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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.

Every hand makes a difference

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With volunteers central to our business model, we are recognizing milestones and thanking volunteers with small gifts and mid-day meals during National Volunteer Appreciation Week Habitat (April 23-29).

Whether you’re swinging a hammer at the construction site, fixing a floor at a home repair project, accepting donations at the ReStore, answering the phone in the office, or serving on a committee, each volunteer action directly impacts Habitat’s ability to serve more families in need of a decent and affordable place to live. Last year, 1,800 volunteers contributed 65,000 hours of service – at a value of more than $1.5 million!* Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 30 full-time staff members!

Every hand makes a difference and Habitat is grateful for the commitment of all volunteers, whether they helped one time or once a week, for the first time or for many years. Speaking of longevity, a number of our core volunteers (those who make a weekly or bi-weekly commitment) reached noteworthy service milestones in 2016.

  • Ray Ducharme and Bob Laveck (Construction) and Phil Casey, Bill Crownover and Alan Williams (ReStore), met the 15 year service mark.
  • Husband and wife duo Ken and Carol Deal reached their 20 year anniversary of volunteering together on the construction site.
  • ReStore volunteers Helen Andrews and Bruce Tettemer have been volunteering in the ReStore for 20 years.
  • Shirley Studwell (ReStore) celebrated 25 years of service with Habitat!

Some fun facts about Asheville Habitat’s volunteer program:

  • In 2016, through programs such as Global Village, Thrivent Builds Worldwide, and Collegiate Challenge, as well as the signature “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand” volunteer event, Asheville Area Habitat hosted volunteers from 28 different U.S. states and 3 countries.
  • It takes 1,650 hours of volunteer labor to build one Habitat house.
  • Habitat utilizes about 140 volunteers in the ReStore each week.
  • Core volunteers (those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) contributed 43,038 of the 65,000 hours of service!

Thanks to our volunteers (and donors, sponsors and ReStore supporters), Asheville Habitat built 14 new houses and repair 43 existing homes last year, helping to address our region’s affordable housing crisis and providing opportunities for families to build better futures.

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

Spring Break Builders

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By Sammie Smith, Hands and Feet of Asheville Intern

Every March, our construction site fills up with excited college students participating in their Alternative Spring Break. Collegiate Challenge – or as we affectionately call it, March Madness – brings students from schools all over the country to Asheville for a week of volunteering. This year, we hosted students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Lesley University (Massachusetts) and Ramapo College (New Jersey). One of the highlights of these service trips is the Wednesday night dinner with a future Habitat homeowner.

The most recent dinner included volunteers from both Leslie and Ramapo. In addition to enjoying fellowship and a delicious meal (thanks to a Thrivent grant), the students reflected on the work they’ve done at the construction site and how it has impacted them. Kit, from Lesley University spoke about how amazing the construction supervisors are and how “they take the time to carefully teach us how to complete the tasks on the jobsite”. Ramapo student Carlie noted, “It was rewarding to see the progression throughout the day from just dirt and rocks to a clean, insulated crawl space.” She went on to talk about how important stable housing is for kids to excel in school. Another Ramapo student reflected on the comradery among future homeowners stating, “I’ve been amazed by the sense of community…Homeowners working on each other’s houses even before they move in. Every step is awesome!” After a few days of working on the construction site and in the ReStore, Shannon, from Lesley University shared “the more I learn about Habitat, the more I fall in love with the organization!”

Jeff Paul, Habitat’s Homeowner Counselor, explained to the students the comprehensive process that Habitat homeowners go through: from initial application, through sweat equity hours and homeownership education classes, to the final walk-through just after closing. He talked about the importance of a safe, decent, and stable place to call home and then introduced future homeowners Tim Bromely and his wife Jenny Giannetto and their three children. Tim talked about how excited their oldest son is to soon have his own room and what it will mean for their family to finally have stability. (They have moved 7 times in the last 9 years.) And he expressed deep gratitude to the students for their service with Habitat.

Thank you to all the Collegiate Challenge volunteers who dedicated their spring break to volunteering with Asheville Habitat! We are consistently impressed by these young adults who make service a priority in their lives and get involved in a hands on way, with causes that matter to them. When asked why she came to Asheville Habitat for spring break, Cheryl, a student from Ramapo College said, “Affordable housing is such a huge issue in the United States. If I can contribute in a small way, it’s worth it!”

To see photos, click these links: Ramapo, Lesley, and Southern Illinois.

