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A Delightful Duo: Lifelong Friends Provide Service to the ReStore

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By Kristen Keefer

Carolyn McDonald and Jo Harvey, friends since childhood, meet every Tuesday to volunteer at the ReStore. The duo spends their time alongside core volunteer Susan Diehn at the checkout-counter. “Susan is great; she really helped me learn the ropes,” remarked Carolyn who has been volunteering for over a year and recruited Jo to begin volunteering this past June. In regards to bringing Jo on-board Carolyn said, “Jo knew I wouldn’t lead her astray, we’ve been friends forever.” Jo agreed: “I jumped right in at the ReStore and really enjoyed it!”

Carolyn initially became acquainted with Habitat through the Home Repair program. Our repair team completed much-needed repairs on her home’s roof, and electrical and plumbing systems. As part of her home repair client agreement, she needed to complete sweat equity hours, and she chose to complete them at the ReStore.

After completing the required volunteer hours, Carolyn decided she wanted to continue her service. She explained, “I love it here. Everyone is just awesome and I look forward to coming in!” She expressed her appreciation for the ReStore’s Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin, saying “Carrie is amazing; she works with my schedule and is a very caring person.”

Both Carolyn and Jo enjoy working alongside other Habitat volunteers and staff, and they appreciate what Habitat does for the community. “It is just amazing, all the people Habitat helps, all the good that they do,” remarked Jo. A longtime fan of Habitat’s work, she first became acquainted with Habitat’s mission through her grandchildren who have spent time volunteering on Habitat construction sites.

The women dedicate their time outside of Habitat to helping others as well. On the weekends, Carolyn is a Medical Technician at North Ridge Assisted Living. And, throughout the week Jo helps care for a member of her community by transporting him to and from adult day care, as well as getting him breakfast in the mornings and making him home cooked meals in the evening.

Lifelong friends Jo and Carolyn are dedicated to service at the ReStore and in the community. Their story exhibits the value of a strong friendship, and demonstrates how sharing a new opportunity with a friend can be very special. We’re grateful that Carolyn chose to continue her service at the ReStore, and that she brought Jo on-board, too!

Photo (from L to R): Susan, Carrie, Carolyn and Jo

Creating Community Through Service

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by Kristin Keefer

Every Saturday, brothers Kris (far L) and Wayne (L) Ruth lend their time to the ReStore receiving area. They unload donations from vehicles, sort through a mixture of merchandise, and take time to really connect with donors dropping off previously loved goods. Whether it be by lending an ear to donors who have a story to share, or attentively greeting everyone who pulls up to the loading dock with a friendly smile, the duo consciously and caringly engages with ReStore donors, customers, volunteers, and employees.

The two men, now retired, became connected to the Habitat ReStore through a friend when the store was still downtown. Years later, after the ReStore relocated from Biltmore Avenue downtown to the current Meadow Rd/Biltmore Village location, they began volunteering. The gig was a perfect fit and it wasn’t long before they both became core volunteers.

Wayne has been with the ReStore for 13 years and Kris for 12 years. They both agree that they keep coming back for a simple reason; to help one another. Every week, they work together to help other volunteers and employees, and to contribute to the ReStore’s mission. They come back because the people they’re helping are their friends. It is from interactions like these that community sprouts.

For Kris and Wayne, volunteering at the ReStore is about more than processing items in the receiving area, it’s really about the people. Wayne shared, “We really enjoy visiting with folks. We meet some wonderful people!” And, they agree that what they most enjoy about volunteering at the ReStore is the sense of community that is present amongst volunteers and employees. Kris said, “Employees at the ReStore don’t tell you what to do, they help you do it. The people here are really community-oriented.”

If you dig into the brothers’ background, Kris and Wayne’s friendliness comes as no surprise. Both have enjoyed traveling the globe; exploring new places and meeting new faces. In fact, they spent a notable portion of their youth living in Germany.

Recently, Wayne took inspiration from his time spent in Germany (and also Austria), when he remodeled his home in Western North Carolina — ironically located on Munich Street. He compiled materials like metal roofing, windows, a pallet of boards, and even a hot tub from the Restore to use in the restoration. With the reusable materials he constructed a live and work space that includes a bier garden. The space won the “Best Live /Work Space category in the 2014 ReStore ReUse Contest! The following year, Wayne applied his creativity to the contest in a different manner – by participating as a judge.

