Touring Flat Rock

One of this region’s many charms is the number of historic towns that make for fascinating day trips or get-away weekends. One such destination — Flat Rock — may be particularly worth checking out this weekend. Besides the usual attractions (the Flat Rock Playhouse and the home of acclaimed poet Carl Sandburg), Historic Flat Rock Inc. will be presenting its Tour of Homes 2000 on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tour will feature five historic homes — Boxwood, Dethero Cottage, Wright Cottage, Tall Trees and Wigwam — as well as The Woodfield Inn, the St. John-in-the-Wilderness Church (with its historic cemetery), and the old post office, which dates back to the late 1800s. Tickets are $15, and all proceeds will go to support historic preservation.

“The house tour is a once-a-year event,” says town resident Ed Cushing, a member of Historic Flat Rock Inc. “These particular private homes, which are actually owner-occupied, are only open on that day. It’s a great opportunity to see them. There are also other interesting things to do while you’re here — Oklahoma is playing at the Flat Rock Playhouse, and their car park is across the road from the car park at Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s home — which remains the same now as the day he passed away.”

Flat Rock has been called the “Little Charleston of the Mountains” because of the many prominent, 19th-century South Carolina families who, wanting to escape the oppressive summer heat and malaria that plagued the coast, built elegant summer residences here. Located three miles south of Hendersonville, Flat Rock was named for “the great flat rock” beside the Saluda path where English merchants from Charleston traded with the Cherokee, obtaining hides and furs destined for European markets.

For more information, contact Henderson County Travel and Tourism at (828) 693-9708 or toll-free at (800) 828-4244.

Don’t hang up

During the coming weeks, 1,000 Buncombe County residents will have a chance to tell phone surveyors about their health, about which health-care services they use, and about what they think the community’s health needs are. It’s all part of Buncombe County’s Community Health Assessment 2000, designed to give health-care agencies and providers the information they need to develop appropriate new programs and services. The trained interviewers from Professional Research Consultants will need 15-20 minutes of time per household to conduct the telephone survey. The survey information is confidential, and no names will be associated with the survey’s findings.

Face-to-face surveys will be conducted in the Latino community, to overcome language and other cultural barriers. Other special survey efforts will target the African-American community and the elderly.

“The information we get from our citizens is critical to help provide a picture of the current community health needs and whether existing health resources meet those needs,” said Buncombe County Health Center Director George Bond in a recent news release. Bond is also chairman of Health Partners, one of the project’s sponsors.

A community forum in October will give residents a chance to learn about the assessment results and to help develop a Community Health Action Plan. The plan will direct strategic planning by health leaders, agencies, organizations and community groups in Buncombe County and surrounding communities. A similar survey conducted by Health Partners in 1995 led to the creation of several new health-care programs and community clinics.

The Community Health Assessment is a collaborative effort sponsored by the Buncombe County Health Center, Health Partners, the Mission St. Joseph’s Health System and 30 other community representatives. The project is made possible by special funding from Mission St. Joseph’s, the WNC Community Foundation, United Way of Buncombe County and the North Carolina Community Health Assessment Initiatives program.

For more information contact Gaylen Ehrlichman at the Buncombe County Health Center (250-5040) or Carol Minton at Health Partners (253-7009).

Shared experience

No one understands us quite as well as someone who’s had similar life experiences. That’s part of the idea behind the new Western Alliance: Most of the staff of this community-based, nonprofit have disabilities themselves, ranging from mild to severe.

“The center helps people with all sorts of disabilities live a more independent life,” says counselor Kathy Hardwood. “People with disabilities can relate to the staff here because they have disabilities themselves — they feel a little more comfortable talking with a peer who has gone through some of the same challenges.”

Called a center for independent living, the Alliance offers a broad array of core services: information and referral (drawing on the agency’s data base of disability-related information on housing, health services, assistive technology, etc.), training in independent-living skills, peer counseling and advocacy.

