Reaching out

Agencies serving victims of domestic violence sometimes seem to be fighting several battles at once — struggling to eradicate the abuse even as they try to get the word out to victims about where to go for help. That’s why Helpmate, the only Buncombe County-based agency providing comprehensive services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, has launched an all-out awareness campaign aimed at local women.

“We want to tell Asheville and Buncombe County: Domestic violence has no place in our community,” proclaimed Helpmate Executive Director Valerie Collins, “and there is no excuse for domestic violence.” Helpmate recently received a $10,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to fund the campaign. According to a Helpmate media release, the money will be spent on posters, billboards, television public-service announcements, newspapers, brochures, books and videos. Some of the print and video materials will be in Spanish.

As a result of the media blitz, Collins has asked her staff to be prepared: More women than expected may be showing up at the agency’s office (56 College St.) needing counseling, protection and shelter. “We’re so certain that we are going to reach women who have never heard of us before, or who have never had the courage to call, that we’re adding an extra telephone line,” she revealed. “We also hope to get donations and requests for our staff to speak to local groups about domestic violence.”

To learn more about Helpmate and its services, call 254-2968.

Defenders of alternative medicine unite

A recent legislative effort to crack down on alternative medicine is helping to galvanize the local community of practitioners and their patients.

A meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21 at the Asheville Resource Center/Fortune Building, 727 Haywood Road (the corner of Haywood and Brevard roads in West Asheville). Speakers will include a naturopath from Arizona who will describe how alternative practitioners in that state formed an effective organization to make an impact on their state legislature.

Part of a physician licensure bill proposed in the N.C. House would have made practicing medicine without a license a felony, instead of the misdemeanor it is now. The alternative medical community rallied to oppose the change last month, and the felony provision was removed.

But a new section was added to the bill that would have formed a legislative research commission to study the role of alternative medicine in North Carolina and how it should be regulated.

The fate of both the bill and the study commission remained in question the day after the legislature adjourned. Public Affairs Director Dale Breaden of the N.C. Medical Board’s said Friday that he understood the Senate hadn’t acted on the bill before adjourning.

Nevertheless, Asheville activist Rebecca Campbell believes proponents of alternative medicine must take proactive steps instead of waiting to be regulated.

“It’s going to be a mixture of action and spiritual vision to make it go right,” emphasizes Campbell.

For more information about the meeting, contact Rebecca Campbell at 258-4862.

Home free

It’s relatively easy to ignore the plight of the poverty-stricken here in the Land of the Sky … unless, of course, you’re one of the 13 percent or so of state residents who live below the poverty line. But the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Emergency Shelter Grant Program recently awarded $2 million to 107 nonprofit organizations serving the poor. The money will benefit more than 40,000 people — most of them served by various homeless shelters across the state — according to a DHHS media release.

The program provides needed social services to homeless individuals and families with children. The $2 million will be used to improve the quality of the state’s homeless shelters, help fund operating costs for shelters and transitional-housing programs, and provide programs and activities to prevent homelessness. “Leading causes of homelessness in North Carolina are unemployment/underemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, mental illness, eviction, domestic violence/sexual assault, release from prison, child abuse and neglect, parental/child conflict, natural disasters and HIV/AIDS,” states a DHHS media release.

The grants are available to nonprofit organizations and divisions of local government that have operated an emergency shelter or transitional-housing facility for at least one year.

For more information on the Emergency Shelter Grant Program, go to

Be a pal

Got an hour to spare each week? Sure, you’re kind of busy. But suppose it could really make a difference in one child’s life? One hour is all Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina is asking for in a new school program beginning this fall. The Mentors and Matches program will provide one-on-one mentors for first- through fifth-grade children who need extra encouragement, attention and support. Volunteers will meet with their assigned matches at school for one hour a week throughout the school year.

“Volunteers can choose an hour that works for them,” explains Assistant Director Jamye Davis. “It could be during their lunch hour or maybe later in the afternoon, as long as it’s consistent.” Besides offering academic support (such as help with homework), mentors and their charges will also share relationship-building activities (eating lunch together, making crafts or playing a board game), says Davis. Recent research into Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs has shown that spending just one hour a week with a child makes a difference in their self-confidence, attitude toward school and academic achievement.

