A resource for cancer patients

“People need to know we’re here to help them,” proclaims Lynda Bock, campaign manager for the local chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “If they don’t know that we’re here, then we’re just wasting our time and spinning our wheels in Asheville and Western North Carolina.”

Bock is passionate about spreading the word. Around since the late ’40s, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — which is also an advocate for other blood-related cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma — has had a presence in Western North Carolina for almost four years. And while the group does the sorts of things you might expect at the national level — raising funds for research, and lobbying Washington to force insurance companies to pick up more of the cost of patient care — “a lot of people don’t know about the number of patient services we offer locally,” she notes.

One such program is First Connection, which puts people newly diagnosed with a blood-related cancer in contact with others who have had the same experience. “Somebody who has already been through the chemotherapy and all the treatment … can encourage them and give them a psychological lift,” Bock explains.

Other key services include family support groups, patient financial aid (up to $500 a year for such things as transportation and treatment costs; 38 patients are now receiving this aid in Buncombe County alone) and an ongoing educational exchange with local medical practitioners about the latest advances in research and treatment.

“We’re really the resource for people who have blood-related cancers,” says Bock.

Of course, all these services cost money. Accordingly, the LLS holds three main fund-raisers each year: the Light the Night Walk (an evening stroll through downtown Asheville with patients, their families and supporters carrying illuminated balloons); Team in Training (athletes participating in marathons, centuries and triathlons); and Man & Woman of the Year (in which area residents compete by seeing who can raise the most money during an eight-week campaign).

But organizing and staging those fund-raisers requires a lot of willing hands. “There’s just so much to do,” exclaims Bock. “And really, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here serves all of Western North Carolina — so we have a monumental job for our two-person office.”

Volunteers are needed in many areas: planning, logistics, recruitment, designing brochures and newsletters, data entry, setup and more. “All of these things involve working, to a certain extent, directly with patients, because we have patient honorees for each one of these events,” she explains. Those honorees — local children with blood-related cancers and their families — “want to help us raise money because it helps them,” notes Bock.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well, what happens to the money you raise? Does it go back into the community?’ And it definitely does. … I think what we’re doing is extraordinary, and people just don’t know about it.”

For more information, call the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at 254-4234, or drop by their office in the BB&T Building (1 West Pack Square, Suite G-145) in Asheville.

— Lisa Watters

Environmental store supports local nonprofit

Quality Forward has a new tool for promoting ecological balance. On Dec. 14, the local group unveiled Green Goods, an “environmental general store” located at 29 Page Ave. (across from the nonprofit’s main office).

Green Goods offers crafts such as garden art, dried-flower wreaths, and bird feeders; kids’ books and toys related to the outdoors; potted plants and small trees (including some that look like baby Christmas trees); and two types of composters.

In a worm bin composter, food scraps are compressed, sealed and allowed to rot before being fertilized with worm castings. The Envirocycle, a bigger composter weighing 19 pounds, is ideal for breaking down leaves, yard waste and any other organic material. These tumblers are attractive enough to be stored in plain view on balconies or porches.

All store proceeds support Quality Forward projects such as stream cleanups, tree planting and playground construction. At the same time, the items sold also promote environmental awareness while helping create a cleaner, healthier environment.

“Our goal, as an organization and as a store, is to expose people to the work we do and to help them get involved,” explains Resource Development Coordinator Leslie Huntley. “Our slogan is ‘Making Our World Cleaner and Greener.’ That’s something all of us can do.”

For more information or to donate products, contact Huntley at 254-1776.

— Larisa Harrill

ACT teaches theater arts

Ever dreamed of being a playwright? Actor? Stage manager? Asheville Community Theatre is now offering courses in various aspects of stagecraft, taught by working professionals.

“Our classes for children have been so successful that we decided to offer more advanced classes to adults,” explains ACT Business Manager Stebbo Hill.

Two courses will meet on Mondays: “The Acting Track” (which teaches the basics of effective role-playing) and “How to Audition” (another essential for aspiring actors).

A Saturday course, “Writing for the Stage,” will explore play formats and offer opportunities for selected student plays to be performed at 35below, ACT’s new black-box theater space, located downstairs in the rear of the building at 35 E. Walnut St.

“Stage Management” (also on Saturdays) is a crash course in what you need to know to coordinate a successful show. On Thursdays, “Intro to Technical Stage Management” is the logical choice for those who wish to work in any behind-the-scenes capacity.

“You can look in local job ads and see that there is a shortage of stage managers in the area,” notes Hill. “There’s a lot to know, and many people just don’t know how to acquire the skills they need for that type of work.”

Each six-week course costs $65 (with a mandatory, nonrefundable $20 deposit); space is limited. Classes begin the week of Jan. 13; the last class ends Feb. 22.

