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Thank You March Madness Volunteers!

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As we near the end of this year’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity takes a look back to recognize all the amazing students and Collegiate Challenge groups who traveled to Asheville in March to volunteer with us. Students came from all over the country including the University of Florida, College of Charleston, University of Wisconsin, and Lesley University (Massachusetts).

Click this photo to view an album!

Students worked at the jobsite in Arden, alongside future homeowners and core volunteers. The highlight of the week is always a group dinner with a homeowner family. Lesley University students and future homeowner LaQuila Harris celebrated Pie Day on March with pizza and dessert pies!

“It’s amazing to see different people coming together, and see the students really learn and connect,” Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace recalled. “Core volunteers rallied together to get Biltmore Estate tickets for each group of students, going above and beyond to make the students’ experience in Asheville that much more memorable.”

Lesley University students with LaQuila Harris and her daughter in the ReStore.

Stephanie added, “The generosity around this particular month was really special.”

For many of the students, this experience is one they will never forget and leaves a lasting impact. Stephanie recalled Sofia Atzrodt, a University of Florida student, who began the week very timidly and lacking confidence in her building skills at the jobsite. Throughout the week, with mentorship from the construction staff, Sofia became empowered and really flourished.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from a week long Habitat trip with eight strangers, but I have come out of it with close and meaningful friendships, a new sense of purpose, and a different perspective of the world,” Sofia remarked.

University of Florida student Ajay Patel offered this reflection: “The experience of building something for another human cannot be paralleled. These people blew us away with their hospitality, life knowledge, and especially warm hearts. If done correctly this experience should help restore your faith in humanity.”

 

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.

Flexible Volunteers Contribute to Success of ReStore

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By Alex Cox

Since proceeds from ReStore sales cover administrative and fundraising costs, the 140 volunteers that serve every week are essential in enabling the store to remain a source of funding that allows Habitat to serve families in our community. This week, in Honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we are spotlighting ReStore volunteers Marianne Ryall and Ned Guttman.

Marianne Ryall, from Beaufort, SC, moved to Asheville to be closer to her family, specifically her son. She got familiar with the ReStore out of necessity: after moving here, Marianne needed furniture for her new space, and shopped at the ReStore to find items for her home. She has been volunteering with the ReStore since 2014. Marianne has been invaluable because she has come to be a “floater”, meaning she covers different volunteer shifts as needs change. She has to remain flexible, but that’s no problem for her. Marianne says she has enjoyed her time at the ReStore and plans to volunteer for the foreseeable future.

“This ReStore is definitely different,” Marianne said. “I’ve been to others in South Carolina, but this one is wonderful. Everyone is so helpful and there is such a diverse selection of things.”

Ned Guttman, who has been retired for 10 years and has been volunteering since, is another who steps up to meet needs. “After I retired 10 years ago, I wanted to give back to the community, and volunteering is a way to do that,” said Ned. “I think Habitat is a very worthwhile cause.”

Ned comes in weekly for his regular position of testing and repairing electronics, and also comes in another day each week to help with a separate duty. He knew there was a need for someone to enter volunteer hours into the database on a regular basis. Without being asked, Ned offered his time to complete the task.

“I added the data entry because I knew they needed help, and I am very comfortable with computers.”  Keeping up with the database requires attention to detail, patience, and a commitment to volunteering every week. The numbers need to be submitted on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis, and Ned understands the importance of meeting deadlines. He added, “I still volunteer for Habitat because of the appreciation given to the volunteers.”

Every volunteer is vital to Habitat’s mission and the ReStore’s daily operations, and when volunteers take initiative to recognize needs and fill them, it allows things to run even more smoothly. So in honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we say thank you to Ned and Marianne for their flexibility and their dedication!

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

Inspiring Others Towards Excellence Through Leadership

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by Greta Bush

What do you get when you mix humility, grace, and strong leadership together? One Bill Lineberry. Bill has been a Core volunteer with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity since 2013, starting on the jobsite, then adding in a role with the Student Build House and finally, joining the Outreach Committee. Bill also volunteers with Western North Carolina Historical Association and has a large role in coordinating speakers and professors for its adult education program.

