Buzzworm news briefs

Xpress: Still desperately seeking new feeding grounds …

There’s nothing quite so bleak as the yawning chasm of an empty refrigerator when you don’t feel like cooking.

But here at Mountain Xpress, we feel your pain.

Each year, Xpress publishes Blue Ridge Flavors, a print guide to dining and summer fun in Western North Carolina. In it, we aim to provide a comprehensive list of all the restaurants in WNC. This same information is available and updated year-round in our online Dining Guide.

So, all you restaurant owners and managers out there: If you have a new restaurant (or one that’s never been listed in Blue Ridge Flavors), we want to know.

Submit your establishment’s info online at www.mountainx.com/dining/form.php.

You can also write to: Dining, Mountain Xpress, 2 Wall St., Asheville NC 28801. At the very least, please send the restaurant’s name, address and phone number, plus a contact person’s name. Information about the menu, hours, dress code, rules and the like would also be helpful.

The directionless diners among us will thank you.

— Tracy Rose

Altitude honors returning troops

“It’s great,” is what Sgt. 1st Class Tom Schindler has to say about being home again. Schindler and the 123 other members of his Clyde-based unit — the N.C. National Guard’s 211th Military Police Company — returned from Iraq last month after nearly a year overseas.

Two other WNC-based National Guard units are still in Iraq, he reports: the Franklin, Murphy and Sylva-based 210th Military Police Company and the Asheville-based 161st Medical Support Battalion.

Fortunately, all members of the 211th made it home safely; the 210th was not so lucky, losing Staff Sgt. Bobby Franklin last August, Schindler notes.

The Asheville Altitude will honor the members of all three units and their families with “Support Our Soldiers Night with the Altitudes” (Saturday, March 13 in the Asheville Civic Center, starting at 7:15 p.m.).

The Asheville Altitude will battle the Columbus Riverdragons in a nationally televised National Basketball Development League contest. There will also be assorted other activities, including a standing ovation and proclamations by local politicians and dignitaries. Members of the 211th and the families of all three units will be admitted for free and can enjoy catered food and a cash bar.

“We really wanted to acknowledge anyone that’s served our country during this conflict … [and] to be a platform for our community to say thank you to all of them,” said team President Alfred White.

Tickets in the upper- and lower-bowl seating sections are available for $9; floor seating is $35. On advance purchases of $9 tickets, $3 will go to the family support groups of all three units. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more and children under 3.

To order tickets, call Seth Denton at the Asheville Altitude box office (782-1003). Members of the 210th and the families of all three units — as well as anyone else who has served our country during this conflict — can reserve a space by contacting White at 782-1005 (e-mail: awhite@NBA.COM).

— Lisa Watters

Get that pen moving

Has your muse been disturbingly silent of late? Is she making only the occasional appearance? Has it been so long since you’ve seen her you’ve forgotten what the damn woman looks like?

No problem. UNCA is offering a course called “Unblocking Your Imagination.” The continuing-education class will meet Thursday evenings, 7-9 p.m., beginning March 25. Taught by Marshall native Bobbie Pell, the course will explore ways to overcome writer’s block. Students will learn dynamic exercises to free creative energies and allow their writing to flow. They’ll also take a hard look at the links between the blocks they encounter and their own work habits and patterns.

Pell is also teaching two other related continuing-education classes: “Creative Nonfiction: Personal Narratives” (Mondays, 7-9 p.m., beginning March 22); and “Story Structures: Strengthening Your Plot Lines” (Tuesdays, 7-9, starting March 23).

Each course costs $80, runs for seven weeks, and meets on the UNCA campus.

For more information or to register, call UNCA’s Special Academic Programs Office (251-6558), or go to www.unca.edu/sprog/.

— Lisa Watters

Help for low-income homeowners

If you’re a homeowner who doesn’t make much money, just paying your mortgage probably takes a hefty chunk out of your paycheck each month. Forget having enough left over to actually make needed improvements and repairs.

Cheer up. The USDA Rural Development has funds available to help very-low-income homeowners make essential repairs, such as roofs, new siding, window replacement, well and septic-tank replacement, improving energy efficiency, removing health and safety hazards, and retrofitting homes to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.

To qualify, homeowners must have a reasonable credit history and be unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Fixed-rate loans of up to $20,000 are available at 1 percent interest for up to 20 years. Loans in excess of $7,500 are secured by the homeowner’s property.

For more information, call Jody Lovelace at the USDA Rural Development office in Spruce Pine at (828) 765-0889, ext. 4.

— Lisa Watters

The home and the world …

Homelessness, public drunkenness, public urination, panhandling, graffiti — issues that challenge every thriving city — are no strangers to Asheville. And past attempts by City Council to outlaw such social phenomena downtown have had limited impact (though the legislative elixir did succeed in garnering both criticism from social-justice advocates and threats of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit — a backlash that may explain why Council subsequently retooled its panhandling ordinance in ways that backed away from some of the more stringent measures).

In the wake of the new laws, however, City Council established the Downtown Social Issues Task Force, a group of citizens and city staffers charged with brainstorming new strategies for dealing with these issues. The task force is now ready to share its ideas with the public before making formal recommendations to Council. To that end, a public forum has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 17 at Pack Place from 4 to 6 p.m. Participants will be asked to comment on a wide array of proposed solutions, including more new ordinances and penalties, outreach programs, volunteer opportunities and funding options. The meeting will be conducted on a drop-in basis, with short presentations at 4 and 5:15 p.m.

For more information, call the City Development office at 232-4500.

— Brian Sarzynski

Move it for your favorite nonprofit

Amid the general excitement, there’s a certain sense of seriousness that’s often in evidence at local 5K races. A lot of participants start warming up a good hour beforehand; others scope out the competition and maneuver their way to the front of the pack at starting time.

Not so with the annual Human Race, a 5K run/walk/stroll/roll (wheelchairs and strollers) that raises money for a slew of local nonprofits. “It’s really more of a celebration than a serious competition,” says Dawn Woodring of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. “The majority of people who show up, show up to have fun. … People bring their dogs, people bring their children.”

Here’s how it works: Individuals or teams sign up for the race and raise funds for their favorite nonprofit by asking friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to sponsor them. If you’d like to participate in the race but aren’t up for the fund raising, you may choose to make a donation yourself to sponsor your run.

Seventy-five percent of the money an individual or team collects goes to the nonprofit of their choice (from among the more than 50 participating organizations). The Volunteer Center gets the remaining 25 percent for organizing the event — and to support the group’s work linking community members with volunteer opportunities.

This year’s event, sponsored by the law firm of Roberts & Stevens, happens Saturday, March 27 at UNCA (rain or shine). Here’s the schedule: Registration 8:45-9:15 a.m.; Opening Ceremony 9:15-9:30 a.m.; Timed Competition Start 9:30 a.m.; Non-timed Competition Start 9:45 a.m.; Entertainment (provided by the Peggy Ratusz Rhythm and Blues Review) 9:45-10:30 a.m.; and Awards Ceremony 10:30 a.m. Participants are encouraged to register early but may register as late as the morning of the race.

An on-site children’s play area will offer assorted fun activities, and massage therapy, blood-pressure screening and vision testing will be available in the health area.

The prizes for the biggest fund-raiser include two free tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. where Continental Airlines flies, and gift certificates from local businesses for the winners of various categories in the timed competition and for creatively outfitted individuals or teams.

For more information or to register, call the Volunteer Center at 211 or 252-4357, or visit their Web site (www.volunteerasheville.com).

— Lisa Watters

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