For over a decade, Kris and Wayne have dedicated their time and talents to the ReStore. Their commitment to helping their peers and customers while making meaningful connections is a wonderful contribution to the tight-knit ReStore community. It is volunteers like this duo that make the ReStore a special place to be. We are grateful for all that you do, Kris and Wayne! Cheers to another decade!

Commitment to Service Deserves Celebration

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By Kristen Keefer

Through a combined effort led by ReStore Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin, the annual ReStore Volunteer Appreciation Party was a huge success! On Tuesday, September 20th, more than 150 attendees gathered at Highland Brewing Company in their new event space and savored a beautiful spread of food prepared lovingly by Events Committee chair Alice Donnelly. Volunteers, staff, and their guests also enjoyed live music performed by Hank Bones while sharing in the company of one another throughout the evening.

ReStore Manager Scott Stetson, began the program with a warm welcome while sharing his appreciation for how largely volunteer efforts contribute to a thriving ReStore; efforts that ultimately contribute to the Habitat’s ability to create affordable housing. Future homeowner Heidi Chapman and her two sons took the stage next, expressing excitement and gratitude. Executive Director Andy Barnett followed, interweaving volunteer contributions to the global impact of Habitat’s tithing program. For every home built in Buncombe County, Asheville Habitat tithes to affiliates in Guatemala, Malawi, Haiti, Bangladesh, or Egypt. This incredible tithe program is made possible through many efforts, including our volunteers’ unwavering commitment to service at Habitat.

Next came awards for length of service. Katie Caron, Diane McLean, Dan Shackelford, Arnold Willen, and Marci Windham were all recognized for volunteering for 5 years at the ReStore. Anne Connelly, Bruce Emory, Daphne Fox, Jim Goodson, Sherry Griffith, Connie Koiner, Laura Lowe, Jane Parmley, Betty Jo Readling, Ron Schmid, and Trina Summers were recognized for 10 years of volunteer service. Phil Casey, Bill Crownover, and Alan Williams were recognized for 15 years of service. Additional awards went to Helen Andrews and Bruce Tettemer. And, Shirley Studwell was presented with a special award for sharing her time and talent with Asheville Area Habitat for 25 years!

Thank you volunteers, new and long-standing, for all of your efforts! Day after day your talent, effort, and spirit make the ReStore a special place to be. Without your dedication, operating the Restore, and building homes both locally and globally would not be possible. Your joyful participation at the ReStore and your commitment to Habitat’s mission truly does make a world of a difference!

Hardware Heroes

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By Kristen Keefer

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, contractor, or simply an avid thrift shopper, then you recognize the value of well-preserved secondhand tools. Every week the ReStore receives a mixture of hardware donations, from power tools like drills and table saws, to screwdrivers and hammers. Many of these items are quickly re-homed once reaching the sales floor, which results in funding towards Habitat’s mission and affordable tools for consumers in Asheville.

This smooth transition couldn’t take place without the helping hands of Richard Pollard, Harvey Sexton, and John Harvin (pictured above, L to R), the hardware crew behind the scenes. All three men were acquainted with Habitat long before retirement. Once retired, each sought a meaningful way to spend their time, which led them to volunteering at the ReStore. With all three having experience with tools, working in hardware was a natural fit.

Harvey and Richard explained how much of their personal experience using tools has given them an eye for hardware items at the ReStore. In fact, the two men often collaborate on pricing and identifying items. Richard said, “I’ll look at stuff he prices and we’re spot on with the same pricing. Unless you use a tool, you don’t know how valuable it is.” The value Richard speaks of isn’t solely monetary either. Having the right tool for a job can be the determining factor in whether or not a person can complete a project themselves. Access to affordable tools empowers individuals to be able to take on projects, develop skills, and improve their homes.

Not only are the guys helping shoppers access affordable tools, but they also identify unique or antique tools for inclusion in the ReStore Silent Auction. John explained, “Sometimes I feel like an archaeologist digging into the past. It’s fun! What you find is a surprise!” He has discovered everything from run-of-the-mill tools to rare antiques. Being able to deliver a good value to the consumer is important to him, as is helping raise funds for Habitat’s mission through the ReStore.

John especially appreciates Habitat’s model to create affordable housing because it actively involves future homeowners in the process. Harvey also demonstrated an appreciation for the families that complete their sweat equity at the ReStore and remarked, “It is so pleasant to work with partner families and get to know them.”

