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Garland Walker Helps Habitat Meet Growing Community Need

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By Sydney Monshaw

Every Wednesday, the Home Repair team knows that rain or shine, Garland Walker (pictured above, R) will arrive at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity office ready to spend the day serving the families of Buncombe County. Along with his coffee mug and lunchbox, Garland brings with him a steadfast commitment to building strength, stability and self-reliance. For 5 years, this Core Volunteer has spent every Wednesday helping to provide Home Repair clients with affordable solutions allowing them to remain safely in their homes. The Home Repair operations would not be the same without Garland, the repair team’s first Core Volunteer.

Garland and his wife Ellen moved to Asheville in 2013 from Juneau, Alaska where he worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Throughout his career, Garland worked as an attorney in varied capacities from the military to private practice, finally spending the most time managing federal fisheries with NOAA in the North Pacific. When he arrived in Asheville as a recent retiree, Garland was eager to find volunteer opportunities that would be enjoyable and would show a visible difference in his community. That’s when he found Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Initially, Garland volunteered building new homes, and on his third volunteer day, he was assigned to work with Joel Johnson (pictured above, L) in Home Repair. He found that he really enjoyed this aspect of Habitat’s efforts. Garland’s volunteer day has always been Wednesday and often it was just he and Joel working on projects for Home Repair clients.

The thing that Garland values most about working on the Home Repair team is its mission. “Home Repair clients are generally older and economically challenged. Home Repair is a “home saver” because it allows them to maintain and improve their homes either at a small fraction of the local market cost or sometimes at no cost. Their gratitude for our work is infectious. I go home each Wednesday grateful for the contributions I made and more conscious of the many personal blessings I have.”

Garland has also built lasting relationships with the Home Repair staff that he not only views as team mates, but as friends. Every Wednesday he faces new challenges that require varied problem-solving skills and he enjoys the fact that no two projects are the same. He is excited to learn new skills that he can use on his own home, too.

Garland recently received his golden hammer pin in recognition of 5 years of volunteer service. He is proud of this but views the accomplishment as a testament to the people, environment, and mission of Habitat that makes volunteers like him so willing to support the organization with their time, talent and financial means.

Over the last five years, Garland has seen many changes on the Home Repair front.

“I’m glad to note the recent ramping up of Home Repair staffing and funding. For this, I credit the excellent leadership of Joel, now the Home Repair Manager, along with the support of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. While building new homes is incredibly important and an original core mission of Habitat, the need for home repair assistance among the elderly and economically disadvantaged is steadily growing in this area. Despite the great work of the Home Repair team, there still aren’t enough local resources to meet the growing demand for this type of service.”

Garland recognizes the value of his volunteer work in the larger picture of the Home Repair program. As this arm of Habitat service grows, Home Repair is in need of more volunteers they can count on every week. To learn more about volunteering with Home Repair, click here, and if you are able, consider committing one day a week as a Core Volunteer. The Habitat team is grateful for all of the volunteers, like Garland, who help to bring the growing vision of the Home Repair program, and Asheville Habitat, to life.

 

 

 

 

Planning for the Future with Brattan Gelder

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By Jeff Paul

Owning a home is a BIG deal. And purchasing that home can be a stressful and confusing process. Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s Homebuyer Education program seeks to demystify the process and empower families to become successful homeowners. As part of required sweat equity, future homeowners spend close to 50 hours in the classroom learning about home maintenance, predatory lending, real estate closing documents and procedures, community resources and much more. One of the highlights of this program is the opportunity for each family to meet with local estate planning attorney, Brattan Gelder (pictured above).

Brattan has been volunteering with Asheville Habitat since 2011. Several times a year, he meets with the Homebuyer Education class to discuss the basics of estate planning. He carefully reviews the terminology, talks about the importance of having such a plan in place, and fields questions from families. Additionally, Brattan generously offers to each new homeowner (pro-bono) the opportunity to meet one-on-one to establish a personal estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. With complicated laws related to passing property and possessions to relatives, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, especially homeowners.

As Astrid Andre reported in Shelterforce, “Since the least wealthy Americans have a larger share of their wealth tied to their homes and would be most impacted by home losses, enacting measures to mitigate such losses may have greater effect in preserving and maintaining wealth in these communities. Proactive measures like estate planning—placing safeguards during and after the lifetime of an owner, such as creating wills and trusts—can be a helpful tool for the preservation and transfer of real estate assets in some low- to moderate-income and minority communities.”

One new Habitat homeowner commented, “It meant a great deal for Brattan to help me with my estate planning. He has given me a sense of security to know that I have a plan put in place. I am now confident that my loved ones will have less worry with this plan. An estate plan is something not everyone thinks about or has, so I feel very fortunate to have one.”

