Tolerance and compassion: The next generation

Faced with so much alarming or discouraging news, it’s all too easy to succumb to cynicism. But Asheville LEAP, a group of local teenagers, is taking a different tack: pooling their energies to make a positive difference in their community.

The Come-Unity Asheville Festival 2000 is these teens’ attempt to raise awareness of the many faces of prejudice — racial, economic, religious, age-based, etc. — while celebrating the area’s cultural diversity.

The daylong event, to be held in Asheville’s City/County Plaza on Saturday, June 3, will feature a parade and a 5K run, as well as a full schedule of entertainment including a poetry slam, drumming and dancing. An “Empty Bowls” luncheon will benefit the Manna Food Bank, and food vendors, artists, crafters and nonprofit organizations may set up booths to peddle their wares or share information. The deadline to apply for booth space is Friday, April 21.

“Being in LEAP has definitely helped me to see how much prejudice there is, even if it’s very subtle,” said one teen, quoted in the Feb. 11 edition of The Hoofbeat, the student newspaper of Black Mountain’s Charles D. Owen High School. Another student put it more succinctly: “I enjoy knowing that, by simply participating in this program, I am improving the lives of others.”

For more information, or to obtain an application for booth space, call Laurel Amabile at 285-9631, or visit the Asheville LEAP Web site (

Showing off

Besides helping city residents learn about several comparably sized cities around the world, Asheville’s Sister Cities program helps us show off our own modest-yet-world-class metropolis. A perfect opportunity to do that is coming next month, when 22 French high-school students from Saumur, France, visit our fair city April 12-24. They need host families, and you’re invited to take part.

The five boys and 17 girls are all 16 to 17 years old; two teachers will accompany them, helping to transport them around the area and giving the kids’ activities an educational focus. Each student has chosen a special topic for informal study while in Asheville, and the Sister Cities program encourages families to host a student whose special interest matches their own. Topics include mountain folk music, the Civil War, Asheville architecture, the Great Depression, Asheville schools and education tourism, the Cherokee, medical research, the Botanical Gardens, race relations, energy and the environment, George W. Vanderbilt, North Carolina inventors, local elections, local industry, flora and fauna, and violence in the U.S.

Though the students speak English, they’re eager to improve their language skills, and also to see the local sights. Host responsibilities include: providing a room, breakfast and dinner; driving the student to the daily meeting place; visiting local points of interest; and helping the student with his or her special-interest assignment.

To volunteer, call Bernadette Williams ASAP at 254-5670.

Future history

Western North Carolina boasts an exceptionally rich and varied past, which the Western North Carolina Historical Association seeks to honor by establishing the Museum of Western North Carolina, here in Asheville. Those plans got a big boost recently when the Janirve Foundation awarded the project an $800,000 grant.

Buncombe County has agreed to sell the former Biltmore High School building and its five acres to the historical association for $1.8 million, with a closing date of June 30, 2000. “This generous grant from the Janirve Foundation is a strong vote of confidence for our project,” said Executive Director Rebecca Lamb in a recent media release. “However, it’s still important to keep in mind that other funds are needed to save the school and to create the history museum.”

Janirve, established in 1954 by automobile-manufacturing executive Irving J. Reuter, began making grants in 1984; since then, the Asheville-based private foundation has made 1,173 grants totaling more than $39 million, with most of the money distributed in North Carolina’s western counties.

“By awarding this grant, the Janirve Foundation has taken a leadership role in helping to create a comprehensive history museum for the residents and children of North Carolina,” said historical society President Jo-Ann Grimes. “We’re proud to include Janirve as a lead sponsor of our project.”

To learn more about the WNC Historical Association, call 253-9231. Tax-deductible contributions to the Biltmore School Project can be sent to the WNC Historical Association, 283 Victoria Road, Asheville, NC 28801.

Good money

Health care is a fairly hot career field, these days: The pay is good, the work can be rewarding, and you’re assured of a steady supply of customers. The downside, of course, is that the work is hard, the hours are often long, and it takes a lot of time and money to get the needed training. If you’re a member of a minority group in the WNC area, however, and are interested in a career in health care, Mission St. Joseph’s Health System may have $1,000 waiting for you.

