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A Concentrated Dose of Habitat

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The first week of September in South Bend, IN was what our Executive Director Andy Barnett affectionately coins “the Olympics of Habitat,” referencing the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. An annual “Blitz Build” this event unites upwards of 600 individuals around the common vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. This year, the 35th annual Carter Work Project was hosted by Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County where volunteers built or improved 41 home in Mishawaka and South Bend, Indiana in one week.

Kenny Bush, our Senior Construction Supervisor and South Bend native, and our Construction Supervisor Emily Stevens led a team of Asheville Habitat volunteers on this epic Habitat trip. The Asheville team worked alongside others on House #20 amidst a block of twenty-two single family homes. 25-28 volunteers worked on each house, every day. “We started the day under a huge tent with breakfast, daily updates and logistics report, and a devotional. There were 600 people under the tent every morning,” Emily remarked about the magnitude. “Being amid of sea of so many like-minded volunteers was amazing. That kind of energy would be hard to create anywhere else. Everyone was so positive, well-intentioned and there because of the cause.”

A homecoming for Kenny, the trip was the same for Ralph Johnson, an Asheville Habitat construction volunteer who also hails from South Bend. In fact, the street they worked on was just a block from where he grew up. The rest of our volunteers comprised four different work days; so although Asheville core volunteers, many did not know each other beforehand. But you can be assured that this trip created lasting friendships among these cores who have come back to Asheville with an even greater passion for the work we all do.

Having participated in Carter Work Projects in the past, Andy noted that “they are a concentrated dose of Habitat and a reminder that every local affiliate is a small part of a global network.”

There were many memorable moments experienced by each volunteer, but the one that stands out in the entire team’s mind was the “big reveal”. Future homeowner Loretta Adams had not told her two daughters about their future Habitat home. When Jimmy Carter himself broke the news to the young girls in the front yard of their future home, there was not a dry eye in sight. The Asheville team then showed the girls around their house and they each picked out their bedrooms and started talking about paint colors. Mom did have to draw the line and say no to pink walls in the living room.

Next year’s Carter Work Project will be in Nashville, TN, a short 4 hour drive for interested folks from Western North Carolina.

To see photos, please click here.

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When drug activity in her neighborhood led to increased violence, LaQuila Harris and her daughter began spending their days at work and school, and their evenings anywhere but at their apartment. It was exhausting and LaQuila knew they could not continue living like that.

Kedric Justice noticed increased drug activity and crime where he was living too. Having lost his own father to violence, he was painfully aware that crime wasn’t just something that happened to other people. And, his rent had sky-rocketed to $900/month.

Drug activity was on the rise where Staci Williams and her children were living too. And because it was an income-based apartment, she feared getting a raise at work.

Benitia Henson had to convert a closet under the stairs into a makeshift bedroom for her son.

A search for something better led all of these families to Habitat. Thank you for making the opportunity to purchase a safe, affordable Habitat house possible for local families. Together, we will empower 1,000 more families in the next decade to build better futures on safe, stable housing.

To view photos from the 4-house dedication, please click here.

Thank you to the businesses & individuals who sponsored these homes: Bank of America Merrill-Lynch, the coalition of local business that supported the Business Bungalow House, Eaton, Ernest & Shirley Ferguson, The Ferguson Family,  friends of Jerry and Lou Towson who sponsored a lot in their name, The Guthy Family, our Legacy Builders Society, Publix Supermarket Charities, The Pullium Foundation, and Wicked Weed.

 

 

Alternative Spring Breakers Arrive in Asheville

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March Madness is here, but for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that means an influx of student volunteer groups spending their spring break volunteering rather than heating up the basketball courts. The groups come from all over the country and bring with them volunteers, funds, and a surge of excitement.

Groups will work mainly on Habitat’s construction site on Jon Kraus Way in Arden, but some will also work on the Shiloh Community Garden.

This year Asheville Habitat is hosting three Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge groups, as well as a group from Florida and two students from Wisconsin.

