House for the holidays

At Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, we don’t just build houses. Our staff, volunteers and donors change lives.

At the recent home dedication for the McMillan family, Pat Henke, assistant director for Asheville City Schools Preschool and program director for Early Head Start spoke warmly and enthusiastically about one of her employees — the new homeowner Mishaunta McMillan. Henke shared an old newsletter article that featured Mishaunta and her list of goals back in 1997. The list included "I want to get my family out of public housing" and "I want to have a yard for my children to play in." Thirteen years later, and after much hard work and perseverance, Mishaunta has achieved those goals.

We help folks like Mishaunta achieve their goal of safe and decent housing by providing a “hand up.” Habitat HealthyBuilt homes are sold to families at no-profit, and we offer zero-percent interest for the life of the loan. Our homeowners complete a minimum of 200 hours of “sweat equity” helping to build their house, volunteering in the Habitat Home Store and taking homeownership-preparation classes.

Families who earn 30-70 percent of area median income, have lived or worked in Buncombe County for the past 36 months, currently live in substandard housing and have the ability to pay back a monthly mortgage may be eligible for Habitat’s program. (We are always accepting applications and we encourage you to learn more by visiting www.ashevillehabitat.org/homeownership, or calling 828-210-9370.)

Habitat homeownership has the power to end the cycle of poverty and impact not only an individual family, but future generations as well. Habitat homeowners don’t have to worry about the rent going up, the trailer park being sold or their children being in harms way when they play outdoors.

Wayne Caldwell, author and Asheville Area Habitat board member, sums it up this way: “People who worry about their [living conditions] don’t have energy to worry about saving for college. They don’t have energy to give back to their community. They don’t have energy to encourage their children in school. They don’t have energy to contribute to their church or a civic club or any of that middle-class stuff a lot of us take for granted. They just want to be warm, dry and safe. The good people in Habitat houses will not have to worry about being warm and dry and safe. They can take that for granted, and spend their energy on family, community, church and friends.”

Asheville Area Habitat has built more than 210 houses, changing the lives of more than 800 children and adults. But there are thousands more still living in substandard housing. We have taken a bold step and embarked on an $8 million Building a Way Home campaign. It includes the acquisition and renovation of 33 Meadow Road; the renovation and expansion of the Habitat Home Store; the acquisition and development of land for 150 future Habitat houses; and the implementation of Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative.

We are contributing $3 million ourselves with increased Home Store proceeds and Habitat homeowner mortgage income. We are asking the community to help us raise the remaining $5 million.

Help us bring more families home this holiday season by making a gift in honor of a loved one. Give the ‘gift of home’ and we’ll send your honoree a card acknowledging your generosity.

— Ariane Kjellquist is the communications manager for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. To learn more about Habitat’s services, or to donate, visit ashevillehabitat.org

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