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ReUse and Rolemodel: Just a Few Reasons These Two Choose to Volunteer

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by Kristen Keefer

Every Monday, Roger Gauthier and Stephanie Plemmons team up to assist people dropping off donations at the ReStore receiving dock. Their efforts help make the transition of items into the store efficient; while their kind approach to helping customers and donors keep people coming back.

Roger, a retired plastics engineer, has been volunteering his time to Habitat since February 2012. In addition to volunteering with Habitat, he won the Habitat for the Holidays First Annual 3D Ornament Contest in 2014. He has also participated in the ReStore ReUse contest. The “reuse” aspect of the ReStore’s mission is important to Roger. In fact, it is one of the factors that motivated him to become a ReStore volunteer. He has even repaired damaged donated items to prevent them from being discarded into the landfill.

Stephanie, a longtime fan of Habitat’s mission, decided in October of 2015 to offer a helping hand at the ReStore wherever it was needed. Furthermore, she wanted to set a good example for her son. She explained, “I wanted to show my son that volunteering is cool!”

Both Roger and Stephanie have always volunteered in receiving. They work fluidly together, happily greeting every car as it pulls up, unloading and sorting items, and keeping receiving in tip-top shape. They’re an all-star team, attentively putting care into even the simplest of tasks.

And, through these selfless efforts, Roger and Stephanie have experienced the gift of service, a kind of gift that is rewarding to the giver, not just the receiver. Both agree that it is encouraging to see so many items donated to Habitat and to know that the proceeds from the sales of these items will go towards affordable housing. Stephanie explained, “Building homes for families that really need them, that is just a fabulous cause!” And Roger confirmed, saying that the work they do in receiving generates a sense of accomplishment.

Thank you Roger and Stephanie for being a rockin’ receiving crew! Having you onboard helps keep receiving running smooth and contributes greatly to the ReStore’s mission. We are thankful for all you do!

From Bookstore to Boardroom: How One Volunteer Serves Habitat

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By Kristen Keefer

It was over twelve years ago that Cassie Dillon (above, R) began her service at the Asheville ReStore. At the time, she was traveling throughout the week for work but was still determined to find time to serve her community. She pursued a weekend opportunity with the ReStore and since then, has become a core volunteer in the bookstore. A book and music enthusiast herself, she puts care into connecting with shoppers who frequent the bookstore. Cassie plays an important part in ensuring that every ReStore shopper has a delightful experience, but this is not her only involvement with Habitat.

In 2014, Cassie joined the ReStore Committee and has been creatively collaborating with other committee members to keep the ReStore at its best since. She has also served on the Fund Development Committee for over a year, helping brainstorm ways to raise funds for Habitat’s building programs as well as special campaigns like Shiloh: Let’s Build!

Recently, she was asked to join the Board of Directors, which she says has already been a fascinating experience. Cassie says that becoming a member of the Board has furthered her understanding of Asheville Habitat in its entirety. She explained, “There is so much that goes into Habitat – mortgage lending, construction services, operating the ReStore, and ultimately serving the community.”

She also had a recent opportunity to experience a homeowner closing firsthand. She reminisced about the homeowner’s excitement and how impactful hearing “zero percent interest” was when reviewing and signing the mortgage documents. This is the moment that Cassie – and all Habitat volunteers, staff, and homeowners work together towards; the moment when a family achieves their dream of affordable homeownership.

Upholding Habitat’s mission is at the core of Cassie’s devotion to her to many roles within Habitat. She said, “I’d recommend volunteering here to anyone who has free time that wants to serve their community. Volunteering with Habitat is a worthy use of anyone’s time!”

With over a decade of service under her belt, Cassie Dillon’s contributions across so many areas of the organization have been greatly impactful and are deeply appreciated. Thank you Cassie, for your unwavering service to Asheville Area Habitat and your community!

Fellow North Carolinians need our help!

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Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and its community of homeowners have suffered a terrible fate in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Of Fayetteville Habitat’s 154 homes, 93 Habitat houses have been flooded extensively, and 66 may be complete losses. “There are powerful and heartbreaking stories of families swimming out of their homes to reach rescuers, lost possessions, and the loss of beloved family pets. Habitat homeowners work hard to pay their mortgages but it will be difficult, in some cases impossible, for most of them to pay both a mortgage and also rent a place to live,” stated a representative from Fayetteville Habitat. Please keep these families in your hearts and prayers and read below to see how you can help.