The sentiment Harvey shared seems to resonate with all three of the men. Whether speaking with Richard, Harvey, or John, you’ll find what they enjoy most about volunteering are the people that fill the ReStore. The staff, volunteers, and partner families that they work alongside weekly are what keep them coming back. These three gentlemen volunteer their time, knowledge, and skills to the ReStore. In return, they receive a rewarding experience filled with valuable company and friendships. We are grateful to have them on board and appreciate their devotion to helping keep quality affordable hardware at the ReStore!

From Trip Participant to Trip Leader

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By Madeline McIntyre

This week, we are saying thanks to Melissa Banks (pictured center in green shirt, and L and R), who recently led a Global Village (GV) trip to Asheville as a part of Habitat for Humanity International’s National Women Build Week. Melissa had already participated in four Global Village trips when she decided to become a trip leader. Lucky for us, her first trip in the leadership position, was to Asheville.

Melissa is from Maryland, where she had previously been involved with her local affiliate’s Women Build (WB) House. She volunteered on the WB House there, but that wasn’t quite enough for Melissa. So, when she was asked to lead a Women Build GV trip, she jumped at the opportunity. “It was nice having a group of women working together,” she said. “You know, women power!”

Global Village trips are the definition of a working vacation. The groups spend their days volunteering on the job site, and they have evenings to explore all the area has to offer. But you can’t just show up and expect a spot on these trips. Those interested must apply and be able to secure funding to cover expenses and a donation towards the house in which they will be pouring hours of work and sweat. “That’s always amazing to me,” Melissa said of the Global Village model. “People are willing to spend money to come and work incredibly hard. And it’s so worth it.”

Since the trip centered on Women Build, there was an incredibly high number of female applicants. Out of 30 applications, only 5 were from males. She credits this to the comfortable environment that Women Build offers, especially for those who are not experienced in construction. Women Build is a great way to learn new skills, or hone existing ones.

“I was really surprised that quite a few members of my team were between age 20 and 30,” Melissa said. “It was wonderful to see so many young women taking an interest in being on a job site!”

When asked the best way to describe the unique experience of Women Build, she could only come up with two words: generosity and compassion. “I keep using generosity and compassion, but those are the two words that kept coming up for me all week long,” Melissa said. “It was just incredible.”

That generosity and compassion created a camaraderie that bound her team together. “It was such a full commitment,” Melissa says of her group. “We came as strangers that first day, and by the last day, we were a family. Everyone just bonded together.”

Her team has already stated that they want to follow Melissa wherever she goes next, and that enthusiasm has her considering leading another Women Build trip. “I would like to see Global Village put more focus on Women Build and build it up more,” Melissa said. “It’s such an awesome experience, and I think getting it out more to the public and having people better understand it, would be great.”

Melissa didn’t immediately head back home though, and she continues to practice generosity and compassion by volunteering at the Women Build House during her extended stay in Asheville.

Melissa, Thank You for your leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to Habitat for Humanity, in Buncombe County and around the world!

If you are interested in learning more about Women Build, please visit our WB blog.

Celebrating Those Who Share Their Time and Talent

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Volunteers support Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity staff and homeowner families in every aspect of their work. Last year, 2,000 volunteers contributed more than 60,000 hours of service – at a value of more than $1.38 million, according to independentsector.org. Another way to look at it: the hours contributed by volunteers equates to having an additional 28 staff members working 40 hours each week!

Volunteers have been receiving notes, small gifts and special treats through out the week, as well as free lunch. Local SUBWAY® restaurant owners are again saluting approximately 2,000 Habitat for Humanity volunteers by providing boxed lunches at Habitat work sites in Asheville and across the Carolinas.

And there is no better time than this week to mention milestones. Two core volunteers, Joe Kane (ReStore) and Bob Swartz (Construction) have reached the 15 year milestone; Core construction volunteer Bill Kantonen, known as “singing Bill”, is celebrating 20 years as a volunteer with Asheville Area Habitat; and ReStore volunteers Jan Wright and Allen Laws have been volunteering for 25 years! Habitat is grateful for the commitment of these folks, and of all volunteers, whether they have helped once, or they help once a week.