In 2016, Brattan expanded his engagement with AAHH by joining the Board of Directors and most recently, he joined Habitat’s Homeowner Selection Committee. When asked what motivates him to volunteer with Habitat, he offered the following:

“There are several characteristics of Habitat that distinguish it in my mind from other charitable organizations. My favorite thing about Habitat is that Habitat doesn’t simply give anything to anyone. Future homeowners don’t receive gifts; they earn everything. Habitat identifies worthy partners who make lifelong commitments to themselves, their families, and their communities. Through hard work and cooperation, people from disparate backgrounds bond together to form strong neighborhoods and broader communities. The assistance that Habitat provides enables hard-working, honest people to live and work in a supportive environment, where their talents and skills can flourish. That stability allows Habitat partners to make a beneficial contribution to their communities. Habitat homeowners work diligently to make a better life for their families. In turn, a strong work ethic and determination are imparted to the next generation, who will recognize the value of working hard and giving back. Simply stated, I don’t know of any other organization that makes such a meaningful impact in the long-term well-being of the community. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Thank you, Brattan for sharing your time and expertise to help families build – and secure – a better future!

 

 

 

Kaaren and Lynn: A Meaningful Connection

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By Marty Steinberg

“The art wall is the first thing you see when walking into the upper showroom and Lynn and Kaaren keep it looking amazing,” according to ReStore Upper Showroom Assistant Manager Brian Haynes.

The proof is in the pictures. Or the paintings, or the movie posters or the occasional metallic wall sculpture. If it’s hanging on the ReStore art wall, ReStore volunteers Kaaren McNulty and Lynn Kirby probably put it there.

“I was looking for something meaningful to do so I offered to help with the art wall,” said McNulty, a longtime ReStore volunteer and an artist who also donates original paintings to be sold at the ReStore. “This is my first volunteer job and I love it. I feel a connection to the people I work with.”

Kirby, a glass artist, says she has made lasting friendships by volunteering at the ReStore. “I look forward to coming in to meet people and do something meaningful that helps the community.”

They both have personalized aprons that were embroidered by Kirby to wear for their volunteer shifts. Both women also have suffered a recent loss and they say that volunteering at the ReStore helps them personally.

McNulty, originally from Detroit, worked as a corporate meeting planner in Atlanta before retiring to Western North Carolina with her husband. “He died a year ago and volunteering at the ReStore has been even more helpful to me since that happened,” McNulty said.

Kirby, who spent a 20-year career with IBM, is from upstate New York and received a job transfer to Texas where she lived with her husband before they lost everything in their home to a wildfire. “We heard about Asheville and I came out in 2012 with my husband, three dogs and a cat,” she said.

Both volunteers agree that ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin helps make volunteering at the ReStore a positive experience. “Being on a set schedule helps as well because you know when you’re expected and you can plan around it,” said Kirby. Both women generally put in two four-hour shifts each week.

They both enjoy engaging with shoppers, staff, and other volunteers when they work behind the counter, after the art wall has been neatened and replenished.

“When you talk with someone who is doing sweat equity and they tell you what a difference a new home will make for their family, it’s incredible.” Kirby said. “And what a blessing it is to hear that people will be able to stay in their homes because of Habitat’s home repair program.” added McNulty.

For now, both of them plan to continue “hanging” around the ReStore.

 

If you’re interested in volunteering at the ReStore, please email Carrie Burgin.

 

Bernie Koesters: Making an Impact Locally and Globally

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By Ariane Kjellquist

From rehabbing a 100+ year old house in Portugal and installing smokeless stoves in Guatemala, to teaching woodworking to “street kids” in Bolivia and building Habitat homes here in Asheville, Bernie Koesters (pictured above with his wife Sue) is driven by the belief that “we need to give back, especially those of us that have more. We have an obligation to give back.”

Sue shares the same sentiment. She went back to school to get a nursing degree with the desire to work in under-served rural communities. It was that desire that took the couple to Bolivia for a 7-month stint. In addition to teaching street kids there woodworking skills, Bernie designed and built safety guards for existing equipment and helped refurbish used tools purchased with a grant.

When you hear Bernie talk about the work he does with Habitat and other non-profits, you might assume, as I did, that he is a retired engineer. Many Habitat volunteers are. Instead, his upbringing is what taught this retired CPA the skills he uses to give back. Raised one of seven on a farm in Ohio, he and his siblings learned to repair and rebuild farm equipment in the off-season. “We didn’t have a lot of money, so we needed to make things last.”

A seasoned Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip participant (in fact, he and Sue were just in Guatemala this month), Bernie has seen first-hand the impact that safe, decent and affordable housing has on families globally and locally.

“What I saw making the biggest impact on families in Guatemala was water filters and smokeless stoves. The stoves free families from respiratory illness and they see a healthier future for themselves and their kids.”

Habitat for Humanity Guatemala reports that 52% of Guatemalans have respiratory illness and 95% of water is contaminated. Asheville Habitat staffer and Global Village trip leader Joel Johnson added, “The cost of a smokeless stove is only $100 USD, but it will change the lives of Guatemalan women and children dramatically. Most have severe respiratory illness because they are not cooking or heating with proper ventilation.” A water filter costs a mere $35, makes water potable and significantly reduces water-borne illness.

Excited by the prospect of a healthier future and per the Habitat model, Guatemalan homeowners contribute “sweat equity”. This primarily happens before out-of-town work teams arrive. Using pre-made forms, families press adobe blocks that the volunteers later use to build smokeless stoves.

team at dinner in guatemala

“I really enjoy meeting people and realizing that no matter where you are, others are just like us– just trying to make it, day in and day out. Everyone is just trying to move to a level that is about more than just surviving; into a different position of living.”