Make a donation to Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat
DonateJoin us to help Habitat neighbors in need! Asheville Area Habitat is donating to the hurricane relief efforts of Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity in honor of our Board of Directors. We invite you to do the same. Donate online and select Hurricane Relief/Fayetteville Habitat in Area of Support. Thank you!

“Round Up” at the ReStore registers
From November 1st through December 31st donations collected through the register Round Up program will be donated to Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity for hurricane relief efforts. For example, if your purchase totals $9.40, please round up to $10.00. Small amounts can really add up to make a big difference!

Go to Fayetteville to volunteer
Please clear your calendar and join one of our service trips, if you’re able. The work will be basic demo/muck/gut. No experience necessary. Transportation and lodging will be provided. Some meals may be provided but each volunteer should be ready to pay the majority of their food expenses.
Sunday, November 13 (noon departure) – Friday, November 18 (dinnertime return) 4 ½ work days
OR
Thursday, December 1 (noon departure) – Sunday, December 4 (dinnertime return) 2 ½ work days.
Please email Stephanie asap if you’d like to participate.

Thank you for helping our fellow North Carolinians in need!

Summer Intern Brings Energy, Enthusiasm and Willing Spirit

Isabel Arredondo does not come across as the nervous type. She is a confident, cheerful and very funny 16 year old. She hopes to be a physical therapist one day, but medical internships are hard to come by in Asheville. She was a little nervous though when she learned her summer CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) internship assignment was with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. She worried that people might be mean to her, or that she would put in a screw the wrong place and a whole house would crumble to the ground. And she envisioned having to get up early to be on a jobsite while her peers were sleeping in every day. Isabel quickly realized that Habitat staff (and volunteers) are kind, that she could not single handedly ruin a Habitat house, and that being on a jobsite is actually a lot of fun — and includes lots of cookies, muffins and watermelon.

She noted these and other observations recently when she made a short presentation to our Board of Directors during which she recapped her internship as “a very positive experience overall”. The bilingual SILSA student admits she had many misconceptions about Habitat and the Habitat ReStore. They were shattered within the first few days though as she stepped out of her comfort zone and into work in Construction, Home Repair, the ReStore and the Office. She said attending the key passing for a family whose house she had worked on is something she will always remember. The internship “was life-changing” and she now tells her friends that they should volunteer with Habitat.

Ed McGowan, Asheville Habitat’s Finance Director, expressed his gratitude for Isabel’s help: “We were truly blessed to have Isabel with us this summer. She is a very poised, intelligent and helpful young woman who has continued the strong partnership between Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH) and the City’s CAYLA program. She has set the bar very high for future CAYLA interns at AAHH. I am very proud of Isabel’s contribution to our mission and I’m very proud to call her my friend.”

Everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something to make that possible for another family. Isabel did that by volunteering with us for six weeks. Like our past three CAYLA interns, Isabel is now an advocate for our work. And although she still plans to pursue physical therapy, we have a feeling she will always have a heart for Habitat. Thank you Isabel for sharing your warm smile, your contagious enthusiasm, and your willing spirit with us this summer!

Charting New Territory: From Office Intern to Construction Crew Leader

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By Kristen Keefer

Enthusiastic Emily Stevens excels in new situations. Perhaps her ability to succeed is a reflection of how she fearlessly charts unfamiliar territory. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio, she dove into professional work experience. In the summer of 2015, Emily joined Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity through a program administered by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) called Young Adult Volunteers. She left her hometown of Rochester, NY behind, and began working in Asheville as a Construction Services Volunteer Intern.

Emily gave a year of service in that internship position. During that time, she strengthened her office skills while developing a deeper understanding of Habitat’s mission and values. She gained an appreciation of all the “behind the scenes” work that goes into creating a community where people can have decent and affordable places to call home. Emily recalled, “Hearing the partner family’s stories really helps you understand the importance of the work being done by Habitat.” She recounted that these stories inspired her to feel an extra burst of enthusiasm when working in the office, knowing that her contribution to Habitat’s mission was important. Emily’s heart is truly in her work.

As her internship was coming to an end, she was uncertain of her future steps. She had successfully established herself in Asheville and had confirmed through her internship experience that she wanted to continue working in the non-profit sector. She explained, “Becoming more acquainted with Habitat’s mission has influenced the work I want to do in the future.”

