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Celebrating Our ReStore Volunteers

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by Jonathan Dermid

The bonding and teamwork among our volunteers is a common thread that links these blog profiles. Every week it seems, our volunteers share a similar sentiment – they love to volunteer because not only do they support the Habitat cause, but they also genuinely enjoy the bond they have with fellow volunteers.

So, it was very fulfilling to have so many of our volunteers under one roof as they ate, drank, and shared each others’ company at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at Highland Brewing Company. The event was graciously catered with homemade food from Alice Donnelly, chair of the Events Committee (and retired Asheville Area Habitat Accountant). The party also served as a way for us to celebrate the milestones of certain volunteers who have been with our affiliate for 5, 10, and 15 years.

The Enders, a partner family we highlighted in a previous blog post, offered remarks of gratitude before the awards ceremony. “We desired a home for a long time,” Michelle Ender said. “It’s a real blessing, and it changes our future completely. I’m very thankful that my children will have a place to call home.”

Michelle also shared her own experience in volunteering at the ReStore, saying “it really feels like a big family when I’m there.”

Lew Kraus, executive director of Asheville Area Habitat, shared a few words about how volunteering contributes to and ultimately shapes the work of Habitat. “I’m here to salute you for the wonderful things you have done and continue to do,” he said. “I reflect back on the many years I’ve spent here, and the true metrics of success are measured in the words of the Enders family. I don’t know how to measure the metrics when a family can come home at night, put their feet up, and say this is my home.”

While the event celebrated all ReStore volunteers, a handful were called out an recognized for longevity in service. Receiving the 5 year milestone award were Marge Marsh, Sheila Ray, Wally Lee, Norm Madden, Anne Tansey, Dick Hipp, Bill Kalavorich, and Tom Thompson. Denise Goodman and Sheri Waters received the 10 year award, getting their names on a plaque in addition to receiving a congratulatory pin. And Joe Kane, a volunteer of 15 years, received a hand-made copper tile (with a house design) to commemorate his many years of volunteer service.

Finally a very special award, the “Iron Man” award, was presented to our volunteer of 25 years, Allen Laws. ReStore General Manager Scott Stetson described him as being “just like family to us at the ReStore, and I think he gets as much out of helping us, as we do out of helping him.”

And so the night wound down, with the volunteers and staff gradually going their separate ways, the spirit of giving and selflessness filling the room. In only a couple hours’ time, the entire mission of Habitat for Humanity was conveyed by a simple dinner party, because without the efforts of the volunteers, there would be no party; there would be no Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity; there would be no homeowners receiving an opportunity to change their futures.

If you would like to be part of our life-changing work, click here to learn about volunteering.

 

Two Former Government Employees Find Fulfillment and Fun at the ReStore

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By Jonathan Dermid

If you’ve ever dropped off items on a Wednesday morning, you might never have guessed that two of the men helping you unload your donations are former employees of the US Department of State and the National Security Agency (NSA).

These two men are Bruce Ammerman(R), former foreign services agent for the State Department, and Dick Hipp (L), former technical writer for the NSA. In this photo, they are joking around with staffer Jason Butler (center).

Both men felt compelled to volunteer after retiring to Asheville, for similar reasons.

“I started volunteering because I moved to town, and I had retired, and I didn’t have anything to do with my time,” Bruce said. “I also think that it’s a laudable goal, making housing affordable for people who need it.”

Dick has a similar story of how he came to volunteer at the ReStore. “Pretty much like Bruce, I retired here from Washington D.C. and was looking for something to do that might be helpful to people,” Dick said. “I had a cycling friend that volunteered here and after asking him about it, I looked into it and I was interested. And since I’m not much of a handyman, I figured the loading dock sounded like a good fit.”

Dick worked for the NSA as a technical writer, which usually involved working with engineers and mathematicians and editing technical manuals and documentation.

He points to the social opportunities of volunteering here as another motivating factor, re-emphasizing the nature of teamwork that we have highlighted in past volunteer profiles.

“It’s nice to get out and have the opportunity to interact with people and work together with them for a goal; and I can do that here,” Dick noted.

For Bruce, volunteering was a venture that he only became able to do after retiring, and he exhibits a positive spirit in doing so.

“When I was working, I didn’t really do any volunteering because I was busy either with my family or with work, so I just didn’t have time,” Bruce said. “My dad volunteered for Meals on Wheels for decades, though, so I wanted to eventually do something similar in terms of volunteering.”

Bruce also points to a certain spirit of selflessness that permeates the volunteers at the ReStore and is worth honoring – it’s more for the sake of the cause than for individual praise. “I don’t think the people who volunteer here are necessarily interested in recognition,” he said. “Either something is worth doing or it’s not, but if it is a worthwhile endeavor, then it’s worth getting the word out.” In addition to volunteering in the ReStore, Bruce is also on our Outreach Committee so he can sometimes be found out in the community, staffing a Habitat table at a resource fair, for example.

Here at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, we pride ourselves on our volunteers; both for their selflessness and for the breadth of past and present life experiences that unite under the common goals of Habitat for Humanity.

A big thanks to Dick, Bruce and all the volunteers who fuel our organization!

If you want to join our volunteer team, click here to read about opportunities or sign up for an orientation.

Another Successful Day of Caring

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by Jonathan Dermid

Today, September 10th, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County celebrated their 24th annual Day of Caring through their Hands On volunteer program. The Day of Caring is a volunteer program run through United Way that connects companies, organizations and individuals with United Way partner agencies and provides them with a hands-on opportunity to make a difference in their community.

It equips and mobilizes workforce volunteers and other volunteer groups to strengthen our community by matching these groups with service projects to benefit Asheville and Buncombe County nonprofits, schools and public entities.

