Nonprofits: Greater than the sum of our parts

When Xpress asked local nonprofits about the role of collaboration in empowering their respective missions, one thing became crystal clear: We stand stronger and serve better when we work together. For our annual spring nonprofit special edition, we invited these groups to share their stories while reflecting on specific initiatives they offer that embody the strength of community collaboration.

The responses they submitted amply demonstrate that networking, cooperation and collaboration reinforce, fuel and empower both the reach and the impact of each organization’s work, supporting the Gestalt psychology idea that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Working together, we become something more than we could ever hope to be alone.

In the case of Children First/Communities In Schools, collaboration results in a dynamic enrichment program for at-risk youth. Organizational collaboration enables T.H.E. Center for Disordered Eating to break through the stereotypes surrounding eating disorders. For Nuestro Centro, community partnership supports after-school programming for Spanish-speaking children, helping teachers and families deepen their relationships. Supported by an extensive network of volunteers, organizations like Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue and Phoenix Landing are saving the lives of hundreds of cats, dogs and parrots in our community. Volunteerism enables Meals on Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County to deliver nutritious meals to homebound elders. And on and on it goes…

If the wealth of Western North Carolina can be measured by the quality and number of nonprofits committed to bettering our collective well-being, then we are indeed a rich community. And we’re richer still because we are standing together and supporting one another.

Children First/Communities In Schools

Children First2

Mission: Empower children and their families to reach their full potential through advocacy, education and services. Surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.


Collaboration is key to moving the mission of Children First/Communities In Schools forward. The need in our community is great, as one in four children in Buncombe County lives in poverty, and half of the students in the Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches. The Success Equation unites community partners to reduce the incidence of poverty and its impact on children in Buncombe County through education, collaboration and public policy, resulting in an environment where all children can thrive. Partners include the Cathedral of All Souls, Girl Scouts Peak to Piedmont, Junior League of Asheville, Just Economics, Innovative Partners International, Searchlight Consulting, Smart Start, Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation and the YWCA, as well as numerous allied organizations.


Another project that embodies the power of community collaboration and partnerships is our POWER/AmeriCorps program, which recruits 25 members each year to work with at-risk youth on a one-year commitment. The primary objective is to provide increased academic and cultural enrichment services to vulnerable youth in the city and county through partnerships with organizations such as the city and county schools, Charlotte Street Kids, the Jewish Community Center, MANNA FoodBank, Our VOICE, the YMCA and the YWCA. Team members spend their mornings at local schools providing volunteer coordination and classroom support, and afternoons at local nonprofits and after-school programs.

John C. Campbell Folk School


Mission: Provide experiences in noncompetitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening.


Located in Brasstown, North Carolina, the school has become the centerpiece of a diverse rural community that is connected with a historic and creative way of life, close to the land and to one another. For all its sense of place and rootedness, the Folk School is also the center of global communities of blacksmiths, woodturners, writers, quilters and painters, offering programming aimed at enriching community life. We’re also an integral part of the local mountain economy, providing jobs and bringing in money year round. All full-time residents of the surrounding nine counties receive a 50 percent tuition discount when they register on a standby basis.


Our annual Fall Festival, a showcase for local craftspeople, food vendors and musicians, attracts visitors from all over the Southeast and is the primary vehicle for most of the crafters to sell their work. The school provides a vast range of educational activities and entertainment, including free concerts, dances, literary readings, lectures and demonstrations. Clay and Cherokee County food banks are supported by our annual Empty Bowls event, which raises money and awareness for combating hunger in the surrounding communities.

Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue

Charlie's AngelsMarch 25 was a big day for a 2-year-old black mixed Lab named Sadie. Sadie was in a shelter and had two issues: She was black and heartworm-positive. Black dogs are the least popular for adoption, and HW treatments are expensive. So Sadie was patiently waiting to be euthanized that afternoon. Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue heard of her plight, interceded and rescued her that morning. A great volunteer named Donna Wade fostered her to health, and we found her a wonderful family and a “forever” local home.

That’s the kind of work Charlie’s Angels has done over 2,000 times since 2009: 496 times last year alone. We’re an all-volunteer organization cooperating with numerous animal shelters to reduce euthanasia rates. We work with adoption facilities in the Northeast where animals are needed and professionally transport them or adopt them out locally.

