Buzzworm news briefs

Eat with bigwigs, help kids

Ever wanted to break bread with NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace? How about local poet Glenis Redmond or AB-Tech’s affable president, Ray Bailey? The chance to do just that — or chow down with one of a number of leaders from different walks of life — can be had through an online auction fundraiser for local efforts aimed at helping kids succeed in school.

The Buncombe and Madison County Communities in Schools programs — part of a nationwide network — are participating in the “Lunch with a Leader” online auction, says Katie Russell Miller, executive director of Asheville’s nonprofit Children First, the umbrella organization for Buncombe’s program.

In Buncombe County, you can bid on lunch with any of 11 local leaders spanning fields from education to politics. In Madison County, bids will be taken on lunch with Wallace, Mars Hill College President Dan Lunsford and Blue Ridge Motion Pictures CEO Leanne Campbell. Four community leaders who participated in Madison County’s earlier auction will take part in the current auction, says Tamma Moriarty, executive director of Communities in Schools of Madison.

Money raised locally will fund local programs. In Buncombe, that includes a computer literacy program for Latino parents. In Madison, programs include several mentoring and tutoring efforts helping students in elementary through high school.

The auction runs through Feb. 11. For a complete list of leaders or to make a bid, check out www.lunchwithaleader.com. For more info, call 259-9717 (Buncombe) or 649-9276, ext. 248 (Madison).

— Tracy Rose

Election-reform roundtables rolled out

A free series of Reform Roundtables on voting issues in North Carolina is making the rounds in North Carolina; it lands in Asheville on Sunday, Feb. 13.

Co-sponsored by the nonprofit, nonpartisan FairVote-the Center for Voting and Democracy, the series addresses such issues as the high cost of runoff elections, “missing” votes and underrepresentation of minority voters. Participants may choose to attend all or any part of the afternoon program.

The first workshop (1-2 p.m.) will consider the question, “Is a 3 percent turnout worth $3.5 million?” — focusing on the current primary runoff system, its strengths and weaknesses, and the alternative of “instant runoff” voting. “Unfair Results, Uncompetitive Races and Underrepresentation: Alternatives to Gerrymandering” workshop (2-3 p.m.) will cover such topics as how to reduce wasted votes, increase access to government and stamp out partisan gerrymandering.

There will also be two discussion periods. “How Can We Protect Democracy in North Carolina?” (3-4:30 p.m., with refreshments) will focus on local politics and the problems in the November elections. “Is North Carolina the new Florida?” — a panel discussion running from 4:30 to 6 p.m. — will examine election concerns and consider the future of democracy in our state.

“It’s important for people to vote — and equally important for their vote to count,” proclaims Tom Coulson, the chair of the Jane Bingham Chapter of Common Cause North Carolina. Common Cause and Democracy NC are both co-sponsors of the series.

The series is also being presented in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte. The Asheville program will take place at the Woodfin Community Center, 14 Penley Ave. in Woodfin.

For more details or to register, contact FairVote at (301) 270-4616, or visit their Web site (fairvote.org/nc).

— Nelda Holder

Good news about great eats

If you’ve been wondering whether the frittatas are as scrumptious as they’re rumored to be at that snappy little restaurant across town, Mountain Xpress has you covered. Likewise, if you’ve been pondering whether the mile-high burger at the cozy little dive down the road is really worth risking a trip.

Next week, Xpress launches its new food section, aptly titled, Food. Each week, we’ll review a different restaurant plus dish out choice tidbits about the area dining scene.

If you’re a restaurant owner or manager with some food-related news to share about your establishment, please let us know about it. And if you’re a dedicated foodie with a tip to pass on, let us in on that as well. Devoted food-eaters around the region will thank you.

— Tracy Rose

Where girl meets sports

Once again, girls and women of all ages can try out a virtual smorgasbord of sports at the local celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, slated for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 12, in UNCA’s Fitness Center.

The event “exposes girls and women to the vast array of sports now available to them and gives them a little taste of each one,” explains Allison Dains, director of the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center.

