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Minorities have often been underrepresented on the boards of local organizations. To address that lack, the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County is seeking minority community members to serve on local nonprofit boards. Interested individuals are invited to sign up for a free, two-day Community Stewardship Program to be held Sept 30 and Oct. 1 in Asheville.

“This program is for people who haven’t had a lot of experience on boards,” said Mark Gordon, who chairs United Way’s Minority Involvement Council, in a recent media release. “Our sessions aim to encourage minority participation and diverse ethnic leadership by explaining what opportunities are available and how people can get involved.”

The Community Stewardship Program will address such topics as: the role of nonprofits in the community; diversity and biases on boards; descriptions of local nonprofits: and the various responsibilities of boards. Presenters will include Gordon (of Mission-St. Joseph’s), Darryl Hart (Hart Funeral Services), Beverly Kaiser (the Blue Ridge Center), and others.

To learn more, or to request an enrollment form, call Ann Von Brock at 255-0696.

Cops on the move

Being a police officer isn’t easy. Besides routinely facing dangerous situations and criticism by local media and the general public, they have to deal with the same mundane workplace worries as everybody else, such as office politics and competition for advancement opportunities. On Sept. 10, however, the Asheville Police Department promoted a host of officers, celebrating their hard work and devotion to making Asheville a better place to live.

Several officers were promoted to the rank of master police officer. Officer Allen Dunlap, who has been with the department since 1991, has most recently been a crime prevention officer in the Police and Community Together Team (PACT), but he’ll now assume the duties of DARE officer. Officer Mike Godwin, a department member since 1990, works out of the West Asheville Resource Center as part of the PACT team. Officer Liz Budd, with the department since 1981, has been a patrol officer, a youth-services and a sexual-assault detective; Master Officer Budd is now a PACT team member assigned to the Downtown Bike Patrol. And Officer Scott Lunsford, a department member since 1988, is assigned to the Youth Services Unit of the Criminal Investigations Division. He is also the department’s resident expert on youth gangs.

Several other Asheville cops were promoted to sergeant: Sgt. Debbie Haines, who has been with the department since 1992, has spent most of her time with the Patrol Division and the Public Housing Policing Team. And Sgt. Tim Splain, with the force since 1991, serves as the department’s nuisance abatement officer, working out of the PACT unit. And Patrol Supervisor Walt Robinson was recently promoted to lieutenant.

In other Asheville Police Department news, the Mounted Patrol Department needs another horse. Due to unspecified medical problems, “Duke” is retiring after two-and-a-half years of service, leaving the department with only one animal. The mounted-patrol officers are much in demand: Besides policing the downtown area, they make frequent public appearances at day-care centers, grand openings, school carnivals, in classrooms, at fund-raisers and other events. The department, according to Officer Paul Reneau, is particularly interested in obtaining a quarter horse, 8 to 12 years old, between 15-3 and 16 hands high. Any donation would be tax-deductible.

To learn more about the Asheville Police Department promotions, call Gladys McDaniel at 259-5880. To learn more about the Mounted Patrol Unit, call Paul Reneau at 654-7618.

Learning is living

True to its reputation as a catalyst for learning, the Asheville-Buncombe Library System is hosting a series of free talks by local experts, on everything from late-season gardens to “shabby chic.” The Xpress’ own gardener-in-residence, Jeff Ashton, will demonstrate budget solutions to extending the gardening season (Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m., Enka-Candler Library). The next day, celebrated floral designer Perri Crutcher will explore the delicate ways in which “shabby” can become “chic” (Wednesday, Oct. 6, at p.m., Pack Memorial Library).

A week later, photographer par excellence Rob Amberg will present “I-26: Corridor of Change,” his picture-and-story-packed documentation of how a highway project is affecting the community (Tuesday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m., West Asheville Library). And finally, noted attorney Bill Wolcott will present “Wills and Estates — Passing It On,” an informative look at estate planning (Thursday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., Asheville/Oakley Library).

To learn more about these or other upcoming programs, call Rob Neufield at 250-4715.

Grading our schools

Though you may not agree with the often-controversial opinions espoused by the members of the John Locke Foundation, a Raleigh-based independent, nonprofit think-tank, they will usually make you ponder your own position. Now, the Locke Foundation has released its latest study — an annual report grading North Carlina’s schools — and the word is, the state’s public schools have a long way to go to earn a gold star.

Called Grading Our Schools ’99: Second Annual Report to the North Carolina Parents and Taxpayers, the report (which was presented here in Asheville, earlier this month) analyzes state, national and international assessments of N.C.’s educational performance and gives each school district a letter grade, based on student outcomes. While the state rated a wobbly D+ overall, certain WNC schools fared somewhat better: The Buncombe system earned a C+ average (doing particularly well in the 4th- to 8th-grade levels), and Cherokee, Clay and Transylvania schools each rated a B average. Most of the other WNC counties made a C average, with the Asheville City Schools and Graham County accounting for the only D’s.

Written by Locke Foundation member Doug Haynes, the report takes a close look at student performance on ABC tests, the SAT, and graduation rates for high-school students. More than half the state’s school systems received D’s or F’s in the report. “If North Carolina were a country,” noted Haynes in a John Locke Foundation media release, “its math scores would be below [those] of Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Russia, Sweden, Thailand and numerous other countries. Only poor nations such as Colombia, Iran and South Africa are lower in math skills.”

For more information, call the John Locke Foundation at (919) 828-3876, or see them on the Web at www.johnlocke.org.

Helping the helpers

Clearly, you don’t do volunteer work for the six-figure salary, but the intangible rewards are many: meeting new friends, learning new skills — and even, occasionally, saving a life. In that regard, Helpmate — Buncombe County’s nonprofit, domestic-violence support agency — is looking for more folks to help them do their work. They particularly need people to staff the crisis-phone lines, providing support and information to callers who’ve been abused by their partners. Helpmate also needs caring individuals who enjoy spending time with children, to assist their children’s programming coordinator. They could also use a helping hand with general office duties. Helpmate’s next volunteer training session starts Tuesday, Oct. 5 and runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the month, with the final training slated for Saturday, Oct. 28. Training sessions are scheduled during the day and then repeated that night, to allow for tight schedules. If you’ve got some time on your hands, give them a call. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information, call Helpmate at 254-2968.

— cthulhuically compiled by Paul Schattel

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