That’s it: a group of volunteers operating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit housed in a building we call “Safe Haven,” reaching out to animal control shelters and saving lives.

That’s what the power of a small group of dedicated folks can achieve.


Autism Society of North Carolina

Autism Society

Mission: Provide support and promote opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals with autism and their families by offering advocacy, training and education, and direct care for individuals throughout their life spans.


As the leading statewide resource organization, we’ve collaborated with local businesses on mutually beneficial ventures.


The third annual Zipping for Autism fundraiser (Sunday, June 1, in Asheville) shows the impact concerned parents can have when they team up with the Autism Society and put their business behind their passion. The event’s creator understood both the need for, and the great value of, early diagnosis and intervention for her son and for other families she worked with. It’s a grassroots effort involving families, local businesses and national supporters who realize that it’s up to the community to step up and make a difference for local children and families. All proceeds from the fundraiser at Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures and Treetops Adventure Park will remain in Western North Carolina.

We’ve also seen success in our partnership with OOWEE Products, an Asheville company that makes leather sleeves for pint glasses. The hand-stitched sleeves are assembled by individuals on the autism spectrum through Blue Ridge Bags and More, a business we operate. The venture creates meaningful employment for adults with autism while raising funds for the families we serve.



Meals on Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County

Meals on Wheels3

Mission: Provide hot, nutritious meals to the elderly homebound, allowing them to remain in their own homes among familiar surroundings and maintain their dignity while aging.


We operate Monday through Friday with a board of directors, an 11-member staff and a network of over 300 volunteers. Meal delivery is available to Buncombe County residents 60 and older who are homebound.


Collaborative/donation-based efforts include:

Working closely with the DSS, the Council On Aging, Blue Ridge Group Homes, medical discharge planners, individuals and family members to provide our clients with the answers and resources they need to remain independent.

Pet Food Program: In conjunction with local pet stores, veterinarian offices and schools, we collect pet food throughout the community.

Ensure Program: Nearly 15 percent of our clients need nutritional supplements in addition to their regular meals. We provide this service in collaboration with the Mission Healthcare Foundation and private donor support.

Snow Box Program: Every year, snow boxes containing a supply of canned and ready-to-eat meals are distributed to clients for use in inclement weather.

Volunteer Connections Program: We’ve established solid working relationships with individuals and volunteer teams from local churches, civic groups and service organizations to help facilitate repairs to clients’ homes at little or no cost.

Santa for Seniors Program: We collect assorted items, pack them into holiday gift boxes and give one to each of our clients.



Helios Warriors


Mission: Provide safe, effective complementary and alternative healing therapies to veterans and their spouses. Return veterans to a state of overall health and well-being, allowing them to return to normal life.


Helios collaborates with the pain management department at the Charles George VA Medical Center to provide holistic therapies for the nonpharmaceutical relief of pain. Many veterans are referred to us by the Veterans’ Restoration Quarters, Veterans Council and Army Strong. All of the veterans service organizations in Western North Carolina currently advise the veterans they see about our services. In March, Helios Warriors participated in the Celebration of Women Veterans at Jubilee church in Asheville.


All our practitioners are volunteers giving back to the community through service to our nation’s veterans. Each practitioner is carefully screened to maintain our standard of safe and effective care. Veterans are interviewed to determine their primary health concerns. Working together, we determine the appropriate practitioner to help the veteran achieve wellness.

Helios Warriors is supported entirely by sponsorships and donations from individuals and businesses. Services are offered on a sliding scale, but no veteran seeking care is turned away for inability to pay. We often have a waiting list, and we’re definitely providing a much-needed service for our community.

On Sunday, May 25, Helios Warriors will hold a fundraiser at The Bywater (796 Riverside Drive, Asheville) featuring local bands Raising Caine and The Northside Gentlemen and singer-songwriter Ben Scales, plus a live auction, raffle, cookout and more.

Nuestro Centro


Mission: Listen to directly affected people to identify the root causes of our problems; organize ourselves to confront those problems and seek justice, strengthening our identity and culture.