  • University of Florida: March 5 – March 9
  • Lesley University(MA): March 12 – 16
  • Florida team : March 12-13
  • College of Charleston: March 19 – 23
  • University of Wisconsin: March 26 – March 30

Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace said, “We are so excited to welcome these Collegiate Challenge teams and other student groups from around the country. The amount of spirit and energy the students bring is infectious! We couldn’t be happier that these young adults chose Asheville, NC and our Habitat affiliate to make memories and connections that will last a lifetime.”

The groups are housed at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, allowing them to enjoy the beauty of the mountains with access to hiking trails nearby. Each group will participate in a dinner with families who are in the process of becoming Habitat homeowners, allowing the volunteers an opportunity to get to know the people they are helping through their volunteer labor.

Check out this short video clip from WLOS.

Volunteers: The Fuel the ReStore Needs to Run

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It is common knowledge that volunteers help build Habitat houses. But did you know that volunteers are also imperative to the operation of the ReStore? There are nearly 140 volunteer shifts each week, many filled by folks who have been serving for 5-20+ years! Recently, with food, drink, and music, the ReStore was transformed from a retail store into a party venue for an evening as we thanked and celebrated all of our ReStore volunteers. Special recognition went to the following volunteers for their service milestones:

5 Years – Mike Burke, Roger Gauthier, Gail Lamb, Karen Larsen, Susan Maveety, Meredith Norwood, Marianne Ryall, Martha Smith, and Beebe Woodside

10 Years – Sandra Dykes, Sid Finkel, Ned Guttman, Walt Tolley, and Lou Towson

15 Years – Beth Robrecht

20 Years – Lee Fadden

And as always, Allen Laws received the Iron Man award!

Thank you to all ReStore volunteers for sharing your time and talent with us. Thanks to you, we are one of the top performing ReStores in the nation. And most importantly, the ReStore is an important revenue stream for Asheville Habitat’s home building and repair programs.

 

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.

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)

Finding a Niche in Retirement

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By Alex Cox

On this Thank You Thursday, we are recognizing two volunteers that contribute their time to repairing small appliances, lights, and other electrical items in the ReStore — tasks that can be time consuming and are not necessarily for everyone. These types of repairs can be tedious and you definitely get dirty!

Dick Manz has been volunteering with the ReStore for 18 years. During the last three, he has been working in a dedicated space on a lower level of the ReStore, crowds of vacuums gathered around and bags, cables, and tools hanging from the walls.

“We had a stack of vacuums about a mile high, all needing repair,” said Dick. “You need ample space to spread everything out and properly repair the units that come in. I offered to work on all of them if I had enough room and the tools to do it.” ReStore management was more than happy to oblige.

“I’ve accumulated quite the mess down here, and sometimes I’m not sure what to do with some of it,” said Dick. “But someone has to do it, and it’s not a problem at all for me.”

Dick came to Asheville to retire. Born in Oklahoma, his background is in engineering. He was also in a management position at the paper mill in Canton, NC, about 20 miles west of Asheville. Since his relocation here in 1992, he’s been volunteering most of that time, taking only a couple years off.

Another volunteer, originally from Florida, has been responsible for making sure some of the other electrical items that are sold in the ReStore are in proper working order. Richard Pollard has been volunteering with the ReStore for three years. His background is in maintenance for a nursing home, which has translated well to his volunteer position.

One of his first projects at the ReStore included working on lawnmowers, and then he moved to other electrical components such as appliances and lights.

“I was getting restless after my previous job, and really wanted something to do, and some way to contribute,” said Richard. “I came here, started working on some of the things I knew about, and it kind of went from there.”

Richard also contributes his time to teach his skills to others. He takes on young volunteers who come in and want to learn, sometimes as part of large groups. He has them help out around his workspace while they gain experience regarding electrical repairs.

Richard may have come to the ReStore looking to contribute, but has stayed because of the supportive environment. “I definitely like it here. There’s no drama, no arguing between the people that volunteer here,” Richard said happily. “Everything is a collaborative effort.”

Every volunteer contributes to the successful operation of the ReStore. And when volunteers like Dick Manz and Richard Pollard contribute their time, a strong work ethic and attention to detail, they make everyone else’s job easier. We are thankful for their service and their willingness to get dirty and do the jobs that need to get done. Thank you Dick and Richard!

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

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