Bernie also mentioned another highlight: lunch with the mothers and children (fathers are usually off working). “Language never seems to be a barrier. A lot can be communicated with hand signals, a friendly face or a smile.”

DYK? Asheville Habitat has been “following our tithe” to Guatemala for many years now and we are one of 77 Habitat affiliates engaged in the Global Village program.

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing, Singing and Celebrating Women Build

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By Sydney Monshaw

Third Annual Rock the House: A Downtown Event to Celebrate Women, Construction, and Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity       

Tuton Hall at Trinity Episcopal Church certainly was rockin’ on Saturday, March 23rd in celebration of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s 14th Women Build House! In it’s third year, Rock The House provided a great opportunity to dance, sing, donate, and celebrate. This year’s Women Build House, of which the footers were poured last month, is financially supported thanks to this event and many generous sponsors and donors– and that is truly something to sing about!

For the last three years, the WomBATs (Women Build Advocacy Team) have thrown this event full of joy and love to fundraise for the Women Build House and celebrate the future homebuyer. There is live music provided by The Flashbacks, a group whose repertoire includes all of the fun classics that get folks out on the dance floor within the first few bars. There is delicious food, catered by Habitat’s own Alice Donnelly, which this year featured an antipasto bar, pulled pork sandwiches, and drool-worthy veggie sliders. And, two free drinks are provided thanks to generously donated wine from The Biltmore Company and beer from Catawba Brewing Co.

When the music starts, energy of fellowship and generosity fills Rock the House, in whatever space it’s in, to every nook and cranny. No matter where the event takes place – the warehouse at the Habitat office in 2017, The Crest Center in 2018, or Tuton Hall this year – the fun and excitement are rockin’ and the gifts for the Women Build House are incredible. This year the WomBATs calculated nearly $7,000 in donations from the one night event. With just over one hundred attendees, this number proves the generosity of those involved. With those constributions, the 2019 Women Build House is now within $10,000 of being fully funded. If you would like to help get us to the finish line, please click here to donate now.

This year’s build will officially begin on Tuesday, May 7th , with the construction of a townhome in our Curry Court neighborhood in Candler! This is a fantastic opportunity for new volunteers, especially women, to feel empowered on a construction site and supported in learning a host of useful skills. If you enjoyed Rock the House and the energy of the WomBATs, you will love building alongside them and the incredible staff at Habitat.

To see a few photos from the event, click here.

To stay up to date on Women Build and Asheville Habitat in general, be sure to follow us on facebook and Instagram, check out website regularly, and subscribe to our e-newsletters. Thank you!

Bucking the National Trend

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By Ariane Kjellquist

Women in Construction. While it is no longer an anomaly, it is far from the norm. According to the National Home Builders Association, “the share of women in the construction industry is currently at 9 percent, although women make up almost half—47 percent—of the total working population.”

Bucking this national trend is Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity where women make up more than 50% of the organization’s Construction staff, the Construction Manager is a woman, and women work in diverse Construction positions including new construction, home repair, volunteer coordination, and construction administration. Furthermore, an annual Women Build led by a team of volunteers affectionately known as the “WomBATs” (Women Build Advocacy Team) recruits hundreds of female volunteers to help build—and raises $55,000 to build the house. Construction will begin on Asheville Habitat’s 14th Women Build House on May 7.

Asheville Habitat also has a number of women “core” construction volunteers, those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. One such volunteer is Melissa Banks, who brought a team of volunteers to Asheville in 2016 to work on the Women Build House, and soon thereafter relocated to Asheville. She is now a core construction volunteer, a “WomBAT”, a member of both the Global Engagement Committee and Community Engagement Committee, a Global Village Trip leader, weekly ReStore volunteer, donor and advocate!

On the staffing side, Construction Manager Robin Clark previously owned her own construction company, and worked with Asheville Habitat as a sub-contractor during the annual Women Build. She joined Asheville Habitat as a full-time staffer in 2010, and was promoted to manager in 2016.

AmeriCorps members are invaluable, especially to the Home Repair program. Second year AmeriCorps member Sydney Monshaw and first year member Nora Gilmer, both “WomBATs”, work on “Aging in Place”, a subset of the Home Repair program. The work is often anything but glamorous, but its importance is paramount enabling elders to stay in their own homes longer and live more safely and comfortably as they age. Sydney stated, “I love being a woman in construction and especially as part of a team like ours. These women – employees, volunteers, and WomBATs- are forces to be reckoned with, and it fills me up with strength and hope to fight for affordable housing alongside them!”

Asheville Habitat’s executive director Andy Barnett added, “Women bear the brunt of our housing crisis. I am proud that at Habitat women lead in the solutions, from the construction site to the board room. I hope our story of gender equity in the construction industry inspires others, locally and nationally.”

See/hear this story in the press!
Mountain Xpress
the828.com
Biltmore Beacon
Capital at Play
AVL Today (DYK)
ashevillefm (March 6, Slumber Party)

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.

Four More Families Home

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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.

 

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