bath. But it is rich because of a unique nuance, wonderful pictures and a cadre of mementos from many years of special occasions, family and community events which adorn all the walls, nooks and crannies – including ballroom dances with Mary who died in 1993. On a wall in the living room is a smiling picture of Mary and a framed poem dedicated to her – lit by an eternal candle flame.

Gene indicating damage near a windowGene is very proud of his community and he knows everybody on his street and everybody knows him. They all take a lot of pride in their homes and their yards. When Gene noted that his house needed painting, downspouts and gutters, he learned from a neighbor who happened to be a Habitat volunteer, about Habitat’s Home Repair program. Gene obtained and completed an application and as we say, the rest is history. Habitat’s Joel Johnson assessed the work and made the needed arrangements to get it done.

Habitat did a variety of repair work including servicing the oil furnace; scraping and painting exterior windows, doors, and trim; replacing rotten window trim and broken siding; re-routing water runoff from downspouts away from the house; replacing missing gable vent trim and installing a new gutter.

Gene is very grateful to Habitat for repairing his cherished home. He readily admits that it would have been very difficult if not impossible, to afford the work on his retirement income. He said that “these days folks charge an arm and a leg for anything that they do for you. Folks like me need organizations like Habitat.”

Gene has wonderful recall of the past and a positive outlook for the future. He remembers riding street cars at six cents a pop and cutting wood for the kitchen stove. These days he enjoys the good feeling he gets from driving his 1995 white, convertible mustang and entertaining family and friends. He speaks readily about what it means to live a full, rich life with no regrets. He smiles and says, “I’m still dancing with Mary!”

Enjoy a Special Evening at the Biltmore Estate to help Habitat

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Save the Date – Friday, October 10th

Asheville Area Habitat is thrilled to be the beneficiary of the 2014 Annual Biltmore Benefit, co-hosted by Colton Groome and Company. The event will take place on the evening of Friday, October 10th and funds raised will support our Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative Home Repair Program in the Shiloh Community in South Asheville.

Guests will begin the evening at the Statue of Diana at Biltmore for an outdoor reception overlooking Biltmore House and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, an elegant four-course dinner prepared by Estate chefs, dancing… and an exciting surprise at the close of the event.

Tickets are on sale now. Purchase or pledge your Sponsorship soon before this year’s event sells out. If you would like to receive information, please call 828-225-1218 and leave your name, and mailing or email address and event information will be sent to you soon.

 

 

 

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