Bill may not realize this about himself, but when he commits to something, he excels at it, and he subtly encourages others to do the same, simply by leading by example. No matter what role he plays, he seems to have a natural way of raising the bar. After 39 years in the education field—a teacher of American History and Economics for the first 25 years and a principal for the remaining 14—one can see how the years of leadership and excellence have intertwined their way into the core of Bill’s personality. Looking back on his career, Bill said, “It was a wonderful process for me to go from teaching and then leading. I couldn’t have had a better experience for my life.”

I know Bill through Habitat’s Outreach committee; members of the committee are volunteers or Habitat homeowners who represent Habitat to the public in various ways. For example, they might staff an informational table at a service fair or speak to local clubs, faith communities or school groups about what Habitat does. I serve as the staff liaison for the committee, and Bill is one of the star members. (Let’s face it: they’re all stars! I am only somewhat biased.) I have also seen Bill in action with the Student Build—a project I’ll expand on momentarily.

Bill started volunteering with Habitat on the construction site in 2013. It was through his church, First Presbyterian, that he signed up and found himself on our jobsite in Swannanoa. He found the construction supervisors to be so patient and forgiving that he kept coming back, and soon became a Core volunteer, coming every Friday. Of the supervisors, Bill says they “are the best! They are so patient with people like me, who are trying to build skills. And they utilize you and work with you, and when you leave after a day of work, you just feel really good.”

Speaking of being “the best”, Bill has always made a good impression on me. In writing this blog post, I tried to pick that feeling apart—what is it about Bill that makes me gush about what a great volunteer he is? If there is one word I would use to describe him, it’s Excellence.

I’ve noticed that in every role Bill takes, he strives to do his best—he strives for excellence. And, that has led him from one volunteer role to the next. (People start to take notice when you’re good at something!) Soon after becoming a core jobsite volunteer, Bill volunteered to help with the Student Build—another role in which he excels. In that role, among other tasks, he gave public presentations; soon afterward he was nominated for Habitat’s Outreach Committee.

Bill’s previous career benefits him immensely in his roles with the Student Build and Outreach Committee. When he was principal of Woodward Academy in Atlanta (a private school of 2,000 students from pre-K to 12th grade), he led 100 faculty and 25 support staff. He said, “It was a grand affair. I worked 24/7 for fourteen years and loved every minute of it!” On the committee, Bill raises his hand for scenarios that make others nervous—presenting to a crowd of 100 or larger doesn’t faze him. This is one of the ways that Bill makes my job easy. I have full confidence that he will do an excellent job, no matter where we send him to represent Habitat.

When talking with Bill, it’s easy to see that he is most passionate about the Student Build, and he is quick to attribute credit for the project to Charlie Franck (another outstanding core volunteer, who we hope to introduce you to in a later post). The Student Build is, essentially, a coalition of local private schools that raise money and awareness for Habitat (currently Asheville Christian Academy, Christ School,Carolina Day School and The Franklin School of Innovation). They have funded three full-house sponsorships for $55,000 each, and for each build, have provided student volunteers (age 16+) to help build the house. These schools incorporate Habitat and service learning into their curriculum. There is a lot more to it, but that’s the basic explanation.

Bill met Charlie on the jobsite in Swannanoa just after the first Habitat Student Build House had wrapped up, and offered to help on the second house. With his background in education it seemed to be a perfect fit. Now, as we approach the closing of the third Student Build House, Bill is still happily on board. As you would expect from a former teacher, Bill has a desire to see others succeed, and through his involvement with the Student Build, he sees first-hand just how transformative the work with Habitat and the future homeowners has been for the students. Here what he has to say in this video. (His remarks start at 2:40.)

I asked Bill to share with me a particular memory from volunteering that he is fond of. He explained that he can’t share just one moment, because the effect of the Student Build is continuous and encompassing. He said, “I am just blown away, constantly, by how mature these kids are beyond their years. To understand there are needs that people have, and they have a joy of wanting to help meet those needs…every time I see these kids interacting on the jobsite with the new homeowner families, I am just overwhelmed and so happy to be involved and to be a small part of this.