The partner hospitals are offering scholarships to minority students in WNC who plan to pursue careers in certain specified areas of health care, whether as physicians, nurses, technical personnel, or workers in other fields ranging from food and nutrition to information technology. The scholarships are intended to increase minority representation in the pool of potential employees available to local health-care organizations; eligible minorities include African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. According to a recent Mission St. Joseph’s media release, the eligibility requirements are based on guidelines developed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Students who accept the scholarships will be encouraged to apply for jobs at Mission St. Joseph’s, but aren’t required to work there. The scholarships are renewable for four years; the deadline for submitting applications is April 1, 2000.

To learn more about the scholarships, or to receive an application, call Gina Kirkland at 213-0568.

How did it happen?

More than half a century after the Holocaust, people are still trying to decipher how things went so awry in Germany in the 1930s and ’40s. Several recent books, such as Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans (Basic Books, 2000), consider the everyday relationships between Germans and Jews of the period, wondering how such unspeakable horror could have erupted between what were, essentially, neighboring families. Now, a nationally prominent expert is coming to Asheville to present his ideas.

W. Michael Blumenthal will give a talk on “The Invisible Wall, Germans, and Jews: A Personal Exploration” (based on his recently published book of the same name). Examining the attitudes and relationships between Germans and assimilated Jews over a 300-year period, Blumenthal will juxtapose the broad picture of an evolving Germany against the histories of six of his own ancestors, seeking to show how the “unrequited love affair of Germany’s Jews with their native country” led to the horrors of the Holocaust, according to a recent UNCA press release.

Blumenthal’s own history is remarkable: Born in Germany in 1926, he fled the Nazis with his family in 1939 and grew up with other refugees in a Shanghai ghetto. He came to the U.S. in 1947, with just $65 in his pocket; yet he went on to become an ambassador and deputy special representative for trade negotiation under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and secretary of the treasury during the Carter Administration. In 1997, Blumenthal accepted an invitation from the city of Berlin to become president and chief executive of the Berlin Jewish Museum.

He will speak at UNCA on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact UNCA’s Center for Jewish Studies at 251-6576, or check their Web site (

Caring about health care

Critics of managed-health-care systems — a burgeoning trend in America — say the health of patients often gets less attention than the system’s own needs and the bottom line. Instead of this cutting-costs-at-any-cost approach, a growing number of people right here in Western North Carolina believe the nation’s health-care system should do more to protect patients and to create a quality-driven practice that values people more than profits.

If you agree, you may want to join other protesters at the Rescue Health Care Day gathering at Pritchard Park on Saturday, April 1, 11:30-12:30. The local arm of a national day of protest by physicians, medical organizations and patients against managed health care, Rescue Health Care Day is organized by the Western North Carolina Psychological Association. The event will include an hour of demonstration and education, along with one minute of silent protest at noon. Educational materials and representatives from the WNCPA will be on hand to answer your questions.

Psychologist Jey Hiott, Ph.D. — president of the Western North Carolina Psychological Association — points to several areas where he feels managed healthcare has missed the mark. “First of all, there are limited choices about which providers — and we’re called ‘providers’ instead of doctors or clinicians, while patients or clients are called ‘consumers’ in managed-care lingo, which is very telling — people can use. I’ll receive referrals or have potential clients who really want to see me, but [if they participate in managed-care plans] and I’m not on their [particular plan’s] provider list, they’ll receive no financial help for my services. And many of the provider lists are now closed, meaning I can never get on them.

“Secondly, decisions regarding the kinds of care and treatment for people in managed-care plans are being made by corporate folks who don’t know the clients or patients,” she continues. “For true quality care in my field, the clinician and the patient/client should decide what type of treatment is needed, how long the treatment should continue, and other details. With managed care, again, the corporation decides all that.”

Finally, Hiott points out, privacy and confidentiality are often compromised in managed-care plans. “Very personal details about clients must be mailed or faxed to corporate people you never see,” she reveals. “And where does the information go? What’s the guarantee that it will be kept confidential? Confidentiality is a hallmark of the kind of work I do.”

For more information on the pitfalls of managed health care, check out the Web at For additional information about the Pritchard Park protest, contact Jey Hiott at 252-7151.

— capitularly compiled by Paul Schattel

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