Some fun facts about Habitat volunteers:

  • In 2015, through programs such as Global Village and Collegiate Challenge as well as the signature “Before the Jam, Lend a Hand” volunteer event, Asheville Area Habitat hosted volunteers from 31 different U.S. states!
  • Habitat utilizes about 135 volunteers in the ReStore each week.
  • It takes 1,650 hours of volunteer labor to build one Habitat house.
  • Core construction volunteers (those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) contributed 68% of total construction volunteer hours in 2015!

And if this isn’t enough, hear what our 12 month intern Emily Stevens has to say about Habitat and volunteerism in this short video clip.

Want to get involved? Please click here to learn more about volunteering and how to sign up. Thanks!

 

 

 

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Volunteers From all Over the Country Unite in Asheville

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During the week of April 11-15, 14 individuals packed their bags with work clothes and boots and traveled to Asheville to build houses for families whom they had never met. While tourism in Asheville is growing, the city is also quickly becoming a hot volunteer destination. After four weeks of hosting Collegiate Challenge trips (think alternative spring break for students), Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity hosted an impressive Habitat for Humanity Global Village Team. Get ready to be inspired; this volunteer team was stacked! Some participants built in memory of a loved one, others came to bond with family members, and all of them are were here to do good. While they hailed from Florida, Wisconsin, New York, and other states, many of them have spent much of their lives living abroad.

Global Village is a program through Habitat for Humanity International that provides volunteers from all over the country and the world the opportunity to make a difference in another community. As timing is everything, this team couldn’t have planned it any better. Not only did they experience the “usual” agenda items of working on the construction site, having dinner with a Habitat partner family, and getting to do some sightseeing, but they were also able to attend a Habitat house “kickoff” event and we held a Habitat home dedication two days later. Did we mention that they were also here during National Volunteer Appreciation Week?

This Global Village trip was organized and led by local Habitat core volunteer, Charlie Franck. He and his wife Tricia spent their careers in education working in Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kenya and Egypt. They have participated in and led many Global Village Trips over the years, where they met many of the people who were on this team. One friend and participant, who had heard stories about the Franck’s Global Village Trips for years wrote, “This is my opportunity to experience the thrill and challenge of giving back.” He had waited 30 years to participate in a Global Village Trip, and finally had a chance to do so.

A few more interesting facts about the team members:

  • They have participated in a combined 55 Global Village trips and six Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects!
  • There were four families participating together on this trip.
  • One participant has run in seven marathons, including three NYC Marathons.
  • One participant serves on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA and another serves on a Board committee for HFH of Philadelphia’s ReStore.
  • One participant is on staff at Habitat for Humanity Twin Cities.
  • One woman is an Oncologist at the University of Wisconsin, and one man is a student at the New School in New York studying Culture and Media.

We are so grateful for Charlie for bringing this great team to Asheville! Click here to view pictures of the team on our Hudson Hills jobsite.

 

From Finance to the Fix-It Shop: Three Volunteers Find Their Niche in the Large Appliance Repair Area

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By Jonathan Dermid

Typically, when someone first enters the ReStore, some of the first items on display are our large appliances. A common question might be, “they look nice, but do they work?” Here at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, we individually test them to make sure they are in top shape!

Helping to clean, repair (if necessary), and prepare these appliances for sale is the large appliance team of Joe Kane (L), Bill Crownover (C) and Sid Finkel (R). They typically won’t be found out on the sales floor though, as they toil away in the repair area in the basement, checking out everything from refrigerators to ranges.

“Joe and I both started about the same time, back when the store was still downtown, and we started working on the delivery trucks,” Bill said.

Bill and Joe bonded quickly, and their mutual enjoyment of cycling led to another volunteer assignment in the store. “He and I have done a lot of cycling together, so we had a lot of fun fixing bikes. But bikes have kind of peaked out and there became a greater need for testing and repairing large appliances,” Bill said.

When Sid began volunteering, the diligent repairing of appliances really picked up. “Before Sid came along, we kind of just sold them as-is.” Bill said. This diligence shows, and Sid takes pride in the condition of the appliances that go out onto the showroom floor. “They’re reliable appliances, and they’re tested and clean,” Sid said. “When someone buys an appliance from the ReStore, they can be sure they’re getting something that works.”

Interestingly, none of the three men come from a background of repairs, but backgrounds of finance-related careers, from investment banking in New York to the North Carolina Department of Revenue. “It’s interesting that we all come from different backgrounds,” Joe said. “I think there’s an attraction about Habitat and you get to meet all kinds of different people in the process.”