[Along with academics, arts, and athletics] there’s a piece missing in working with kids, and that is, you need to connect with other folks. You need to realize that you’re here by the grace of God to give back, because you’re able to give back. And once we put that piece, now called Service Learning, into our curriculum in my school in Atlanta, we watched kids become adults in front of us. Not just good students in the classroom, wonderful athletes on the athletic field, or musicians and artists. But adults.”

Bill went on to explain that he is seeing that here, too, with all the schools involved. Bill plays an important role with the Student Build. Along with coaching the students on the Student Build Leadership Team, he gives presentations to the schools to help de-mystify Habitat’s work. Affordable homeownership, Asheville’s housing crisis, mortgages…these are not topics that your average elementary-to-high school-aged student thinks about, let alone, understands. But Bill makes it interesting for them, and explains how their fundraising and volunteer work is making a difference in our community. He adds fuel to their fire. And this information has made its way into the school’s curriculum. The work that these students do is impressive. Bill says, “This whole thing has been a real joy.”

Bill and his wife Margie have been married for 43 years and they have have two grown children, Neil and Mary Beth. Bill affirmed that he is a lucky man.

After living in Atlanta for decades, they moved to Asheville to be nearer to family. “When I was growing up as a youngster, I knew I wanted to retire and live in Asheville because we spent a week every summer here for vacation. And I grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina— which is a beautiful place, but it is hot as Hades from April until September!” Growing up without air conditioning, Bill said he didn’t know what he was missing until he came to the mountains and it was so nice and cool at night. “So, I said, sort of subconsciously, this is a place I want to come to.”

It seems Bill has found his stride and is enjoying retirement. And I’m happy that Asheville has become more to him than a place with a temperate climate: it is a place where he continues to make a difference and instill in others a desire to achieve excellence.

Volunteering as Job Skills Training

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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.

150 Houses and Counting

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By Sammie Smith

In the past 14 years, Bill Durant (above right), a core construction volunteer, has worked on more than 150 Habitat for Humanity houses between Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and Henderson County Habitat for Humanity! After 12 years of working with Habitat in Henderson County, he moved to Deerfield Retirement Community in Asheville and soon picked up where he left off – building houses with Habitat. After working with Deerfield on Asheville Habitat’s Episcopal Build a year and a half ago, Bill continues to volunteer on the Asheville Habitat construction site every Friday morning.

Bill has a degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University and spent his 40 year career at the Savannah River Site nuclear research and development laboratory. His expertise was in the development of techniques for quantitative risk assessment and accident prevention for nuclear and chemical processes. So his focus on safety has major value on our active construction site, where safety is a top priority.

Upon retirement, Bill was seeking a volunteer opportunity that matched his skillset and would make a positive impact on the lives of others. “I keep coming back (to Habitat) because I believe it was God’s calling for me and that He has continued to bless me with good health so that I can do the job.”

“What I enjoy most about Habitat are the friends I make and seeing the positive impact on the lives of others.” Bill also spoke of the camaraderie with his crew and how they frequently gather for pot luck dinners where they can get to know the families in a relaxing and cordial environment. “I met my closest friend through Habitat,” he shared.

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity relies on our core volunteers to be advocates for us. Bill knows the importance of this and has actively recruited several people to volunteer with Habitat. “On numerous occasions I have taken prospective volunteers to see what we have done in the past, the houses we are currently building, the support facilities and personnel, and tell them about the tools they need. Most people sign up on the spot.”

In speaking about the impact that Habitat has on his life, Bill said, “It gives me a great feeling of purpose especially when I drive through existing Habitat developments and see the kids playing and I know that they have a much better life thanks to Habitat volunteers and donors.”

“I am only one of the many who show up week after week to help make the Habitat homeownership dream possible. I have reached 150 houses only because of longevity, the sweat of my colleagues, the guidance of the site construction supervisors, and the blessings of my Lord and Savior. Thanks for the opportunity.”

The Habitat model wouldn’t function without committed volunteers like Bill. Working on 150 houses – directly helping 150 families – is truly remarkable and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity is grateful for your hard work and dedication!