 

Meaningful Mondays

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By Alex Cox

Saturday in the ReStore brings crowds of customers browsing the showroom for unique furniture, appliances, and other home goods. The donation drop-off lane is an equally bustling place. On Monday, after the excitement has settled, a group of core volunteers strive to set the pace for the week. Long-time volunteers (pictured above L to R) Angela Lepro, Resa Holt and Meredith Norwood, with their family-like bond, help get the ReStore started off right for the week.

“Saturday is a very busy day”, said Angela, a retired nurse. “So on Monday, there’s a lot of housekeeping to do, refilling the drawers, getting everything ready for the week ahead.”

Resa has been volunteering with the ReStore since 2008, but she was familiar with the ReStore well before that. She was a regular customer who visited the store frequently. “Five years previous to volunteering here I was a teacher. Every Friday, on my way home from work, I would stop and get my Habitat fix,” Resa shared. “I always had it in the back of my mind that when I retired, this was where I wanted to volunteer.”

Meredith has been volunteering with the ReStore for 5 years, and Angela for 13. When a group works together for that long, it’s easy to see how strong bonds can form. Angela believes there is a greater reason why they have all been working together for so long. “I think the longevity comes from not only believing in Habitat’s philosophy, but that we have become a family. When you’re working with each other every week, you miss that person if they don’t come in.”

Barbara Geiser, another core volunteer and retired realtor, says that having a bond with your co-volunteers is crucial to reaching the goals of the ReStore and of Habitat for Humanity. “There is an interesting blend of outward social caring and internal social camaraderie,” Barbara acknowledged. “Of course we all come for the building of homes, and meeting of partner families, which we get to do. That camaraderie, once it’s formed with your group, is what keeps everybody coming back.”

These core volunteers also believe in teamwork, and recognize that the ReStore depends on everyone working together. To keep the ReStore running like a well-oiled machine, it takes every person’s contribution. Whether behind the counter, unloading donations, or doing maintenance and housekeeping , every role matters when working together to reach a collective goal. “It’s all a team effort,” Meredith noted. “There’s no point in selling anything if there isn’t someone to get it out the door and into someone’s car. And then there are the folks that receive donations, price them, and put them on the floor. It takes a lot.”

We thank these core volunteers who come in each and every Monday to get the week started right. They inspire us not only with their consistent hard work, but also with showing us the importance of having a family in the work/volunteer place. Having a group you can depend on is important. Having one that you can confide in and make memories with is extra special. And it’s what makes Monday morning something to look forward to.

If you’re interested in meeting new people, making new friends and helping neighbors in need of decent, affordable housing, check out our volunteer opportunities.

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.

 

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!

Hudson Hills is complete!

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“I come home each day through the street filled with smiling children on bikes, playing on the sidewalks and shooting baskets through hoops. I come home to people visiting and sharing and laughing and smiling on their porches or walking their babies or puppy dogs. I come home to a sanctuary. A place filled with so much love. Hudson Hills Soulshine.”
~ Rhonda, Habitat homeowner

Successful affordable housing initiatives require the partnership of many constituent groups – public, private and municipalities. Last week, we celebrated the completion of our most recent neighborhood, Hudson Hills. It was made possible with the support of the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, the W&S Foundation (through Warren Haynes Presents: The Christmas Jam), and many local businesses, individuals, faith partners, and foundations. Funding was also provided by Habitat homeowner mortgage payments and ReStore proceeds. And in addition to funding, thousands of community volunteers – alongside future homeowners – built these homes.

House sponsor representatives presented ceremonial keys to the last six homes in the neighborhood, among a sea of children and large group of well-wishers. Executive Director Andy Barnett pointed out that three of the program participants have dedicated their careers to affordable housing: Bill Dowse from NCHFA (North Carolina Housing Finance Agency); Lew Kraus and Joan Cooper who recently retired from Asheville Area Habitat; and Jeff Staudinger, the City of Asheville’s Assistant Director of Community and Economic Development. Leadership from affordable housing advocates like these three, coupled with diverse funding partnerships, dedicated volunteers,  and future homeowner participation has proven time and again to be a recipe for a successful Habitat community.

With the strong foundation provided by decent and affordable homes, 24 more local families now have the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future for themselves. With a decent place to live and an affordable mortgage, these homeowners can save more, invest in the future, pursue opportunities, and have more stability. THANK YOU to everyone who helped us build Hudson Hills, a beautiful community of decent, affordable, energy-efficient houses, that are being turned into homes.

To see photos from the October 14th dedication event, please click here.

To see a short video produced by Buncombe County TV, click here.

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