Award-winning rest areas

When you’re cruising down a North Carolina highway, your legs crossed tight and trembling as you pray, “Please, Lord, let me make it to a bathroom soon,” that rest area looming up ahead may seem like heaven.

Desperation aside, however, the N.C. Department of Transportation recently singled out four of the 61 rest areas it manages, based on their “cleanliness and exceptional grounds maintenance.” The awards were made at the DOT’s annual Roadside Management Conference, held Dec. 4 in Raleigh.

A four-person inspection team, including personnel from the Roadside Environmental Unit and the Office of Beautification, visited each of the 15 or so rest areas that had nominated themselves for the awards.

“There weren’t any that were bad. Some were more immaculate than others,” said a DOT spokeswoman who participated in the inspections.

First-place winner in the interstate category was the rest area along Interstate 40 in McDowell County; the I-40 rest area in Duplin County took second place.

The rest areas along U.S. 70 in Carteret County and U.S. 29 in Caswell County took first and second place, respectively, in the noninterstate category.

“The people that work in those rest areas take a lot of pride in them,” the spokeswoman added.

Computers for life

For some of us, messing around on computers is a fun way to pass the time. For others, computer access can dramatically enhance their life opportunities.

For Jim, an employee at a Raleigh business who’s completing the latest edition of an employee training manual, doing his job without the help of a computer and assistive technology would simply not be possible.

Jim has cerebral palsy, and he depends on his computer and a “head pointer” to get his work done. Unable to use his hands, Jim relies on the pointer — which is fastened to his head — to press computer keys.

“I have seen people’s lives change, just because they have a computer,” says Carol Williams, director of Partnerships in Assistive Technology, which works to bring computers to people like Jim.

“Computers have allowed North Carolinians with disabilities to communicate with family members they haven’t been able to talk to in years. Computers have made it possible for some people to return to school,” and others to enter the work force, she says.

Public donations play a major role in supplying disabled North Carolinians with computers, and the independence and unprecedented opportunities they offer. Now is the perfect time to donate a computer, says Williams, since the gift is tax-deductible for 1997 and people may have replaced old computers with new models over the holidays.

In order to qualify for the deduction, the computer must be in working order, have at least a 486 processor and a minimum of eight megabytes of RAM.

For more information on donating computers, call PAT at (919) 872-2298; or access its Web site at

Grants that count

If you represent a nonprofit that knows how to make a little go a long way and wants to make a difference in the lives of people in the region, the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina encourages you to apply for a grant.

The 20-year-old foundation — which has handed out more than $14 million to such groups, all told — “is particularly interested in innovative efforts where a modest amount of funding can make a significant impact,” according to a press release.

Grant applications are due by Feb. 17, and applicants must be active in at least one of the 18 WNC counties the organization serves — which include Buncombe, Haywood, Madison, Rutherford, McDowell and Yancey.

To help potential applicants, the foundation is offering a workshop that explains its grant-making priorities and procedures; attendance is encouraged but not required.

The foundation is offering the workshop three times: from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 13 and 14 in Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium in Asheville; and from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 15 in room 125 of the Jackson County Justice Center in Sylva.

Top priority for the foundation are farsighted programs that can reach a lot of people and make the most out of a relatively modest grant (most are for around $5,000).

The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club recently received a grant to support a skateboarding program in west Asheville, says Community Foundation staffer Ann Lenhart.

“Kids are really responding to it,” she adds.

For more information about workshops, or about setting up a charitable fund or receiving a grant, call the foundation at 254-4960; or write to it at 16 Biltmore Ave., Suite 201, Asheville NC 28801.

Let’s talk cable

If you want to know more about Asheville’s proposed cable-TV franchise agreement with Intermedia — and especially what provisions it may have for public-access channels — check out the following meeting, sponsored by Citizens for Media Literacy and the newly formed Public Access Coalition.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. in Lord Auditorium at Pack Library in downtown Asheville. Representatives from CML and the coalition will highlight and explain specific points in the proposed Intermedia contract. Plans for establishing a public-access-television steering committee will also be discussed.

For more information, call 252-8569.

Donate organs

What if — instead of a sweater or hat or remote-controlled car — a loved one requested a new heart, lung or kidney this Christmas?

More than 50,000 Americans are awaiting life-saving organ transplants (1,300 of them in North Carolina), according to the state affiliate of the National Kidney Foundation. Ten of those people die every day, still waiting.

The foundation urges all Americans to help by taking part in its Holiday Resolution Campaign and signing donor cards. If you do decide to become an organ donor, though, the foundation advises discussing your decision with your family, whose consent will be needed when the donation is made.

The National Kidney Foundation is the nation’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of kidney disease. It is committed to ensuring that every American who needs a transplant receives one, according to a press release.

For more information and a free organ-donor card, call the National Kidney Foundation of North Carolina at (800) 356-5362.

Straight from the source

Hey, kids — what’s so great about Buncombe County’s recreational offerings?

Buncombe County Recreation Services’ first “Buncombe County Kid!” essay contest is your chance to tell — in 100 words or less — what you like best about any of the county’s rec services, including tennis, soccer, swimming, golfing and theater leagues, or county rec facilities like Recreation Park, the Skyland Recreation Center or the Western North Carolina Nature Center, among others.

The contest deadline is Jan. 23. Four lucky winners (one each from four groups: grades one through three, four through six, seven through nine, and 10 through 12) will see their faces on the cover and their story in print in a Recreation Services tabloid due out this spring. (The tabloid, an insert in the Asheville Citizen-Times, will describe county facilities and offerings.)

For more information, call Recreation Services employee Rhett Langston at 255-5526.

Womanly college know-how

Are you a woman who wants a college education, but has no idea how to go about getting one?

A-B Tech is offering a nearly free (it costs $1.35) course that’s designed to help women of all ages who want to go to college.

“Taking Steps to a College Education: A Course for Women” will run from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays from Jan. 12 through Feb. 2 in room 102 of the college’s Magnolia Building.

Instructor Leesa Young of A-B Tech’s human-resources development program will help attending women set goals, identify barriers to success, learn admissions processes and “confront their fears of math,” according to a college press release.

The course will also include learning-style assessments, financial-aid info and testimonials from women who have returned to school and met their goals.

To learn more, or to register, call A-B Tech at 254-1921, ext. 333.

Revved-up recipes

Is your broccoli bland, your onions ordinary and your celery sadly substandard?

Learn to make your veggies vibrate with life at the French Broad Food Co-Op’s Vibrant Vegetables cooking class, offered on Sunday, Jan. 11 at the Co-Op in downtown Asheville. Creative chef and enthusiastic cooking instructor Sabrina Marie can help you learn to roast and stir-fry vegetables and make winter-vegetable soups, salads and dips.

Other scheduled classes include: learning to enjoy tofu and other meat substitutes (Jan. 18); dairy-free cooking (Jan. 26); and healthful desserts (Feb. 1). All classes run from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

“Students attending these classes can expect to come away with lots of ideas and inspiration,” as well as four or five recipes, says Marie, who also runs Open Sesame Chef Services, a personal-chef-and-catering company.

For more info, call 258-8382.

— resolutely compiled by Jill Ingram

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