Interested in volunteering with Asheville Habitat? Click here to learn more or sign up.

A Friendly Face at the Front Desk

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Barbara Cooper has been volunteering at the administrative office of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity since January 2016. We recently sat down with Barb to learn about her volunteer experience.

Habitat: Why did you decide to volunteer for Asheville Area Habitat?

Barb: Habitat’s mission connected with me on a personal level, and I wanted to give back the hope and help I was thankful enough to receive since I’ve been in WNC. Asheville has become a new start – a safe place – for my daughter and I, and I wanted to be a part of the journey of making that happen for others.

Habitat: What does a typical volunteer shift look like for you?

Barb: I volunteer every Thursday from 11am to 3pm at the front desk in the administrative building. The day always flies by so quickly. I am answering phones and directing inquiries, filing paperwork, inputting information into spreadsheets, and sending out thank you postcards to donors. Sometimes I help out on special projects staff members asked me to do… and always with a smile on my face!

Habitat: How do you spend your time when you’re not volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat?

Barb: I am enjoying my retirement. For the most part, I spend free time with my family because they are the most important people to me. I’m also in the process of training for a 5K race in September. Please wish me luck, I’ll need it!

Habitat: Do you have a specific story from volunteering that stands out to you?

Barb: One particular Thursday, there was a big group of people meeting in the large conference room. Needless to say, there was a lot of traffic in the ladies and men’s restrooms. Evidently, one of the men’s bathrooms got backed up, and one of the members from the meeting came to me and reported the problem. I asked him if there was a plunger and he said he didn’t see one. So I took it upon myself to go in and rectify the situation. When the men’s bathroom was fixed, I went back to my desk to do more work for an hour. Then a woman came to me and told me the ladies restroom had a similar issue. I just chuckled to myself and marched back in to the bathroom to resolve that problem. Once that was done, I went back to my desk and told my supervisor about what had transpired. She laughed, thanked me for what I did, and said “It was not in your job description. You went over and beyond the call of duty.” As you can imagine, that’s one memory I will never forget!

Habitat: How do you see your volunteering as a part of Habitat’s mission to “bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope”?

Barb: Habitat’s mission is extraordinary, and I have the privilege of being a part of it. My job as a volunteer in the administration building is to be open, welcoming, receptive, and kind. I connect with people, as well as direct inquiries and provide educational material if they ask for it. I might be the very first person they see on their journey to a new home and a new life. If I can give them hope and put a smile on their face, I believe I will continue to play a positive role in Habitat’s mission.

Habitat: How has volunteering at Habitat impacted you?

Barb: Habitat has given me an opportunity to grow as a person by giving back to the community. I truly look forward to every Thursday because I know the work I do makes a positive difference. Also, I’m very thankful I found Habitat because it’s been an amazing platform that has helped me develop and utilize my clerical skills.

Habitat: What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering at Asheville Habitat?

Barb: I would say go for it! My experience has been nothing but positive and I imagine the same can be said for anyone else that begins volunteering at Asheville Habitat.

Today, we’re thanking Barb for her commitment to Asheville Area Habitat and her service to everyone who enters Habitat’s doors in the pursuit of decent and affordable housing.

Interested in volunteering with us? Click here to learn more or sign up.

Volunteer Spotlight: Susie Emerick

By Alex Cox

Every Tuesday, Susie Emerick arrives at the ReStore and begins organizing and preparing her work space. Susie works in the linens area of the store, a department that receives, cleans, and prices various fabrics that are available for purchase. These tasks aren’t for everyone, but Susie enjoys volunteering her time in this capacity.

Susie’s days of giving back to her community through volunteerism began more than 30 years ago. Before moving to Asheville more than a decade ago, Susie lived in Baltimore for 30 years. She volunteered with various organizations there, including a hospital. “I used to volunteer at the Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, which was very important,” Susie explained. “We usually received babies that had had surgeries or other procedures, and they were with us for a while before going home.”

Her volunteering with Habitat for Humanity began in Brunswick County (NC) before starting with Asheville Area Habitat more than 12 years ago. She and her husband volunteer on house builds occasionally, but most of her work with Habitat has been with the ReStore.