But that’s not all, she notes. “Let’s say they discover they love skateboarding. Then we also … can point them to a venue where they can continue learning,” adds Dains.

Back by popular demand are clinics in football, swimming, basketball, running, Nia (dance blended with elements of martial and healing arts), cardio kick boxing, cheerleading, soccer, volleyball and weightlifting. New clinics this year will include skateboarding, mountain biking and kayaking.

The cost is $20. The fee admits participants to their choice of five clinics; they also get a T-shirt, lunch, a chance to win door prizes, and a ticket to the Feb. 19 game of UNCA’s women’s basketball team.

For more information or to register, call Dains at 350-2058.

— Lisa Watters

Button, button, who’s got the button?

Mother Teresa summed it up pretty well: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

In that vein, Asheville’s Kindness Campaign is hoping to raise a happy din of such echoes during Kindness Week, which begins with a “Sounds of Kindness” concert on Sunday, Feb. 13 (see below).

Special kindness events will be featured all week, but the Kindness Campaign has a more ambitious goal: affecting the general behavior in our society and counterbalancing the negative images often served up by the media.

At this writing, some 2,500 buttons bearing the slogan “Spread Kindness — It’s Contagious” are circulating in the community. Button holders who witness an act of kindness pass their button on to the person responsible for that act.

“The idea is that, so often, kind and generous behavior goes unrecognized,” explains campaign coordinator Cathy Holt. Negative behavior and acting out, on the other hand, are almost guaranteed to draw attention. The campaign, therefore, aims to even the score a bit while generating a potent wave of those karmic echoes.

The campaign format originated with psychologist and author Barry Weinhold, who created it in Colorado in 1994 with a focus on discouraging bullying in the schools. It has since spread to more than 600 schools in 12 different cities. Weinhold and his wife, Janae (who is also a professional counselor), have since retired to Asheville, and Holt says the local campaign grew out of a talk Weinhold gave here about his past experience. Now he’s actively involved as director of the new Asheville campaign.

So far, the fledgling campaign has recruited some 50 community volunteers. Several local schools are involved, all those buttons are making the rounds, and Asheville Mayor Charles Worley is poised to proclaim the city’s first Kindness Week. Besides Sunday’s concert, it will include displays of Kids’ Kindness posters, Playback Theater’s re-enactment of kindness stories, an interfaith celebration of kindness, and a number of kindness awards (with a major one designated for the Emma Family Resource Center).

Following this flurry of activity, the campaigners hope to boost school involvement in the antibullying program there; and a series of dialogue dinners will be in the offing with a focus on interfaith and interracial communication.

Meanwhile, here’s the agenda for Kindness Week:

• “Sounds of Kindness” will feature musician Richard Shulman and friends, including native flutist Marina Raye. The concert happens Sunday, Feb. 13, at 3 p.m. at Jubilee! on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. The cost is $10 ($5 for seniors and students).

• “Interfaith Celebration of Kindness” is being held on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. in St. Eugene’s Catholic Church, highlighting the importance of kindness in the song, story and dance of 10 different faith groups (including Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i, Buddhist, Unitarian, American Indian, Ananda Marga and Earth-based). The United Religions Initiative, Christians for a United Community and St. Eugene’s Catholic Church are co-sponsors. A potluck will follow at 7:30; people are encouraged to bring food that represents their faith tradition. The free event will have signers (for the hearing-impaired) and childcare available. Call 252-5054 for information or to sign up for childcare.

• “Pay It Forward” — a variation on “pay it back” — is a movie feature showing Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium in downtown Asheville. Opening with a showing of “Little Pearls of Kindness” by Linda McLean, the evening’s feature, “Pay It Forward” (PG-13), stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment in a story about a young boy who sets out to change the world through acts of kindness — with wild success. The movie will also be shown in various neighborhoods around the city on Feb. 17, and at the Indigenous Tea House on Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Call 252-3054 for information on locations and times for the neighborhood showings.

