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Chris Ahearn takes leadership helm at Our Towns

After a four-month national search that attracted more than 200 applicants, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is excited to welcome Chris Ahearn as its new chief executive officer. Ahearn, a longtime Habitat supporter and volunteer, brings more than 20 years of communication and corporate leadership experience to the organization.

CEO Chris Ahearn

Our Towns CEO Chris Ahearn

Ahearn worked for Lowe’s Companies for more than 17 years in Corporate Communications and Community Relations, and served most recently as Vice President of Public Affairs. Prior to her work with Lowe’s, Ahearn served as the Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Food Lion in Salisbury. Early in her career, she worked in broadcast journalism, as a reporter and anchor for KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and WLUK-TV in Green Bay.

Ahearn has a deep familiarity with Habitat for Humanity and its mission to build decent, affordable housing. She helped encourage and facilitate a partnership between Lowe’s and Habitat during her tenure with the company. She is particularly passionate about the Women Build initiative, which Lowe’s undertook as underwriter of the program. Ahearn has also personally been volunteering on Habitat builds for nearly 20 years, with Our Towns Habitat and on various builds across the country.

“Chris’ resume is extensive, but it is her decades of volunteer work with Habitat, her church and other philanthropic groups that speaks volumes about what fulfills and aligns with her greater purpose,” said Scottt Lagueux, president of Our Towns Habitat’s Board of Directors. “I know she will bring great energy and enthusiasm to her new role at Our Towns Habitat.”

After swinging hammers for Habitat for two decades, Ahearn is excited to put a different set of skills to work building affordable homes.

“I look forward to taking my volunteer experience and longtime passion for Habitat’s mission to a new level as leader of the Our Towns Habitat team,” Ahearn said.

In appointing Ahearn as the new CEO, the Board also voted to elevate Director of Operations Denise Copeland to Senior Affiliate Director. Copeland has served as interim director since September, when former Executive Director Jeff Porter resigned to accept a position with Samaritan’s Purse.

“Denise has done an extraordinary job over the past two years keeping the many working parts of the affiliate running in good order,” Lagueux said.

Tithe support builds new home for Ingrid & family

Tithe is a foundational principle of Habitat for Humanity, based on our biblical roots as an ecumenical Christian ministry, with the recognition that our blessings flow from God. Every local Habitat affiliate in the U.S. is asked to tithe 10% of undesignated contributions to an international affiliate. Our Towns Habitat for Humanity has chosen Habitat Guatemala as its tithe partner. Occasionally, we will share stories of the work Habitat Guatemala is doing with those tithe funds.

Recently married, Ingrid and Adolfo applied to build a home with Habitat for Humanity Guatemala to have their own space for their family, including their new baby girl, Victoria. They were familiar with Habitat because Ingrid’s mother built her own Habitat home several years ago.

“I am happy and grateful that we have our own home and our own space as a family,” Ingrid said. The family was able to move into their new home last November.

Soon after Ingrid and Adolfo moved in, Ingrid’s brother, Manolo, moved into the home with his wife Jennifer and their daughter Adonia. Now, the two families share the home together—the babies have their own room and there is plenty of room to relax, cook and eat.

This story is shared by Habitat for Humanity Guatemala. To read more about Ingrid, or learn more about Habitat Guatemala, please visit habitatguate.org.

We’re tearing things down to bring Statesville ReStore to life

In construction, as in life, we sometimes have to tear down the old before we can build something better. That is the case with the renovations that will bring the new Statesville ReStore to life, and we can honestly say, we’ve never been more excited to tear things down!

After delays in getting the proper permits, construction work at the store’s new site is finally underway—and by construction, we actually mean demolition! Crews completed demo of the old electrical and plumbing this week, which sets the stage for construction of customer bathrooms that are being added to the space. New doors are in the process of fabrication.

Next week, builders expect to frame new walls and ceiling components, as well as rough in the electrical and plumbing elements. For those of us who are not well-versed in construction jargon, this means the components are laid out, without making the final connections made.

With the updated project timeline, we are now anticipating opening the first week of March. As work progresses, we will announce a grand opening date. Watch for continued updates on our progress, including photos!

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“I can’t put my arms down!”

As part of the Our Towns Habitat for Humanity office staff, the time I spend on the construction site is limited. But standing shoulder-to-shoulder with future homeowners, helping build their new home, is a powerful reminder of why the work I do every day—in front of my computer, on the phone or even sitting in meetings—is so vitally important.

For that reason, I make a point to join one of our volunteer build days as I’m able. Before Christmas, when a couple of my girlfriends and I were making plans to get together in the new year, I suggested we volunteer together for the Women Build day this past Saturday, then reward ourselves with lunch afterward.