For more information, contact Stebbo Hill at 254-1320 (e-mail:

— Larisa Harrill

A different kind of women’s magazine

“It’s a magazine that is not about hair and nails and makeup and recipes” says Julie Savage Parker, describing WNC Woman. She and co-founder Sandi Tomlin-Sutker launched the publication Nov. 1.

Instead, readers of the first two issues will find articles about honoring your belly, simplifying your finances, choosing your domain name, women in recovery, women making headway in the whitewater industry, profiles of women artists and entrepreneurs, and women’s personal reflections and journeys.

Perhaps the best way to describe what this new publication is about is to quote from a letter to potential contributors that ran in the second issue: “We … want to read about women doing stuff: building things, whether it is barns, businesses, or better mousetraps; fixing things, whether it is her plumbing, her car, or her life. We want articles with practical advice. We want to know what you have done that you never thought you could do. We want to read about you turning around a bad situation. We want to read about things that work: successful alliances formed, dreams manifested, obstacles overcome.”

WNC Woman is also looking for “some juicy fiction, poetry that moves us, essays that get us thinking. … We would love to have at least one belly laugh per issue — a dozen if possible!”

And rather than dwelling on the past, the new magazine wants to spotlight “women who have recognized the lies they have been told, the mythology about what is and is not possible, and have said: ‘Oh yeah? Says who?'”

The inspiration for the new publication, says Parker, came over a plate of linguini back in June when a friend with whom she was having lunch said, “I think you ought to do a magazine for women in Western North Carolina.”

As a web designer, Parker is used to combining words and pictures, and she’d actually been thinking about creating a Web site for women in the area. Her friend’s suggestion, she says, “lit a spark … and I said, ‘Yes!'”

Even before the propitious lunch, Parker had been talking with her friend Tomlin-Sutker about tackling some kind of publishing venture together, perhaps e-books. Both women, says Parker, were “wanting an outlet for our own writing, and to see what we could do to make a difference in the lives of women in WNC.”

So they decided to take the plunge and create the magazine together. “We were on the stands in four months,” Parker reports proudly.

One of the magazine’s goals is to serve as a resource for businesswomen and budding women entrepreneurs. “We’re working with the Mountain Microenterprise Fund,” says Parker. “We’re going to be profiling a business woman in each issue who has gone through [the agency’s] program.”

“We’re also taking back the term ‘centerfold’ and reclaiming it,” she adds. In each issue of WNC Woman, the full-colored centerfold will profile a local artist and display her work.

Parker’s vision for WNC Woman extends beyond the printed page, however. “We’re going to provide whatever connections and resources we can,” she says. To that end, the magazine is working with the Mountain Area Information Network to host a series of on-line discussion groups designed to help women communicate with one another on specific subjects despite busy lives and conflicting schedules.

Parker estimates that 99 percent of the contributors to the magazine will be women living in Western North Carolina. “Basically, we want to celebrate the wisdom that’s right here … and within ourselves,” she explains.

The free magazine is available at many local coffee shops, health-food stores, some Ladies Workout Express locations, the YWCA and MAHEC. For a more detailed list of pick-up points, check the magazine’s Web site. At the moment, distribution is limited to Buncombe, Madison, Jackson and Haywood counties and a few places in Hendersonville, but the publishers are looking to expand. “We hope to spread out,” says Parker. “We want to really be ‘WNC woman,’ not just ‘Asheville woman’ — and that will happen over time.”

“The response so far has been fabulous,” she adds, citing the many enthusiastic letters from readers in the second issue. “People have been kind of afire … whistling and stomping their feet and saying, ‘Yes, this is what we have needed for a long time!”

For more information, call WNC Woman at 689-2988, or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Land-of-Sky gets new director

The Land-of-Sky Regional Council has hired a new executive director to succeed Robert Shepherd, who’s retiring after heading up the organization for almost 30 years. At a press conference held to introduce Shepherd’s replacement, LOS Chairman David Gantt observed that Joe McKinney had been tapped by a search committee after reviewing 81 applications from across the country. The Mitchell County native is leaving a similar post at the Eastern Carolina Council of Governments.

Most of the major issues facing any government are regional, and a lot of state and federal funding is specifically earmarked for regional programs, noted McKinney. This, he said, underscores the importance of the kind of coordination provided by councils of government. (Land-of-Sky covers Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties.)

When asked about his view on tax breaks and other financial incentives often used to lure companies to a region, McKinney told Xpress that he prefers to “focus on using federal and state funds to improve infrastructure, rather than funding direct incentives. And infrastructure,” he added, “includes Internet connectivity these days as well as highways and water lines.”

Asked about the region’s air-quality problems and the fast-track cleanup agreement proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for five local counties, McKinney acknowledged that the decision to accept or reject the agreement will already have been made before he assumes his new post in January. Nonetheless, he added, “That’s when the real work will begin.”

— Cecil Bothwell

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