Perhaps the most common thread between the volunteers is their dedication to Habitat for Humanity, allowing them to take pride in not only their repair work, but the mission of Habitat as well.

“It’s a win-win-win situation in a lot of ways,” Sid said. “We raise money for the cause, we repair appliances that might be otherwise thrown out, and we put them back in the system for people who might not be able to afford new appliances.”

Joe shares these sentiments, and has a personal motivation to help others achieve their goal of affordable housing. “The first time I ever heard about Habitat for Humanity, I thought it was just a great concept. Providing a person with the opportunity to own a house in a good neighborhood really struck my fancy,” he said. My parents struggled very hard for a house, and when we finally got it, it was a great feeling; and it’s a great feeling knowing that I can help someone else have that.”

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

Computers and Phones, Not Hammers and Nails

by Jonathan Dermid

Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, there is a small but dedicated group of volunteers that helps carry out our mission – without wielding a hammer at the jobsite or sorting donations at the ReStore. These are our Office Volunteers and they work diligently every week in our Administrative building, supporting the staff by doing data entry, answering phones, and much more.

This week, we honored them with a special appreciation lunch to show them how important they are to our cause.

Seven of these volunteers work at the front desk (reception), answering phones and greeting visitors with an openly social and cheerful demeanor that reflects our drive to serve the community.

“The volunteers do a lot of miscellaneous stuff that most people wouldn’t even think about, but it’s all that really essential behind-the-scenes work that helps us out so much,” said Office Assistant Abby Suarez.

They also work “independently but together” on a large project for the ReStore. “Everyone who donates to the ReStore gets a receipt, whether it’s a pickup or a drop-off,” Abby said. “With the help of office volunteers, we can keep track of merchandise donations and repeat donors, including businesses.”

With various backgrounds, including current college student and retired teacher, there are some specialized skills such as technical support and dedicated data entry.

One volunteer, Carol, works with Communications to organize press clippings and highlight quotes about Habitat. Another, Aaron, is a wiz when it comes to data entry. Abby noted, “Someone said at the appreciation lunch that Aaron has a respect for data that not many people have, and that’s super helpful!”

Perhaps most important is our office volunteers’ dedication to serving as representatives of Habitat, simply through their position of being at the front desk of the main office. “Front desk volunteers are sometimes the first faces that potential partner families (and anyone) see when they come in,” Abby said. “They really have to believe in the mission of Habitat just as much as all of us, because they sit at the front and say ‘I’m Habitat, how may I help you?’”

Whether behind-the-scenes doing data entry or out front greeting visitors, office volunteers, like all of our volunteers, are dedicated to the Habitat mission. And for that, we thank them!

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer, please click here.

Gratitude for Givens Estate Partnership

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By Jonathan Dermid

At Givens Estates, a significant number of residents actively and happily participate in community service, which vitalizes their community and gives it an identity of meaning and purpose. Their volunteer program has the primary mission of promoting wellness throughout the community, and the effect is certainly felt here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Marge Marsh and John Nieburg are the two leaders of the volunteer program for Givens Estate residents, and under their leadership, 39 Givens residents volunteered with us in 2014. In the first six months of 2015, the residents collectively donated 500 hours of volunteer service to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity and the ReStore!

Volunteers from Givens also spearheaded “The Givens Assemblers” – a group that assists with bulk mail for us and other non-profit organizations in the area. By preparing our bulk mailings for distribution, the Assemblers provide an invaluable service to us!

Some Givens residents volunteer on a single project like a bulk mailing. Others, including Anne Justice and Peggy Manz, are “core” (weekly) volunteers. Anne has become known as the ReStore’s  jewelry lady as she receives, sorts and prices jewelry that is donated to the store – an extension of what she does in the Givens community too. Peggy is wife to Habitat core volunteer Dick Manz, and has been a valuable addition to our bookstore volunteer team.

Givens Estates is also a generous contributor of merchandise, and they recently donated a plethora of nice cabinets and other furnishing to our ReStore by way of our Deconstruction program. Specifically, we participated in a Deconstruction of several apartment units this month as Givens prepares to build new facilities.

We are grateful for the partnership of Givens Estates and many of its residents; a partnership that includes volunteerism, financial support and the donation of merchandise to our ReStore. Thank you Givens Estates for all that they have done, and continue to do for Asheville Area Habitat!