Meals on Wheels in dire need of volunteers

by Lisa Watters

The number of elderly folks in the U.S. is rising — and fast. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans 85 and older rose 274 percent between 1960 and 1994; the number of 65- to 85-year-olds rose 100 percent. (During the same period, the U.S. population as a whole grew by 45 percent.) Not surprisingly, the need for nutritious meals to be delivered to those who can no longer cook for themselves has also increased.

Reflecting this trend, Meals on Wheels of Buncombe County has experienced growing waiting lists since last winter for elderly clients in several areas of town: Arden, West Asheville (between School and Deaverview roads) and the Jupiter area in north Buncombe. At least 20 homebound, mostly elderly individuals are waiting to begin receiving meals.

“Usually, these wait lists disappear as we experience client turnover,” explained MOW Director Sarah Oram. “But this year, these lists have been unusually persistent. This could be the beginning of the rapid growth in frail elderly projected for our area.”

“Right now, our goal is to attract enough new volunteers to create a new route in Arden that would go along Mills Gap Road and up into Cane Creek,” continued Oram. “This … [would] make room on our existing Arden route for eight new elderly clients who have been waiting for MOW service for up to six months. To start this new route, we need eight new volunteers: Five to deliver once a week and three to fill in when we need substitutes.”

Meals on Wheels has also grown rapidly in recent years. “In 1992, we were serving just 240 clients [a] day; today, we ordered meals for 420 homebound clients,” says MOW Board Chair Bruce MacPhail.

For more information or to volunteer for the new Arden route, call Oram at 253-5286.

Asheville Chamber seeks new members

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off an unusual membership drive on Feb. 5. Christened “Survivor” after the popular television program, the campaign focuses on the idea that the Chamber can help provide its members with the skills they need to survive and succeed in a rapidly changing marketplace.

During the two-week campaign, the Chamber is offering a number of incentives to new members, including waiving the usual $30 enrollment fee as well as discounted print and radio advertising with local newspapers and radio stations.

Adds Vice President of Member Services Susan Jarrett: “We [also] have a complimentary one-month trial on our Chamber Web-site hot link … to see whether [a member’s] business increases as a result of links to their Web site or e-mail. [And] we have discounted advertising in our own Chamber newsletter, which has a 3,000-person circulation.”

The package, says Jarrett, could be worth anywhere from $970 to more than $1,200 (typical Chamber dues are in the $300 to $500 range).

Even without these incentives, however, there are plenty of good reasons to join, Jarrett emphasizes, including extensive networking opportunities and increased exposure for companies.

“And because we encourage everybody who joins the Chamber to get involved … as a volunteer,” she adds, “It also provides [members] with the opportunity to have a greater collective voice, not only in the direction of the Chamber but … in government issues, work-force-development issues and economic-development issues that affect the entire region economically, as well as the quality of life.”

For more information or to become a member, call the Chamber at 258-6114.

Noontime tunes

For the third straight year, Mid-Day Musicals — the popular outdoor concert series held each summer at Pack Square — has moved indoors for the winter. Running Saturdays through March 3 in Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium (12:30 to 1 p.m.), Mid-Day Musicals will feature talented local singers performing tunes from well-known Broadway shows and light opera.

It all began nine years ago, when an anonymous donor approached the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina with the idea of providing free music on the square in front of Pack Place. This same donor also underwrites the indoor series, put together by Production Manager Susan Sanders and host John Hall.

The schedule for this year’s remaining winter concerts is as follows: music from Cinderella on Feb. 10 ; a performance by the Asheville Lyric Opera on Feb. 17; music from 1776 on Feb. 24; and popular tunes from the 1950s (pre-rock ‘n’ roll) on March 3. Each program also includes information about that week’s composers and their respective musical styles.

The series is sponsored by the Community Foundation of WNC and supported by the Asheville-Buncombe Library System.

For more information, call 254-2963.

Forgotten fruit

Apples are big business in Henderson County, yet many old varieties once grown there are no longer available, either commercially or locally.

Once upon a time, family farms produced much of their own food. Now, many rely more on commercially grown produce, and the wide range of varieties of fruits and vegetables once available has dwindled to just a few that are cultivated in large quantities.

North Carolina nurseryman Lee Calhoun, who specializes in old Southern apple varieties, feels that an important part of our heritage is slipping away — unnoticed and unmourned. “When the South was largely rural, every farmhouse had its apple trees,” he says, “which provided fresh fruit from June to November and stocked the root cellar through the winter. In the 1800s, the variety of apples was astounding.”

But help, it seems, is on the way. Just as this year’s fruit-tree-planting season is upon us, the Environmental and Conservation Organization of Henderson County is offering dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees in both heritage and disease-resistant strains. The trees come in five-gallon containers and cost $23 each.

“These trees are hardy and healthy,” says landscape architect Bruce Lowe, the chair of the ECO’s apple-tree project. “This is a delicious way to preserve our heritage.”

The eight varieties offered are Mammoth Black Twig (1833), Grimes Golden (1804), King David (1893), Stayman (late 1800s), Mollie’s Delicious (1966), Enterprise (1971), Freedom and Red Free. Limited quantities of each are available, so people are advised to order early.

The semi-dwarf trees, already 4 to 5 feet tall, will grow to 12 to 15 feet; the dwarf variety (Grimes Golden only) will mature at about 8 feet.

Orders must be placed no later than Wednesday, Feb. 14. Pre-ordered trees can be picked up on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Visitors’ Center, 201 S. Main St. in Hendersonville. Any trees not picked up by noon that day will be available for purchase between noon and 2 p.m.

ECO is a nonprofit organization that has worked since 1987 to conserve the mountain region’s natural heritage through education, recreation, civic action and service.

For more information or to order trees, call ECO at (828) 692-0385.

News for neuropathy sufferers

It’s often called “the secret disease,” because so few people have heard of it. Yet more than 20 million Americans are believed to suffer from neuropathy, a nerve disease that causes weakness, numbness and pain in the hands and feet.

In some cases, the condition can be arrested and even cured; in others, it may grow progressively worse until the patient is confined to a wheelchair or bed-ridden.

The cause of this mysterious condition isn’t fully understood, although diabetes, immune-system disorders and infectious diseases are often precursors.

Perhaps not surprisingly, neuropathy sufferers often feel isolated and alone. To help address that sense of isolation and to facilitate an exchange of ideas about treatments and pain management, a neuropathy support group is being formed in Asheville. Launched by Barbara Kohler, a former professional dancer whose own struggle with neuropathy forced her to give up her career, the group meets the first Thursday of each month at the MAHEC Health Center (501 Biltmore Ave., Room #1), from 6:30-8 p.m.

“This is the only support group for this nerve disease within a several-hundred-mile radius,” says Kohler. “There’s nothing any closer than Cary, Raleigh or Durham.”

For more information or to register, call Kohler at 683-4157.

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