Notepad

Wanted: your books

Got any extra books hanging around? You know, the ones you planned to read someday but probably never will. Or how about books you’ve read but most likely will never pick up again? Why not let someone else enjoy them — while also helping out our local libraries?

The Friends of the Buncombe County Libraries are seeking donations for their annual fall book sale. You can drop off previously enjoyed (or not) books, videos and books on tape at Pack Memorial Library in downtown Asheville. If you have more than five boxes to contribute, arrangements can be made to have your tax-deductible donation picked up. Please, no magazines, encyclopedias, condensed books, textbooks or musty-smelling books. All proceeds from the Friends book sales support library programs and acquisitions.

For more information, call Bob Etter at 658-3413.

Buncombe County Health Center garners national recognition

About a decade ago, local physicians were growing increasingly frustrated with the typical Band-Aid approach to providing health care to Buncombe County’s approximately 15,000 uninsured, low-income residents. Such patients often delay seeking needed health care due to financial concerns. In addition, many indigent patients were being treated by primary caregivers for recurring problems when they really needed to be seeing a specialist or taking medication.

In response, the Buncombe County Medical Society created Project Access in 1994. Supported by various grants as well as in-kind donations, Project Access — a partnership involving the medical society, the Buncombe County Health Center and Department of Social Services, plus local hospitals, community-based indigent-care clinics and pharmacies — has been able to provide those in need with free or low-cost visits to physicians (both primary and specialty-care), lab and radiology services, hospitalizations and medications.

Thanks to its participation in Project Access, The Buncombe County Health Center was recently named a runner-up for the prestigious Award for Excellence in Creating Healthy Communities, bestowed annually by the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The NACCHO award recognizes local health departments that demonstrate strong leadership, creative programming, collaborative efforts within the community, and tangible results.

NACCHO Executive Director Thomas L. Milne congratulated the Health Center for its long-standing leadership in and commitment to addressing public-health issues. “Project Access demonstrates how local government and its partners can effectively collaborate to address health concerns throughout their community,” said Milne.

Project Access is now working with 92 communities across the country to help them establish similar programs.

For more information, call the Buncombe County Health Center at 250-5203.

Loving the land

Two separate projects are helping Henderson County residents express their love for the environment. An extensive survey by the visioning group Designing Our Future revealed a passion among county residents for the place they call home. A drafting team sifted through thousands of comments about the environment — forming categories, highlighting major themes, and noting recurring recommendations. The team then drafted general statements summarizing those sentiments, bundling it all into Henderson County Speaks, An Overview of Community Issues. Here’s what the report has to say about the environment:

“The residents of Henderson County indicate that people, the mountains, and the natural beauty of the landscape are the main things they love about the area. They also expressed an interest in preserving natural unspoiled views. They urge cleaning up and continuing to keep clean our mountains, air, and water. Areas where people can hike, bike, and be outdoors are highly valued by residents. Moreover, citizens desire more greenways and open space in both new and existing developments.”

Meanwhile, 10 regional artists more accustomed to expressing their love of nature nonverbally will try to translate that passion into words during “The Artist’s View of the Natural Landscape,” an upcoming series of presentations at the Arts Center of Henderson County (538 N. Main St.). Sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, the series will run in conjunction with the Art Center’s third annual juried show, “The Natural Landscape,” which features works celebrating or taking inspiration from nature.

The Saturday series kicks off Aug. 10 at 10 a.m. with clay artist Kitty Couch and painter Robert Johnson talking about their deep connection to the land. On Aug. 17, woodturner Stoney Lamar will lecture at 10 a.m., and clay artist Michael Sherrill and painter Pat Wellborn will host studio tours from 12-4 p.m. Painter Paul Koenen will give a painting demonstration at 10 a.m. on Aug. 24, with painter Ann DerGara lecturing at 1 p.m. the same day. The series will continue on Aug. 31, providing an alternative option for Apple Festival revelers. On Sept. 14, photographers Bill and Susan Logan and printmaker Mollie Doctrow will speak at 10 a.m. The series will end with “A Party for the Natural Landscape,” a gala fund-raising event for the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on Sept. 21 (6:30-9:30 p.m.).

For more information on “The Natural Landscape,” call the Arts Center of Henderson County at 693-8504. To learn more about Henderson County Speaks, contact Designing Our Future (828-698-8181) or check their Web site at www.designingourfuture.org/listening.html#report.

Strings in the Schools program survives close call

Buncombe County’s Strings in the Schools program has just weathered a near-death experience. The program, which provides music lessons (violin, viola, cello and bass) to about 250 Buncombe County middle- and high-school students, was the only county school program to be completely eliminated as a result of the recent budget crisis. Six teachers were dismissed three weeks ago, and their students were told to find replacement classes.

For 20 years, Strings in the Schools had been jointly funded by the county commissioners ($110,000 last year), the Buncombe County School District ($82,000) and the Asheville City Schools ($26,000). The money was administered by the Asheville Symphony, which hired teachers and arranged schedules. But when the Board of Commissioners set the tax rate at 59 cents last month on a 3-2 vote, they eliminated virtually all community-development funds — including the support for Strings in the Schools. At that point, the county schools decided to cut their portion as well; the Asheville City Schools decreased their contribution by a third but elected to keep a reduced strings program in their two participating schools.

Last week, however, Buncome County Schools Superintendent Cliff Dodson — speaking to a crowd of 150 parents, students and supporters who’d gathered at Valley Springs Middle School to consider options for saving the program — unveiled a plan for restoring about two-thirds of the funding for one year. The plan would provide $130,000 — enough to fund a semester’s worth of string classes at each of the participating county schools.

Central to the proposal, Dodson explained, is a bequest from the late Lucia and Arthur Ward. It was Mrs. Ward who originally persuaded the commissioners to support the music program, and the couple willed $50,000 to the Asheville Symphony to further that cause. When it looked as though the program would be lost entirely, the symphony decided to spend the capital as a one-time, stopgap measure to keep Strings in the Schools going for another year. The symphony kicked in an additional $10,000, and Dodson pledged $70,000 in county school funds (subject to board approval on Aug. 8).

Grant and Heather Hardy were among the parents who attended the meeting. Said Heather: “Students and parents hope that their dedication and enthusiasm will make permanent funding for the Strings in the Schools program an obvious budgeting priority when the current fiscal crisis is over. [We] are organizing to keep this issue on the school-board agenda and to seek funding from the county commissioners as a part of the regular allocation for county schools.”

For more information, call the Hardys (274-7431), Asheville Symphony Executive Director Steven Hageman (254-7046), or Dodson (255-5876).

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