• Playback Theater will polish off the week on Saturday, Feb. 19, with a 7:30 p.m. performance in UNCA’s Reuter Center. Actors directed by Raphael Peter will improvise re-enactments of kindness stories shared by audience members. Admission is $10 ($5 for students and seniors).

Kindness Poster Contest winners will be recognized at the beginning of the Sunday concert, and their work will be on display at Sky People Gallery, 51 N. Lexington Ave. in Asheville (open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Additional poster entries will be on display at the Asheville Mall, the YWCA, the Montford Community Center and local libraries.

To learn more about the Kindness Campaign and how you might participate, call 252-3054 or go to their Web site (www.thekindnesscampaign.org).

— Nelda Holder

The mysterious mailbox-stuffer

When Mountain Xpress Distribution Manager Sammy Cox initially received a call from someone whose mailbox was stuffed with a stack of Xpress newspapers, “I wasn’t alarmed at first,” he recalls.

But that was a year-and-a-half ago, and as the complaints continued to roll in — sometimes on a weekly basis — Cox knew he had a problem on his hands. To date, Cox and Assistant Distribution Manager Jesse Shepherd have documented more than 50 cases in which a resident or business owner, usually in North Asheville, has found either their mailbox or their Asheville Citizen-Times delivery tube stuffed with copies of Xpress. Some of these folks say this happens to them nearly every week.

Xpress, notes Cox, doesn’t make individual or home deliveries. Instead, the paper is distributed via more than 650 boxes and racks placed in cooperating businesses throughout WNC. But that’s scant comfort to the people receiving these unwanted deliveries.

“It’s very frustrating,” reports north Asheville resident Ashly Maag, who’s been getting “approximately 20 copies [or] as much as they can shove in our mailbox” on an almost weekly basis since early last summer.

“I like your publication, but I don’t need 20 copies,” she jokes. “It’s just wasted money, never mind … an offense to the environment, because nobody’s reading it and then it’s got to be recycled.

“There’s also the danger to this that it can block the real mail you’re trying to receive,” she adds. “And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s a federal offense to mess with mailboxes as well.”

“It’s definitely illegal,” confirms Cheryl Goree, the supervisor of Grace Station post office on Merrimon Avenue, which has received numerous complaints from customers. “It’s illegal for anyone who’s not designated by the owner of the mailbox or the United States Postal Service to put anything inside a mailbox.

“People don’t realize how serious it is,” she adds. “But in order for us to stay in business with so many people in the U.S., we’ve got to put the word out that you’re not supposed to go in there if you’re not authorized.”

Other local free publications, such as Rapid River and The Spotlight, report similar incidents. Spotlight publisher Leo Zupan says he’s relieved to learn “that we’re not the only ones this is happening to [and] that this person’s really not trying to get a message out. They’re just kind of random and strange.”

To date, Cox and Shepherd have tried various strategies for catching the culprit. They’ve also scheduled a meeting with other free publications to discuss collective ways to tackle the problem.

There have been some leads. At different times, eyewitnesses have reported seeing a white male or someone who looked like a homeless man taking multiple newspapers out of boxes. A white van has also been mentioned on two occasions.

Cox, however, has his own theory. Because some of the targeted mailboxes are situated in obscure places “where you’d really have to know they were there already … the person doing this probably had previous delivery experience with publications that deliver to residences,” he surmises.

For his part, Shepherd has a request. “If anyone witnesses an unusual pickup of our papers (i.e. more than one) or a home delivery of Mountain Xpress … we would like them to take a picture, get a tag number or name, and contact the Distribution Department.”

North Asheville business owner John Legerton, meanwhile, took a different approach. After receiving unsolicited deliveries of Xpress for several months, he decided to tape a sign on his commercial-size mailbox. It simply states: “U.S. Mail Only! Please do not leave any local newspapers, flyers, etc. Thank you.”

Since then, he reports, he hasn’t had any more problems.

If you have any information about the mysterious mailbox-stuffer, please call Cox or Shepherd at 251-1333.

— Lisa Watters

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