During this same time, interviews were being conducted for a Construction Crew Leader position at Asheville Area Habitat through AmeriCorps. Emily applied for the program and was accepted! Interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Social Work in the future, she considers this on-site job experience to be a valuable supplement to her professional and personal development.

Emily couldn’t be more excited about working on Asheville Area Habitat’s construction site. She is eager to advance her construction skills and share that knowledge base with volunteers. In addition, she fondly anticipates developing friendships with the volunteers. Working in the office, she became very familiar with volunteer names and their shifts. “I’m excited to learn and get to know the volunteers better, to put faces to names!”

Strengthening relationships is at the core of Emily’s values. She demonstrated this by prioritizing getting to know and helping her peers and mentors while she was an intern. She always felt satisfied when she had time to lend a helping hand to others.

Whether by offering a helping hand or listening to other’s stories, Emily values people. She is someone who pursues life fearlessly and is not held back by the unfamiliarity of new people, places, or opportunities. On the contrary, she courageously welcomes change and development. Though Emily’s cheerful presence will be missed in the office, it is suffice to say that we are all excited for Emily as she transitions into this new opportunity on the construction site. Congratulations and best wishes, Emily!

Check out what Emily has to say about the spirit if volunteerism, in this short video.

ReStore Volunteer Adds Another Role to His Resume

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By Kristen Keefer

Retired pastor Jamie Dale has been an admirer of Habitat for Humanity’s mission since he first became acquainted with the organization in 1978. So naturally when he began volunteering at the Asheville Habitat ReStore in November of 2014, he was a great fit. He currently volunteers twice a week in the ReStore’s Small Appliances department, and he serves on Asheville Area Habitat’s Events Committee.

Working in Small Appliances allows him to fix items that may have otherwise been tossed into a landfill. This component of his work is very important to him. Appreciative of Habitat’s dedication to waste diversion, Dale noted “The ReStore does a really good job of refurbishing items and keeping them out of the landfill. The fact that it translates into housing is even better!” But what Jamie says he enjoys most about being a ReStore volunteer is, “You get to meet some fun people and the atmosphere is generally positive. People seem to really enjoy working here.”

In addition to volunteering with Habitat, Jamie has recently taken on another role. For nearly two months, he has been staying an hour after his ReStore volunteer shift to register voters. The seed that sprouted this idea however, had been planted nearly a year prior, after he attended a conference addressing voter issues. Jamie felt compelled to respond and get involved. At the time, he was unsure where to begin; but recently, an opportunity presented itself.

Annie Butzner, a volunteer for the NAACP, had already begun registering voters at the ReStore when Jamie offered a helping hand. Inside the ReStore, in the Upper Showroom, is Annie’s table of voter pamphlets and registration forms. On Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, this table is occupied by Jamie. His approach to registering voters is straightforward, honest, and confident. He explains, “Actively ask people if they are registered, don’t just wait on them to notice you or the sign.” As the list of voters Jamie has registered continues to grow, his go-getter approach is proving to be effective. And, to Jamie’s pleasant surprise, around 95% of the people he has approached are already registered voters. Jamie’s message to those that are still unregistered voters…register! He acknowledges that becoming an informed voter is an involved process, but advocates the importance of embracing this process. For Jamie, a citizen’s vote is their local and global voice.

Jamie’s passion for registering voters, giving usable items a second lease on life, and helping Habitat plan and execute events, is inspirational. He leads by example and demonstrates the power of taking action when you are passionate about a cause. Thank you Jamie, for the eclectic mixture of volunteer roles you embrace, both with Habitat for Humanity and in the greater community. We appreciate you!

Jim Dugas: Sewing Machine Expert and Man of Service   

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By Kristen Keefer

If you take a stroll through the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, whether through the sales floor or behind the scenes, you’ll promptly notice a strong crew of smiling faces performing a variety of different functions. Everyone’s role contributes uniquely to Habitat’s mission. This is one of the aspects that makes volunteering at the ReStore so special. Each volunteer is empowered by the ability to seek a unique niche that they excel at and enjoy.

Karen and Jim DugasJim Dugas (pictured above, center and here with his wife, Karen) was once a professional woodworker. He found his volunteer niche in sewing machine repair. Jim volunteered at the ReStore for almost 5 years, until his recent and unexpected passing. When he began volunteering, he repaired furniture; but his interest ultimately shifted to sewing machines. Mastering the art of sewing machine repair came to him quickly. His good friend and fellow volunteer, Walt Tolley (pictured, above right), elaborated on his abilities saying “Jim loved the idea of returning a broken thing back to normal.” He testified that Jim’s work was completed to perfection and that he very much preferred finishing a task without any help. When Jim took on a project, he did so wholeheartedly!