“When I first called to volunteer (in Asheville), this was the only department that needed help,” Susie said. “This is good because cashiers and other volunteers often need to stay all day and get here early, but I don’t have to. I can be kind of behind the scenes, which I like.”

The ReStore utilizes the help of 140 volunteers every week. Many are like Susie – rarely seen by customers because they are busy in the backrooms. But their work as just as important as the work done by volunteers on the showroom floor. Susie describes a normal day of volunteering in the linens area, and the importance of behind-the-scenes work at the ReStore. “We clean the items, organize them, and hang them up. After that, we determine what sizes things are. Customers want to know that information, and it’s hard to just judge what size sheets or other linens are. They need to be measured.”

“My favorite part of working here is that it keeps me busy, but it’s also relaxed. I’ve volunteered in many places in the past, and I like the pace here,” said Susie. “It’s always something different and it’s always changing. It’s never boring.”

Susie also volunteers with Animal Haven, a local organization that receives abused or neglected farm animals and domestic animals such as cats and dogs, and provides them shelter, food, and rehabilitation. They also work with other organizations such as Meals on Wheels and New Leash on Life to provide support for low-income households that have pets. “I like the hands-on work at Animal Haven,” Susie explained. “I clean the habitats and feed the animals, and recently we did a metal run, where we do a large recycling project with aluminum.”

So on this Thank You Thursday, we thank Susie for her service with the Asheville Habitat ReStore and other organizations that need hard working and passionate volunteers to help them reach their goals. She is committed to making a difference in her community, and we thank her for putting in the time and the energy to do so.

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

Building More than Houses

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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.

 

One Volunteer Who Makes a Big Difference

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By Kristen Keefer

Entering into her 23rd year of volunteering at the Asheville ReStore, Susan Diehn remains fresh and energetic in her role. Recruited by a friend, Susan began volunteering at Habitat’s when the store was at its previous downtown location on Biltmore Avenue (pictured there, above L). Within her first year, she was volunteering her time from open to close every Tuesday.

As an experienced volunteer, Susan mentors new volunteers at the ReStore registers. She has held a vital role in helping many volunteers learn the ropes while they become more comfortable assisting shoppers.

For Susan, interacting with customers is one of the highlights of her position. She explained, “We try to be so welcoming to our customers, it’s important. We want their journey to be enjoyable and for them to come back.” Having someone as caring, friendly, and kind as Susan to greet and serve guests is of great value.

The Asheville Habitat ReStore is one of the most successful ReStores in the nation, in part because of dedicated volunteers like Susan.

Her caring personality drives her to serve her community and continues to bring her back to the ReStore. She knows that the livelihood of families, as well as their ability to thrive, begins with a stable place to call home. Because proceeds from the ReStore help fund Habitat’s building programs, her volunteer service directly impacts Habitat’s ability to fulfill its mission. Susan explained while joyfully smiling, “The children just bloom once they have a place to live and a neighborhood to play with other children.”

Susan shared how much she has enjoyed being able to work alongside future Habitat homeowners. Habitat’s homeownership program requires future homeowners to complete “sweat equity” (volunteer) hours, and some of their hours are often completed in the ReStore. Susan described becoming better acquainted with homeowner families as “so special”!

Susan has dedicated much of her time and self to service. In years past, she also served on Asheville Habitat’s Events Committee. And, in addition to her service with Habitat, she was once deeply involved with Interlace, a previously available housing program for women and children experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence.

When asked what aspect of volunteering she found most rewarding, Susan started to reply, “Knowing I’m making a difference” before quickly stopping herself. Following a short pause she continued by saying “I hope I am making a difference. I want to make a difference.”

The impact that Susan has made on the lives of others, both directly and indirectly, is vast and continues to grow week after week and year after year. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it is that Susan Diehn makes a difference in her community- a BIG difference! Thank you, Susan for being such a dedicated, knowledgeable, and giving volunteer. The ReStore is so fortunate to have you on board!

If you’re interested in volunteering, please click here to read about opportunities.

 

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