POP go the readers

How does a volunteer job that calls for making funny animal noises, or singing about spaghetti, sound to you? Preschool Outreach Project volunteers can quack and bark and sing the praises of pasta. POP volunteers regularly visit child-care centers all over Buncombe County, armed with a kit of picture books, puppets, songs and other fun activities to share with preschoolers, and the program is looking for helpers.

Studies have shown that reading aloud to children is one of the most important ways to promote early literacy, and positive experiences with books can lead to a lifetime of reading.

POP volunteers are women and men, retirees, students, full-time workers and home-schooling mothers. They may have years of experience with children or very little. The one thing they do have in common is the joy of seeing children connect with reading.

Volunteers are expected to commit about five hours a month for a year, and they’re given training and materials. The next training/orientation workshop will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Pack Library (67 Haywood St.) in Asheville. Participants must apply beforehand.

Application packets are available at all libraries. For more information, call 250-4729.

All you ever needed to know about mushrooms

Who’d have suspected it? Not only can you cook with mushrooms, you can also make paper out of them — and even use them for healing. Learn all about our fungi friends at the Asheville Mushroom Fair on Saturday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the North Carolina Arboretum.

The daylong fair will include: wild mushroom exhibits and lectures, mushroom walks, children’s activities and opportunities to have mushrooms identified. There’ll be workshops on Cooking with Mushrooms, Making Paper from Mushrooms, Medicinal Uses of Mushrooms, and Cultural Uses of Mushrooms (ethnomycology to those in the know).

General admission is $4; admission to a full day of classes & workshops is $15.

For more information, call the Arboretum at 665-2492 or the Asheville Mushroom Club at 254-6199.

Help for relatives and friends of the mentally ill

If you’re a family member or a friend of someone struggling with a serious mental illness, chances are you’ve found yourself asking the following questions at one time or another: How can I get a clear diagnosis for my loved one? What can I do if there’s a crisis? What services are available? What are all those drugs for? What is the best treatment? And, just as crucial: How do I take care of myself?

Fortunately, NAMI Western Carolina — the local affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill — offers a free course each year that’s especially designed for relatives and friends of people diagnosed with a severe mental illness. NAMI Family-to-Family Education meets on 12 consecutive Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m., beginning Sept. 5.

Trained members of affected families teach an extensive curriculum that focuses on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression and various anxiety disorders, providing the knowledge and skills that can help families and friends cope more effectively. Class size is limited to 20 participants; preregistration is required.

For more information, call 299-9596.

Gearing up for the Special Olympics

More than 1,200 athletes from 60 counties across North Carolina are expected to attend the 2002 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Games in Winston-Salem. They’ll compete in seven sports: bocce, bowling, cycling, golf, roller skating, soccer and tennis.

Local athletes can start sharpening their skills in several of these sports through practices offered by the Special Olympics Buncombe County office. Bowling practice is now available at AMF Star Lanes (491 Kenilworth Road) in Asheville (4-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10-11 a.m. on Saturdays). Soccer practice is available at UNCA from 6-7:15 p.m. on Tuesdays. Tennis and golf practice will also soon be available. All athletes are welcome to participate.

For more information, call Jennifer Corbin with the Special Olympics Buncombe County office at 684-5072.

Book discussions from a feminist perspective

Today, many feminist theologians are questioning traditional Christian teachings and redefining faith for themselves. The nonprofit ministry Holy Ground (18 Orange St. in Asheville) is sponsoring “Book Discussions through a Feminist Lens,” a pair of book-discussion goups addressing two works by feminist theologians.

The first group will consider Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering and the Search for What Saves Us by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker. This group will meet on Thursdays, Sept. 5 to Sept. 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The book’s authors explore the Christian doctrine of atonement and question the traditional teaching that suffering is redemptive. Participants will look at the relationship between violence and self-sacrificing love, and how the notion of Jesus as victim might be harmful. The book includes both scholarship and personal stories shared by the authors. Discussion facilitators are Chelsea Wakefield (who holds an M.S.W. with a focus on women’s issues) and Holy Ground Director Sandra Smith. The group is limited to 15 women.

A second round of discussions will concern Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril by Sallie McFague. This group will meet Wednesdays, Oct. 2 to Nov. 6, 12:15-1:15 p.m. Life Abundant addresses how our theology shapes and informs our relationship with the Earth and how Christians might assess their own faith practice in the light of economics and ecology. The conversations will focus on a planetary theology as expressed by McFague. The Rev. Mary Caldwell, the chaplain at Mission St. Joseph’s Health Care System will serve as facilitator. Group size is limited to 12 people (women and men). Holy Ground will provide drinks, and participants may bring a brown-bag lunch if they wish.

The cost for the series is $50 per person per group, $80 for those enrolling in both groups (plus the cost of the books). Preregistration is required for both groups.

For more information, call Holy Ground at 236-0222.


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