By Klesa Ausherman
For years now, decades even, many of our volunteers have shown up every week on the same day to help build Habitat homes. As a core jobsite volunteer, it is entirely possible to have worked with the same group of people every week on countless houses for anywhere from 5-25 years. (See details on our volunteer milestones in yesterday’s blog post.) The routine of showing up to swing a hammer or lay flooring alongside their community of co-volunteers, staff, and future homeowners is for many as ingrained in their daily life as their weekly trip to the grocery. As if the cancellation of all volunteer participation on jobsites wasn’t interruption enough for our volunteers, there was another meaningful tradition within this weekly routine that was interrupted as well. Every day at the jobsite, staff and volunteers take a morning coffee break to connect with one another and receive organizational updates. It’s a time when the hammers and paintbrushes get laid aside, and everyone enjoys the community that is created when a bunch of people commit themselves to an amazing mission.
Not surprisingly, we’ve been missing one another around here! In an effort to remedy this unwelcome yet understandable break in routine and community, our jobsite volunteer coordinator, Stephanie Wallace, joined the rest of the world and made the daily coffee breaks virtual! Now, every day the volunteer group who would typically be at the jobsite joins together for some virtual connection and catching up. The participation and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. One volunteered offered “It is hard to put into words just what this meant to me and most likely everyone else. What a wonderful feeling just seeing everyone.” As these sweet pictures have been passed around our virtual offices, our hearts are warmed to know that yes, we are still gathering. That the mission of building homes is still bringing people together virtually until we can all come together in person once again.
In the same way our volunteers have been gathering, we too have been gathering as an organization. Our Board of Directors held its first completely remote meeting AAHH history in March, reporting the highest turnout in recent history! At this meeting, our Board helped set the course we are currently steering through this pandemic, and they also approved our newest housing program meeting the needs of older adults with new Age in Place town homes.
Recently, 54 Asheville Habitat staff members showed up to the first ever virtual all staff monthly meeting. We updated one other, virtually delivered a ReStore Register Round Up check to a local nonprofit, and were all mutually encouraged by news of how our organization continues to find ways to serve it’s community even while work as usual is completely disrupted. While we are all GREATLY looking forward to gathering together in person again, we are also grateful of the opportunity, and even more noteworthy, the hearty desire to continue to gather and connect virtually as we all shelter in place. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and indeed, we feel more grateful than ever as wee look forward to seeing all of our volunteers and staff together again soon! Until then, happy virtual coffee breaking!! Cheers!