Another key facet of the Alliance’s mission is helping people with disabilities make connections, socialize and play. Programs such as Disability Outdoor Awareness Day (featuring adaptive recreational activities), the CyberPal Program (which places donated computers in the homes of clients, enabling them to communicate via e-mail), the Super Kid Outdoor Recreational Event (designed for children with special needs), and monthly potluck dinners bring local people with disabilities together and give them recreational opportunities they may not have had before or may not have felt comfortable participating in. All services are free of charge to people with disabilities.

The Western Alliance’s Center for Independent Living is located at 30-B London Road (off Sweeten Creek Road) in Asheville. Affiliated with the Sylva-based Pathways For the Future, it serves seven WNC counties: Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania.

For more information, call the Western Alliance at 274-0444.

A hedge against extinction

The first World Botanic Gardens Congress, held in Asheville in late June, was a landmark for the global conservation community. Ten years in the planning, the event was hosted by the North Carolina Arboretum and attended by nearly 1,000 delegates.

“The purpose of the … Congress was a bringing together of conservationists and botanic-garden administrators to work on an agenda on conservation within botanic gardens,” explains Angie Chandler, the arboretum’s director of public programs.

The resulting International Agenda for Botanic Conservation establishes guidelines to help gardens around the world protect rare and endangered plant species. “This is important, because botanical gardens house a lot of plant collections,” Chandler notes.

But the historic event also bore more symbolic fruit. On July 6, the arboretum announced that it had acquired A Hedge Against Extinction, an outdoor sculpture created specially for display during the congress as part of a juried exhibit of works by 14 members of the Tri-State Sculptors Association (on display at the arboretum through Oct. 31).

Sculptor Martin Webster of Burnsville says the piece represents stylized human hands forming a hedge, honoring “those who stand together to nurture and share the treasures of this planet’s plant life.”

Bought with an anonymous donation made through the American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta (a conference sponsor), the sculpture now stands in the arboretum’s Heritage Garden. Later this year, the work will be moved to a permanent position elsewhere in the gardens.

For more information, contact the North Carolina Arboretum at 665-2492.

Help for the harassed

Navigating one’s way through the legal system is never easy. Imagine what it’s like, then, for victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. Hoping to provide a road map for this sometimes-hazardous legal terrain, the National Association for Working Women, a.k.a. 9to5, now offers a special Web site: (which have almost doubled in the last 10 years)

Asheville business owner (and 9to5 member) Diana Brady, who created the Web site, says it reflects what she learned from her own discrimination/harassment suit against Johnson & Johnson, where she worked as a midlevel manager. “I had a lot of proof, but my lawsuit was not handled properly, so I lost,” explains Brady.

Although she says she didn’t learn about 9to5 in time to help with her lawsuit, Brady nonetheless felt the organization gave her great support. So, wanting to share her hard-won knowledge with other women, Brady spent two years of volunteer effort collecting information about sexual harassment and discrimination. That information is now readily available to anyone with Internet access. Brady says she asked herself what she wished she’d known about the legal system during her own struggle, obtaining guidance from local attorneys and from reference manuals.

The comprehensive site explains the legal definition of sexual harassment and discrimination, tells what a court document looks like, describes the stages of a lawsuit and the structure of the courts, and offers advice on choosing a lawyer, preparing to give testimony, and keeping your case from being thrown out of court.

Asked about sexual harassment against men, Brady answered: “The Web page is really for everyone — whether it’s same-sex harassment, females harassing males, or vice versa — legally it’s the same. We incorporate the latest court rulings into the Web page.”

And she stresses that 9to5 — the nation’s largest nonprofit organization for working women, with chapters throughout the country — also addresses many other issues affecting working women, such as equal pay and family medical leave. “One of my messages, ” says Brady, ” is that I wish I’d found 9to5 earlier. Don’t wait until it’s too late — be involved. Find out what your rights are.”

To find out more about 9to5, call (414) 272-2870, or call their Job Survival Hotline at (800) 522-0925. To contact Diana Brady, call (423) 735-3091.

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