It sounded like a great idea at the time—when the daily temperatures had been mostly in the 40s and 50s. When the forecast for January 6 was still a total unknown. When I could walk outside and still feel all my extremities.

Last week, with the forecast for Saturday predicting weather more suited for the North Pole than North Carolina, volunteering to build a house no longer sounded like such a great idea. But my friends and I follow through with our commitments, so there was no backing out.

Saturday morning, I put on as many layers as humanly possible and did my best impression of the younger brother in “A Christmas Story.” I only made it a minute down the road before I managed to spill my coffee (thanks in part to my inch-thick gloves). I quickly grabbed some extra napkins to mop up the mess but it was no use—the coffee had already frozen on the hard surfaces of my car. Not a good sign.

The first hour we spent building was admittedly brutal. I think I spent as much time trying to keep warm—adjusting the hand warmers in my gloves, pulling my hat further down over my ears and sipping what was left of my coffee—as I did building. But, of course, the more we moved around, the more we warmed up (and the temperature did eventually creep up from 8 to degrees to the mid-20s).

Piedmont Carolinas AACN Volunteers

Volunteers from the Piedmont Carolinas chapter of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses were among more than a dozen volunteers who helped frame a home for Juan and Telma.

What was truly amazing was how many other volunteers had joined us on that cold, cold morning. As the spirit of teamwork and shared misery kicked in, we watched our work take shape, in the form of four completed exterior walls, standing tall at the end of the day.

One of our tasks Saturday was to attach “blueboard” to those walls. Blueboard is a material that is used on all of our Habitat homes to provide extra insulation—it helps us maintain the high energy efficiency standards we build to. In other words, the work we did yesterday, bundled up against the sub-freezing temperatures, will be critical to keeping the home’s future owners—Juan, his wife Telma and their four children—warm next winter. Juan and Telma were both out there building too, powering through the cold just like we were.

When I joined the Our Towns Habitat team nearly two years ago, one of the first homeowner stories I learned was about single dad Curtis and his four children. The family has been living in a rental home where they could not use the gas furnace because of safety concerns. They struggled to stay warm in the drafty older home by using multiple space heaters—resulting in heating bills that topped $300.

When Curtis dedicated his new home two summers ago, with temperatures in the 90s, his daughter stood under the air conditioning vent and reveled in the cool air—something they hadn’t had before. Saturday, while I endured some temporary discomfort, alongside more than a dozen other volunteers, I warmed myself with the thought that Curtis and his four kids were snug and warm in their new Habitat home, even during this extreme cold.

Next winter, Juan and Telma’s family will be too, thanks to all the Habitat volunteers and donors who make our work possible.

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About the Author: Misty Stach has served as Marketing Manager for Our Towns Habitat for Humanity since May 2016. She manages the organization’s website, social media and print communications. Misty is a 2001 graduate of Wingate University, with a background in journalism and nonprofit communications.

 

Safety tips for cold weather housing warriors

For those of you volunteering with us this weekend in the very cold weather, Our Towns Habitat wants to offer you a huge THANK YOU!

Families who lack decent housing often struggle with the cold—their homes may be drafty and poorly insulated, or their heat may not function correctly. We often hear stories of $300+ heating bills in these cold months, sometimes forcing our partner families to seek assistance from local crisis agencies. Habitat homes are built to be energy efficient, helping end this cycle for our homeowners.

So, although the weather is frigid, our partner families are counting on our cold weather warriors to be out on the build site with them, helping them build their own affordable (and warm!) home. We so appreciate you being part of this important work, even when it means working in the cold.

Please take a few moment to review these tips for working safely in cold weather before you come out to the site.

  • Wear layers to help insulate and keep you warm, but make sure clothing is not tight or restrictive. Too tight clothing can limit circulation and impair your body’s ability to keep warm, and restrictive clothing can impair your movement and create a hazardous work situation.
  • Keep your extremities warm and cover as much skin as possible to limit exposure. Wear warm socks, gloves and a hat. Waterproof, insulated boots are ideal. A balaclava or ski mask can also help cover your face for additional protection. Hand warmers (such as HotHands) are also a great option!
  • Take warm-up breaks as needed. Hop in a warm vehicle for a few minutes, or take a few minutes to warm up near a space heater. Drinking hot liquids can also help you warm up, so consider bringing a thermos with your favorite hot beverage.
  • Be aware of the warning signs of cold weather health dangers. Symptoms of hypothermia, include uncontrollable shivering, bluish skin, fatigue, confusion, slurred speech and loss of coordination. When frostbite occurs, skin becomes hard, numb and pale or waxy-white in color. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or another volunteer, alert your site supervisor immediately.
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