Jim and Walt sprouted a strong friendship over similar interests and a shared workspace. And it was a friendship that extended beyond the walls of the ReStore Habitat. Walt, who has now been volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for nine years, helps build homes with the Interfaith community and also works in the ReStore small appliance repair area, where the two friends became acquainted.

Jim worked alongside other volunteers, as well. He shared his extensive knowledge of sewing machine repair recently with Kayren McKnight (pictured, above left), who began volunteering at the ReStore in April 2016. Kayren, a costume seamstress for both The Magnetic Theatre and Montford Players Club, established an interest in sewing machine repair after developing an appreciation for the reliability of older machines. Though she came to Habitat with a sturdy foundation in sewing machine repair, she had yet to understand the wiring of these antique devices.

Jim embraced the opportunity to help Kayren develop this skill. Kayren explained about these older models, “This was early on in the patenting of sewing machines, so every model that was not made by Singer had to be constructed differently.” This action was necessary in order for other manufacturers to avoid patent infringement. Therefore, there are often differences in the mechanics of each antique machine that is donated to the ReStore; and learning to fix one doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to fix the next one.

Kayren recalled, “Jim researched every machine and repaired each one meticulously.” She shared that Jim had developed an inspection report form that he completed for each machine he worked on. In addition to this, he took photos of all the machines during the repair process. These photos acted as a guide for putting the machines back together. Kayren says she enjoyed working with someone that was so fascinated by the machines!

Kayren is certain that the level of detail Jim applied to repairing sewing machines was a reflection of his desire to produce the best work he could for Habitat. Jim’s story teaches us that service is multi-faceted. Service is not simply about performing a task, but instead about learning and sharing. It is about joining with others for a collective purpose larger than oneself. It is about making an impact and leaving an imprint. If you ever have the pleasure of chatting with Jim’s friends at the ReStore, you will certainly discover that he was a dear friend and mentor, and truly a man of service.

100 Years Young

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By Ariane Kjellquist

Maybe it’s the 700 steps of exercise that he completes every morning at the Wellness Center. Maybe it’s good genes. Maybe it’s loving family and friends. Maybe it’s staying active and engaged in the community. Whatever his “secret to longevity”, longtime Habitat volunteer and supporter Clarence Schmidt turned 100 on Sunday, May 1; and he’s not resting on his laurels.

Clarence regularly visits the Asheville Habitat office and ReStore. He attends Skyland United Methodist Church and is involved with activities at Givens Estates, the retirement community where he lives. And he plays Wii bowling every Tuesday with a group that, only in recent years, switched from regular bowling to the computerized version.

When Clarence comes to the office, we all stop what we’re doing and listen. The stories of his life radiate with love, faith and purpose.

The son of a minister, Clarence was born in St. Francis, Kansas in 1916. He lived in many different places including Colorado, Nebraska and Jerusalem.

He and his late wife Lucille met in Chicago, IL when he was a junior and she was a freshman at North Central College. They waited until she graduated to be married at Thorndike Hilton Chapel on the University of Chicago campus. In 2014, they celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

After searching high and low, their children pointed out that no greeting card company makes “Happy 75th Wedding Anniversary” cards – because very few couples reach that milestone. So they purchased a Happy 50th and a Happy 25th!

After marrying, he started his 44 year-long career with the YMCA. When he retired, he became a Habitat for Humanity volunteer; first in Tryon, NC and then for 20+ years with us at Asheville Area Habitat. He volunteered at the ReStore and on the ReStore truck loading and unloading donations until he was in his late 80’s. When his doctor advised him to find a less physically strenuous volunteer activity, he began collecting the recycling every week at the Habitat offices and taking it to the recycling center. It required less physical exertion, but he was still kneeling, squatting, lifting and pushing things around. He did this until he was age 97. Yes, 97.

Clarence exudes positivity and happiness like no one else I have ever met. He is always smiling.  Living to age 100 is impressive in and of itself. But Clarence did not just “make it” to 100. He is a centenarian who has, and continues to live a meaningful and active life, every day.  He is mentally acute and incredibly agile. I am not alone, when I say “I hope to be like Clarence some day.”

