Buzzworm news briefs

Republicans join paper chase

The Buncombe County Republican Party has teamed up with what would seem to be some unlikely bedfellows in calling for a voter-verifiable paper record of ballots cast using electronic voting machines. In a Nov. 17 press release, the party’s local headquarters said: “Voters should be able to be confident that the selections they make on voting day are recorded on paper. Each individual voter should be able to observe his or her vote being printed at the time the ballot is cast.”

The statement echoes demands by groups often perceived to be on the opposite side of the political fence, such as Common Cause, MoveOn.org and The Progressive Project. At the national level, however, the Republican House leadership has blocked bills introduced by Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to make such a paper trail a matter of national policy.

A decision to buy printers for the Sequoia machines now in use in Buncombe County would have to be approved by the Board of Commissioners. All of them have indicated varying levels of support for doing this except the newly elected Carol Peterson, who served on the Blue Ribbon Commission that approved the purchase of the paperless machines in 1998 (see “Rolling the Dice: Voting in the Computer Age,” May 19 Xpress). During her campaign, Peterson told Xpress she believes such a paper trail is unnecessary.

— Cecil Bothwell

A shoe in

You’d think that if Adidas created a new women’s running shoe they’d name it after a well-known athlete like Kelly Holmes or Florence Griffith Joyner. But no, the shoe company has decided to name its new footwear after Norm Witek, an exercise-science professor at Brevard College.

“It is, in fact, pretty unusual to name a shoe after someone who is not world-famous — though you never know, Norm might be some day,” notes Marianne Schmidt-Gothan, product manager for track and field, running and walking at Adidas in Germany, where the company is based. “I actually don’t know of too many other examples. We only name shoes after very special people. Norm is certainly one of these very special people.”

Witek is a former Brevard College cross-country and track coach who led the Tornados to national recognition as one of the top cross-country and track teams in the country. As a result of his coaching success, he developed the Brevard Distance Runners Camp Inc., one of the largest cross-country camps in the country with more than 1,400 athletes and coaches attending each summer.

“Adidas has been connected to Norm and the Brevard Distance Runners Camp for quite a while now,” notes Schmidt-Gothan. “We attended the camp a few times and always got very valuable and helpful feedback from Norm and his athletes. Naming the shoe after him is a way for us to say thank you for all his help and support.”

Witek received the news that Adidas wanted to name a shoe after him from his son Berry, who works for the company in Germany.

“My friends are amazed that Adidas would actually name a shoe after someone who is not a famous, elite athlete,” Witek says. “I think it’s really cool.”

The motion-controlled “Witek” running shoe, which sports Adidas’ new Geofit heel-fit system, will be available in Europe beginning next year. It’s actually an update of the popular “Brevard” model, a lightweight women’s running shoe, which Adidas introduced in the United States in 1999. Adidas named that shoe for the college and town after some of the company’s top executives visited Brevard, explains Witek.

“It was a surprise when they actually developed a shoe inspired by what they experienced here,” he says. “It was just such a neat idea.”

Last month, Witek also received another honor: He was named an inaugural member of the Brevard College Athletic Hall of Fame. His career at Brevard College includes cross-country and track coach (1967-1985), athletic director (1981-1987), division chairman (1981-1987), dean of students (1987-1993) and chairman of the faculty council (2000-2002). Witek is currently the chairman of Brevard College’s Promotion and Tenure Committee and president of the college’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

— Lisa Watters

The gift of giving

For many people, the holiday season is a time for giving and a chance to remember those who need a helping hand. But looking out for the less fortunate doesn’t have to be tied to a particular month. In fact, there are people and organizations in Western North Carolina that make it a year-round mission.

To honor those who embody the spirit of generosity, The Association of Fundraising Professionals Western North Carolina Chapter celebrated National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 17. At its annual luncheon, the group paid tribute to the “heroes of regional charities” who help WNC nonprofit organizations.

Among this year’s honorees are Mark and Teri Muir, who were named Outstanding Philanthropists. From their home in Horse Shoe, the Muirs have, according to the award, “changed lives for children in WNC who live with Asperger Syndrome” (a type of high-functioning autism) by designing, developing, marketing and directing School Within a School, a program that helps teach children with Asperger Syndrome social skills for successful living.

Doris Eklund was named Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser for her 20 years of helping community organizations in Hendersonville. Most recently, Eklund served as co-chair of Pardee Hospital’s $2 million campaign for the expansion of surgical services.

Also honored from Pardee Hospital was Myra Grant, who was named Outstanding Fundraising Executive. In 1996, Grant founded the Pardee Hospital Foundation and has served since then as its director. Under her leadership, the foundation has built an asset fund of over $5 million.

The award for Outstanding Corporation Philanthropy went to Eaton Electrical. Citing the company’s decade of philanthropy, the award notes that Eaton Electrical was the largest corporate contributor to the local United Way campaign last year. In addition, the company promotes volunteerism through involvement with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, Habitat for Humanity and other causes.

This year’s Outstanding Foundation Award went to The New Leaf Fund based in Alexander. The New Leaf Fund distributes $250,000 to $500,000 each year to a diverse group of nonprofits. Among the groups assisted by New Leaf are the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, WNC Alliance, the Clean Water fund, Greenpeace, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, F.I.R.E. (the Fund for Investigative Reporters and Editors) and numerous other organizations.

Sana Efrid, a teacher with the Carolina Day School’s Key School (a program for students with learning differences), nominated The New Leaf Foundation for this year’s award and told Xpress that New Leaf “has been very instrumental in the school’s success … They truly have the heart for giving.”

— Brian Sarzynski

Make room for mushrooms

For the inveterate mushroom lover, it’s never too early to think about harvesting the fleshy fungus. It’s also never to early to think about what you’ll do with your spring bounty.

With that in mind, expert mushroom growers from the region will lead a panel discussion next week about how to harvest and dry fresh mushrooms, plus offer tips on storing them in preparation for market, as well as go over potential marketing opportunities.

Information will also be available about the 2005 shiitake mushroom program offered through the N.C. Cooperative Extension and N.C. A&T State University. Experts will review how to inoculate logs; anyone interested in inoculating 200 or more logs in January can sign up for free spawn. Surveys will also be distributed to current participants in the log-inoculation program.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension will host the informal meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the Legion Hall on Robertson Street in Burnsville.

Pre-registration is requested by Friday Dec. 3; call the extension office in Buncombe County (255-5522) or Yancey County (682-6186).

— Tracy Rose

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