Bound for summer camp: A benefit for local foster kids

The Downtown Market will partner with the Buncombe County Department of Social Services to host a free wine-and-cheese event and raffle on Friday, July 9. All proceeds will benefit DSS enrichment programs that provide the opportunity for children in foster care to attend summer camp and specialty programs that could not be afforded otherwise.

According to public relations manager Pepper Parris, this first of a series of free wine-and-cheese events to benefit nonprofits is “a way of paying it forward to a community [that] has so graciously supported this new market.”

This first event will raise funds via a raffle managed by Erica Jourdan, foster parent recruiter and trainer for Buncombe County DSS. “Kids in foster care have already lost so many of the day-to-day things that make up most of our childhoods,” says Jourdan. “To be able to go to summer camp — and get the chance to just be a kid — is a truly amazing opportunity.” There’s a particular need for specialty camps, such as those for music, science and therapeutics. Without the generosity of businesses, community organizations, and individuals in the community, these children would likely stay at home all summer with nothing to do but watch television, she continues. “And you certainly don’t make friends, learn life skills, or improve your self confidence by sitting in front of a television set.”

The free wine-and-cheese event will be held on Friday, July 9, from 4 to 7 p.m., at 45 South French Broad Ave. Ample free parking is available on both sides of the avenue. Well-known local musician and morning- show host for 98.1 FM The River, Aaron Lafalce, will perform. The grand prize for the raffle drawing is a one-night stay at the new Hotel Indigo, including a $50 dinner gift certificate. Second prize is a private spa pass for two at Shoji Spa & Lodge. Other prizes include pieces of art, crafts and treasures donated by market merchants.

For more information about this event or the Downtown Market, please contact Parris at 255-8858 or info@downtownmarketasheville.com.

Asheville volunteerism ranks 12th among midsized cities

“In 2009, 63.4 million Americans volunteered to help their communities,” states a report recently released by the Corporation for National and Community Service, “Volunteering in America 2010.” That’s 1.6 million more volunteers than the year before, the report notes, making 2009 the largest single-year increase in the number of volunteers since 2003.

And Asheville volunteerism ranks 12th in the U.S. among midsized cities. Here are a few other survey results:

• More than 36 percent of Asheville residents volunteer each year; the national average is 26.5 percent.

• These same volunteers gave a total of 11.8 million hours of service per year.

“We continue to see a rise in the number of people using our online database to connect with meaningful and easy-to-access volunteer opportunities,” says Sarah Wohlmuth, director of Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, a a one-stop shop for agencies seeking to list their volunteer projects and for individuals and businesses to find the volunteer opportunities that best fit their interests and schedule. She continues, “In fact, we’ve seen a 62-percent increase in Web visits in the last year alone.”

For 19 years, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe has coordinated the fall Day of Caring, for which companies send employees out in droves to accomplish all sorts of important work for area schools and nonprofits. In addition to this one day of service, a growing number of companies see volunteering as a great way to develop staff leadership, foster relationships and support their local community, the local organization reports.

Recently, 46 Whole Foods volunteers from across the Southeast spent the day painting, building, organizing, sewing, cleaning, weeding and planting to revitalize the community garden and facilities of the Children First/Communities in Schools Family Resource Center at Emma. “It makes perfect sense to give back whatever you can. Helping on this kind of project is very meaningful because we are helping the wider community but especially children,” says Gary Sankar, Whole Foods employee.

For more information about volunteer opportunities in Asheville and Buncombe, contact Wohlmuth at 255-0696, or visit the website handsonasheville.org.

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