Today, at the Habitat Asheville ReStore, we had the privilege of hosting volunteers from Biltmore Farms Hotels who assisted with repairs, cleaning, and preparation of items to be sold in the ReStore during this Saturday’s BIG SALE. They helped out immensely and the ReStore is grateful for their service!

Two teams from Southeastern Container partnered with us too and assisted with both home repair and construction. At the Edwards’ home in West Asheville, our Habitat supervisors Lawrence Lippard and Joel Johnson led a group in building a ramp for the family. In our Hudson Hills neighborhood, another group laid six pallets of sod, and painted the porch and interior of our Business Bungalow House.

We are grateful for the participation of these volunteer teams and applaud the United Way for organizing yet another successful day-long community-wide volunteer initiative.

A big THANK YOU to Fairfield Inn & Suites South/Biltmore Square and Southeastern Container employees for all of your hard work today! We hope you had a good time while doing good work!

Volunteering to fix things, for the fun of it

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Spotlight on the ReStore’s Wednesday Small Appliance Repair Crew

By Jonathan Dermid

At the Asheville Habitat ReStore, we take great pride in our staff and volunteers. Not only are they the backbone of the store and its functionality, but their individual characters and personalities provide an energetic and welcoming atmosphere.

In the area of small appliance repair, “the Wednesday crew” is a particularly lively and affable group, who all shared the same notion about their volunteer work. They do it for the fun of the work and for the enjoyment of the company they share as they repair the appliances.

“I really like volunteering here because I get to interact with people that I get along with and have fun with,” Marty Toren said. “The work becomes secondary if you have that.”

Marty (pictured, center) came to Asheville from Salem, Oregon, where he volunteered on Habitat job sites until a back injury made him unable to do so. Upon moving to Asheville, he discovered that he could volunteer in the ReStore instead of having to do a great deal of physical work.

“I had a part-time job, so I had time to volunteer, and I thought I should volunteer for Habitat again,” he said. “I love being able to contribute to the buildings of homes for families who would be otherwise unable to afford them, just by volunteering here in the store.”

One of his team mates in the small appliances area is Bill Kalavorich (pictured, R), a retired physical therapist, who has been volunteering with Asheville Area Habitat for seven years now.

“I was exposed to Habitat through the United Way Day of Caring, Bill said. “Through that experience, I saw what a worthwhile organization Habitat is, and what they care about in their core business; so I wanted to do stuff with them.”

Both Bill and Wally Lee (another small appliance repair volunteer) echo Marty’s sentiment of how much fun volunteering at the ReStore can be.

“I started volunteering in the ReStore while I was still working, so I could only contribute one day a month,” said Wally (pictured, L). “When I retired, I moved to volunteering at the construction site weekly, but kept my position in the ReStore because it’s just so much fun.”

Wally is an Air Force veteran of four and a half years, and with his background in mechanical engineering, he has found a niche at the ReStore doing what he is both skilled at, and loves.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved taking things apart and putting them back together, so that also makes this kind of work really fun for me,” he said. “Plus, Habitat is one of the premier organizations, in my opinion, because they do so much between the ReStore and the building of homes and everything else.  It’s really rewarding to volunteer here every week.”

If you’d like to learn about volunteering in the Asheville Habitat ReStore, click here to learn more and sign up for a volunteer orientation session.

Core Construction Volunteers Honored

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“Core” Construction volunteers are those who help Habitat build and repair homes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Last year, these core volunteers helped Asheville Area Habitat build 14 new Habitat houses in Swannanoa, Shiloh and West Asheville. They also repaired 33 existing homes in Buncombe County. We thanked and recognized them with a breakfast event at Warren Wilson College recently. Click here to see photos.

“While these folks don’t volunteer for the recognition or the accolades, we feel it’s important to thank them and honor the immense contribution they make to our organization and the community at large. Without volunteers – especially the cores who we can count on week after week – we would not be able to build and preserve communities,” notes executive director Lew Kraus.

In 2014, 74 core construction volunteers collectively contributed more than 16,000 hours of service to Asheville Area Habitat! To put that in perspective, 1,700 individuals volunteered on a construction site last year, collectively providing a whopping 35,000 hours of service! 46% of those total hours (16,000 hours) were completed by just 74 individuals – the “core” volunteers!

Among this core group, were 10 individuals who contributed more than 300 hours and one who topped the scale at more than 600 hours! Habitat congratulated and thanked:

Top Ten Hours volunteers

CJ Obara – 640 hours
Dick Allen – 622
Ken Clark – 454
Bob Laveck – 424
Jerry Ray – 407
Bill Reid – 343
Ray Ducharme – 321
Kevin Cox – 316
Ross Akin – 315
Paul Finegan – 309

In total, 32 core construction volunteers were recognized for contributing more than 250 hours of service last year, each receiving a golden hammer to signify the milestone.

Habitat also recognized those who hit significant longevity milestones. The honorees were:

10 Year Award – Alan Lang and CJ Obara
15 Year Award – Ted Faber and Cliff Joslin (pictured

In addition to Construction volunteers, Habitat utilizes volunteers in the ReStore, administrative office and on committees. These volunteers are recognized in separate appreciate events. Collectively and across the entire organization, nearly 2,100 volunteers contribute more than 64,000 hours to Asheville Area Habitat in 2014.

With a volunteer hour valued by Independent Sector at more $21/hour, this equates to a “gift” of more than $1.3million. Volunteer labor helps keep construction costs low and houses therefore affordable to the families who purchase them (from Habitat). Kraus added, “The Habitat model only works with a strong volunteer component. We cannot overstate the value of volunteers to our organization”.