Clarence loves life and does not take it for granted. 100 years, two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren later, Clarence says “I have had a wonderful life. I am so blessed.”

He knows what is important – family, friends, faith and purpose. Personally, I think that – and probably good genes, too – is the key to his longevity.

From all of us at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Happy 100th Birthday Clarence!

Friendship: Just One Reason to Volunteer

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By Madeline McIntyre

Betty Jo Readling started volunteering at the ReStore in the same way many others start: a friend asked. And we are fortunate enough that Betty Jo said yes. For ten years now, she has been a true leader among the volunteers, assisting in trainings and helping with anything and everything. “I love working that front desk right there, and getting to greet people, and going out on the floor, you know, just whatever anybody needs,” Betty Jo said.

Before her retirement, Betty Jo worked the front desk at Asheville Pediatrics. This experience made her well-equipped to work the ReStore register. We soon realized her talents and recruited her as the Volunteer Manager. “I’ve trained everybody who has worked with me and some others too,” Betty Jo said. Her favorite part of volunteer training is seeing the growth in others. “Just seeing how quickly some people can pick it up or how you have to maybe help some a little bit more,” she said.

And Betty Jo truly loves to help out. She spent some time during her last shift making sure an elderly couple would be able to back into the loading dock and load their purchases into their car. “That’s a big thing – just helping other people. And I get to see all of that,” Betty Jo said.

Her commitment to others makes her a favorite among the volunteers. “I adore her,” a fellow Wednesday volunteer, Debbie Rogers said. “She’s just a wonderful person.” Other volunteers feel the same way, making sure Betty Jo has a ride to Habitat events, helping her celebrate birthdays, and going out for the occasional lunch date. “There are three of us who meet every so often and go out to lunch,” Betty Jo said. “We just have a good time.”

These friendships are simply another part of the many reasons why Betty Jo has continued her service to Habitat for Humanity for so many years. “It is a nice way to make friends,” she said. “And the interaction that we have with customers, with staff, with volunteers. It’s just all good.”

Betty Jo plans on continuing to volunteer with Habitat for as long as she can, showing her dedication to our mission and values. And even though she has seen the ReStore change over the years, from system overhauls to building overhauls, she cannot imagine being anywhere else.
“It is just a great place. I love being here, and I’ll stay as long as I can,” Betty Jo said. “That pretty much sums it up.”

We are grateful to that friend who first asked her to volunteer, and so appreciate of all the volunteer service hours that Betty Jo has provided to Asheville Area Habitat over the past decade. Thank you, Betty Jo!

Photo: Betty Jo is pictured Left with fellow volunteers in 2006 (L) and 2016 (R).

It’s time again for “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand”!

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Saturday, December 12 will mark the 27th Annual Christmas Jam, presented by Warren Haynes. To date, the Christmas Jam has raised more than $1.8m for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, building houses and neighborhoods for hard-working low income Buncombe County families in need of safe, decent and affordable homes.

As in previous years, Habitat will again host local and out-of-town volunteers for Before the Jam, Lend a Hand. In the days leading up to the benefit concert, fans get involved – in a hands on way – with the cause that the Jam supports. Volunteers help both in the ReStore and on the construction site; on site, the volunteers help on various houses under construction, but some help to prepare the floor system and build the walls that will be raised at the Christmas Jam House wall-raising event on December 11th.

In our ReStore, we had Bryan Prim, Rich Granaas and Shawn Crisholm volunteering all day to make improvements to our well-worn conference room. They painted the room and removed carpet in preparation for new laminate flooring. Over a catered lunch from Village Wayside Bar & Grille, one of the lunch sponsors of the event, Shawn explained what led her and Rich to volunteer.

“We have been fans of Warren Haynes’ music forever, and we came to Asheville for the music,” she said (they recently moved here from Virginia). “This is our first time getting to volunteer with Habitat, though.”

It was this love of the music that led them to volunteering, and they even have a block on an online radio station dedicated solely to the music of Warren Haynes.

“We’ve been to the Jam before and we love the show and it’s for such a great cause,” Shawn said. “We’re really thankful that Habitat does this.”

The event is not just a way for music fans to get involved, but also a means for potentially new volunteers to begin with us at Asheville Area Habitat. Bryan Prim, while new to the area, has volunteered with another Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Pensacola, FL, where he racked up over 100 hours with them.

“When I moved, I looked to continue volunteering here,” Bryan said. “I believe in the cause.”

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