Collaboration is at the heart of Nuestro Centro’s work. We believe in solving problems with people, not just for people. Everyone has something to contribute, and we seek to draw on the passion and talents of our entire community. This year, for instance, we’ve been excited to partner with Emma Elementary on an after-school program teaching Mexican folkloric dance. This has created a new opportunity for school staff to deepen their relationships with Spanish-speaking children and families. It’s also a wonderful chance for parents with limited English skills to become more deeply involved in their children’s school experience.



Phoenix Landing


Phoenix Landing Paul M. Howey Mission: Help parrots through adoption and education programs. Most parrots require a succession of homes, and we believe each one should be a good one. We also sponsor avian research, student veterinarian education, ecotourism and wild parrot conservation efforts.

Phoenix Landing works with veterinarians, shelters, other welfare organizations, schools, senior centers and businesses. We believe the best way to help parrots is to highlight the unique kind of care they need and the ways that we can all work together to improve their lives in captivity. Parrots are unusual — they’re beautiful, smart and can provide incredible companionship and fun. But they’re also loud, messy and expensive, and they’re not the best “pet” for most people. For this reason, we appreciate all possible collaboration to help educate the public about parrots’ needs and, especially, to underscore the importance of adoption.


East Asheville Welcome Table


Mission: Create a welcoming place where anyone can come and receive a hot meal, no questions asked.

In the spring of 2010, members of 10 East Asheville churches and their pastors were working to address the issue of food insecurity in the community. Family-to-Family, an outreach network with Charles C. Bell Elementary, had already established a food pantry supported by the churches and MANNA FoodBank. But the East Asheville Welcome Table has taken these efforts to a new level. Each Thursday, people come to Groce United Methodist Church seeking a warm, safe place to eat. Some are homeless; others see it as a way to feed the family when their food stamps are running low. The elderly come for the fellowship, so they don’t have to eat alone. Most of all, it’s a way for churches to connect with neighbors in need.

We also coordinate with the food pantry at Beverly Hills Baptist Church; many who come to eat at the Welcome Table can then go directly to the food pantry to gather needed staples. Thanks to the many volunteers from our churches and the community, we continue to offer food and fellowship, nourishing both body and soul.


Homeward Bound


Mission: Working with others to end the cycle of homelessness.

Homeward Bound works to end homelessness in Western North Carolina by moving people into apartments of their own and providing the support they need to stay there. Housing provides stability that moves people out of crisis-and-survival mode; case management support helps them address anything that might prevent them from staying in housing, such as substance abuse, mental illness, unemployment or disability. At Homeward Bound, we meet people where they are, build relationships with them there, and work together from that point to permanently move them out of homelessness. And it works: Of the 916 people we’ve housed since 2006, 89 percent haven’t become homeless again.

Collaborative partnerships are an integral part of our success. Homelessness is a communitywide problem requiring a communitywide solution. A great example of that is our Welcome Home Project. Community members donate furniture and housewares to help our clients successfully transition out of homelessness and into their new homes. Volunteers also purchase cleaning supplies, hold donation drives, pick up furniture and pack move-in boxes. In the end it’s not just about ending homelessness, but about really welcoming people home.



Photoshoot with Integritive 2

Mission: Offer exceptional care every day in the areas of rehabilitation, home health care, hospice and adult care.

CarePartners is an Asheville-based nonprofit serving all of Western North Carolina. We offer a wide range of services to help people live full and productive lives despite illness, injury, disability or aging-related issues.

More than 500 community volunteers help with everything from transporting patients to our rehabilitation pavilion to answering the phones in our 27-bed Hospice/Solace center. Teens at Risk volunteers help in the gardens, and pet therapists bring their dogs to spent time with our adult care participants. Other volunteers lead veterans’ meetings.

A recent large donation from The Glass Foundation has enabled us to purchase a white-light scanner to help with creating and fitting prosthetic limbs. Other grants and community donations helped the Rehabilitation Hospital purchase a Viking lift that holds patients weighing up to 660 pounds as they’re learning to walk again.

United Way funding supports our adult care programs, and some individuals designate their donations for our home hospice care, the Solace Center, the Kids Path bereavement program, music therapy and other services.

More than 1,000 individuals and organizations donate through the CarePartners Foundation, making them partners in our overall continuum of care. The foundation also operates estate sales and a thrift store that benefit our services.