Big Brothers is also encouraging local businesses and organizations to get involved in the program, perhaps allowing employees to participate on company time. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department has already taken the lead, pledging at least 16 of its officers. Seven schools — two in Asheville plus five others in Buncombe County — are participating in this initiative. Volunteers should apply by early August at the latest to begin the brief application process.

To get involved, call Jamye Davis or Robin Myer at 253-1470.

A journey across time

How did three rare 17th-century Italian paintings find their way to Asheville? No one knows for sure, though there’s probably a fascinating tale there somewhere. The paintings — part of the estate of the late Joan Schneider of Asheville — will be put up for auction on July 22, as part of a two-day offering of her furnishings. Schneider lived in the prominent brick mansion known as Stratford Towers; the paintings were found in the mansion’s library, hanging above a bookcase. Portraits of five children and their mother, they were done in either Milan or Bologna by an associate of C.F. Cittadini, sometime between 1650 and 1680.

“It was one of those rare and exciting moments in our business to find these works,” observed Robert Brunk of Robert S. Brunk Auction Services. “The condition is remarkable: The canvases have not been lined, there is very little restoration to the surfaces, and they are probably in their original frames.”

The next day, other art and collectibles will be auctioned off, said Brunk, including a large and important collection of American Indian art, Mexican silver and jewelry, folk art and Western memorabilia (such as a hand-written Wells Fargo robbery file describing 100 stage and train robberies between 1870 and 1902).

Brunk’s auction gallery is located in the atrium of the Haywood Park complex (46 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville). The items to be auctioned can be examined on Friday, July 21 from 4 to 8 p.m. (or earlier in the week by appointment).

For more information, call Robert S. Brunk Auction Services at 254-6846.

Chipping away at our forests

In a June 27 speech in Greensboro, U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck warned that logging in the South is compromising forest sustainability due to the recent proliferation of chip mills.

Dombeck stated: “In 1977, the net growth of softwood forests was 6.3 billion cubic feet in the Southeast. About 4.5 billion cubic feet were harvested. In 1997, the net growth of softwood forests was 5.9 billion cubic feet, and about 6.5 billion cubic feet were harvested. Although growth levels of hardwood forests still exceed removals, hardwood harvest levels are beginning to approach hardwood-forest growth levels. The issue is a question of basic sustainability. Harvest levels cannot exceed growth if forests are to continue providing healthy fish-and-wildlife habitats, clean and pure drinking water, and scenic beauty.”

Danna Smith of the N.C.-based Dogwood Alliance (a coalition of local sawmill owners, landowners, religious leaders and outdoor-recreation companies, all pushing for a moratorium on permits for new chip mills) said, “As of today, the evidence is clear: Even if we had a moratorium on new chip mills, what the timber corporations are doing is already unsustainable.”

Since 1985, more than 156 chip mills (each employing an average of five people) have opened in the Southeast. Together they consume an estimated 1.2 million acres a year, equivalent to the combined size of the Southern Appalachians’ nine national forests. Like giant pencil sharpeners, chip mills grind whole trees into small flakes used to make pulp, paper and particleboard.

Dombeck’s announcement comes as four federal agencies are in the midst of a two-year study to assess the sustainability of all forest lands in the Southeast. Last month, Missouri became the first state to impose a two-year moratorium on new chip-mill permits, and residents of North Carolina and Tennessee are urging those states to follow Missouri’s lead.

Seven of the nation’s top whitewater-recreation companies — including the Nantahala Outdoor Center — have appealed to Vice President Al Gore for a moratorium on new chip-mill permits until their impact on the environment and on other forest-dependent industries can be assessed.

Citing a 1995 Forest Service study, Mike Stech — marketing director for Dagger Canoe and Kayak in Tennessee — said the outdoor-recreation industry provides more than 100,000 jobs throughout the Southern Appalachians and will require healthy forests to continue its growth.

For more information, contact Trevor FitzGibbon of the Southeast Forest Project at (202) 543-5257, or check the USFS Web site (

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