Buzzworm news briefs

Prayer breakfast honors King

Asheville’s Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Weekend will mark its 24th year with a four-day celebration Jan. 14-17. As in past years, the highlight will be the annual prayer breakfast at the Grove Park Inn on Saturday.

The breakfast gala typically draws some 1,100 community members; this year’s theme is “Securing Our Future: A Community Commitment,” and the keynote speaker is Emmy-winning ABC News reporter Michel Martin. She spent more than a decade covering politics and policy for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post before joining the network in 1992, where her primary assignment is with the news show Nightline.

“We thought it would be very proper and fitting to invite Michel Martin because of her extensive background in covering policies and politics,” says Oralene Simmons, who chairs the planning committee for the breakfast.

“We realize that we have just elected our nation’s leaders, and at this time we are involved in a war,” she notes. “And in thinking about Martin Luther King’s statement, ‘Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,’ we hoped she would bring a proper message … that would be beneficial to us, not just this year but in years to come.”

Simmons also chairs the nonprofit Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, which now sponsors the event. She was also the inspiration behind the very first local prayer breakfast — held at the Montford Community Center, where Simmons was director (her employer, Asheville Parks and Recreation, sponsored the breakfast for the first 20 years).

In North Carolina, prayer breakfasts have become one of the most popular ways to celebrate King’s heritage. Only the Raleigh/Chapel Hill area, says Simmons, has been hosting such an annual gathering as long as Asheville. Breakfasts are also held in Haywood County (15 years), Charlotte (11 years), Yanceyville, Durham, Greensboro, Mooresville and Rocky Mount. This year, parades, musical concerts, oratorical competitions and days of service are also planned for King Week celebrations around the state.

“I think it was our fifth year of celebrating [in Asheville] that it became a federal and city holiday for us,” recalls Simmons. And events are being planned throughout this year, she notes, leading up to the quarter-century celebration on Jan. 25, 2006.

The complete schedule for Asheville-Buncombe County’s Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Weekend activities is as follows:

• Friday, Jan. 14: MLK Youth Celebration, 4 p.m., Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place. MLK Youth Awards Celebration, 7 p.m., YMI Cultural Center (both events are free).

• Saturday, Jan. 15: 24th Annual Asheville-Buncombe County King Birthday Prayer Breakfast, 8:30 a.m., Grove Park Inn & Spa ($18).

• Monday, Jan. 17: MLK Peace Walk, St. James A.M.E. Church, starting at noon at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and College Street in Asheville (free). MLK Candlelight Service & Awards Ceremony, 6 p.m., Nazareth First Baptist Church, 146 Pine St. in Asheville (free).

For more information on local activities, call 281-1624 or 777-0284, or visit the this Web site: www.martinlutherkingofashevillebuncombeco.org/index2.html. To learn more about statewide activities, visit this Web site: www.king-raleigh.org/links/body.cfm.

— Nelda Holder

Talkin’ ’bout ovarian cancer

“The thing that struck me the most was how little people know about ovarian cancer and how people don’t talk about it,” says Howard Molton, whose sister-in-law Connie is battling the disease.

Molton is helping organize Ribbons for Hope, an ovarian-cancer-awareness benefit slated for Saturday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. in the Hendersonville High School auditorium (311 Eighth Ave. West). The combination variety show/silent auction/educational event will raise funds for ovarian-cancer research and provide financial support for Connie and her family.

Entertainment will be provided by jazz guitarist Marc Yaxley, Pat’s School of Dance, the Hendersonville High School Jazz Band, singer Molly Penny, the band JMS, the Filthy Rags Contemporary Christian Band and storyteller Ruth Challand. Between sets, Dr. David Ellis and several ovarian-cancer survivors will speak about the disease and early-detection measures.

The evening, sponsored by Carolina First and Skyland Arts Cinema, will also include a silent auction of items donated by local businesses. Tickets ($5 students, $10 general admission, $25 reserved seating and $100 corporate sponsorship) can be purchased at Hendersonville High School, Skyland Arts Cinema or at the door.

The statistics on ovarian cancer are sobering indeed. In 2002, 23,300 people in the United States were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, compared to about 205,000 diagnosed with breast cancer. But whereas 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive five years or more, only half the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will reach that same milestone.

One reason is that the symptoms of ovarian cancer are so mild that only 25 percent of cases are diagnosed in the earliest (and most treatable) stages. In Connie’s case, Molton explains, she was treated for four months for a bladder infection before she was properly diagnosed, and even then it was only at her own urging that her doctor even considered checking for ovarian cancer.

“It’s a miracle that Connie is doing as well as she is, because it was at stage III when it was found — and it probably went from stage I to stage III while they were trying to treat her for other things, because it’s very aggressive,” he notes.

The venue for the benefit will seat 800 people, says Molton, “and if just one person says, ‘Hmmm, I’ve had this certain symptom,’ or ‘Oh, there’s a history in my family of breast cancer — maybe I should get it checked’ … it’ll be well worth it.”

To learn more about ovarian cancer, visit www.ovarian.org, www.ovariancancer.org, or www.ocrf.org. For more information about the event, call 692-7104, e-mail info@ribbonsforhope.com or visit www.ribbonsforhope.com.

— Lisa Watters

Brother, can you spare some time?

If you’ve ever considered serving as a mentor, Tate Groome has some advice for you: “Go ahead! There’s nothing to lose — and it can really make a difference.”

Groome should know — he’s been a “big brother” to Josh for the last year-and-a-half through Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC, an experience he calls “very rewarding.”

The two met through the organization’s Mentors and Matches program, in which Groome visited Josh’s school once a week during his lunch break to tutor his “little brother.” These days, Groome takes Josh out one afternoon every other weekend.

Because Josh is into sports, says Groome, “We go throw a football or go to the gym and work on his basketball skills. We also go to movies [or] we’ll go get some lunch or play some video games.”

Groome credits the local YMCA’s outreach program, a caring fourth-grade teacher at Josh’s school, and his own influence as a mentor with making a difference in Josh’s life.

“Apparently he used to be kind of a rascal,” Groome says affectionately. “But once his confidence started building, he just blossomed into a good student and just a great kid. … He just had to get his energy channeled in the right direction, and sometimes hanging out with somebody older than you — a big brother or big sister — is the catalyst for that.

Mentoring, notes Groome, “is something that I wish more males … would take responsibility to do. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time, but it’s something that’s rewarding to me personally but also good for Josh and a lot of these kids who don’t have a male role model in their lives.”

January is National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC has organized several events to recruit volunteers and raise money:

On Wednesday, Jan. 19, an informational meeting will be held in the Fellowship Hall of Asheville’s Central United Methodist Church (27 Church St.) from noon to 12:30 p.m.

That same day, concurrent Bowl for Kids’ Sake fund-raisers will be held at the Star Lanes in Asheville and Tarheel Lanes in Hendersonville. Two-hour bowling sessions will begin at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

On Thursday, Jan. 27, an information table will be set up in the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center (30 George Washington Carver St. in Asheville) from 5-7 p.m.

Additionally, Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers will team up with local artists this month to create traveling exhibits highlighting the kids’ creativity and the fun “bigs” and “littles” have together. The exhibits will then travel to local companies to increase the program’s visibility and help recruit volunteers.

Male volunteers are particularly needed at this time. There are about 90 boys on the Big Brothers Big Sisters waiting list, and they typically wait up to a year to be matched.

For more information, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at 253-1470 (Buncombe County), 693-8153 (Henderson County), 452-9644 (Haywood and Jackson counties), or visit the organization’s Web site (www.bbbswnc.org).

— Lisa Watters

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