Clean Water for North Carolina

Clean Water for NC

Mission: Promote clean, safe water and environments and empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians through community organizing, education, advocacy and technical assistance.

Protecting North Carolina’s water and air, as well as local health and economies, requires collaboration with a wide range of partners to achieve a common goal. Our Water Justice Campaign depends on networking communities and strategizing together to ensure safe, affordable drinking water for all. We recently helped form a coalition promoting local control of drinking water and opposing the forced transfer of the Asheville water system to a regional water and sewer authority. Along with other nonprofits, citizens groups and businesses, we educated the regional public before a ballot referendum on the water system transfer. The coalition brought the issue of local water control, and its statewide implications, to “Moral Monday” demonstrations at the N.C. Legislature.

We’ve also reached out to city and county officials in Western North Carolina and across the state to educate them about the high cost and degraded service when public water supplies are managed or bought by private corporations. By partnering with neighborhoods already impacted by water privatization or by contaminated wells, we empower them to stand up for their right to safe and affordable water. From households around the CTS Superfund site south of Asheville to mobile home parks in Weaverville, and in neighborhoods across the state, you’ll find Clean Water for NC providing information, outreach and organizing with folks to work for water justice.


Asheville GreenWorks

Greenworks3-web Mission: Enhance the environment and quality of life for Asheville and Buncombe County residents through community-based projects.

Asheville GreenWorks has been one of the most active local volunteer groups for the past 30 years, and this year is no exception. In 2014, we’ll continue focusing on ways to facilitate waste reduction and on new and inventive ways to get even more people involved. One of the keys to our success over the years has been our deep collaboration with community partners. On April 26, for example, we hosted a Hard 2 Recycle event at the City Market that brought together six community organizations to recycle things like Styrofoam, small electronics, batteries and other items that typically end up in the landfill. The next day, we planted 60 shade and edible trees and shrubs in honor of Arbor Day at the historic Reid Center on Livingston Street. This wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of the city of Asheville, the Asheville Housing Authority and Green Opportunities.

Over the next eight months, we’ll be collaborating with several other environmental nonprofits to administer a Citizens Water Quality Program. This ongoing effort, made possible by a grant from the Pigeon River Fund, will enable us to engage four local public housing developments in implementing recycling and monitoring the waterways in their neighborhoods. This exciting partnership with Green Opportunities, the Housing Authority, the Environmental Quality Institute and Clean Water for NC will provide up to 10 youth internship opportunities for public housing residents to learn two different water quality-monitoring techniques and develop and engage their communities through recycling education.

We strongly believe that it’s the collaborative nature of our work that has allowed us to facilitate so many community projects and events, and we look forward to the future partners we will have and the projects we’ll create together.


The Hope Chest for Women


Mission: Provide limited financial assistance for Western North Carolina women diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer who are experiencing economic difficulties due to treatment cost.

Often, the barriers to continuing treatment are incidental costs not covered by insurance. Many cancer patients can’t afford such basics as first-aid supplies for wound care, lymphedema garments, food, overnight accommodations and transportation expenses.

Collaboration has been the key to success for the past 14 years at The Hope Chest for Women. Patients are referred to us by hospitals, oncology groups, primary care doctors, OB-GYNs and health departments in 16 counties across WNC. We also collaborate with groups such as the American Cancer Society, oncology nurse navigators and oncology social workers to provide referrals and resources for patients and caregivers.

The Hope Chest for Women began in 2001 began as a collaborative effort by oncology staff at Hope Women’s Cancer Center. We now operate independently of the treatment facility, relying heavily on donations and contributions to fund our community assistance programs for applicants with demonstrated economic need. Many community events hosted by others help fund our organization.


Girls on the Run

girlsontherunwncMission: Creatively integrate running in a fun, experienced-based curriculum that inspires third- through eighth-grade girls to be joyful, healthy and confident.

One girl put it this way: “At Girls on the Run, I learned to be the boss of my own brain.” We couldn’t say it any better.

Our program is totally dependent on collaboration with local schools and community centers. This year alone, we partnered with 54 program sites across 11 WNC counties to provide our 12-week/24-lesson curriculum to nearly 1,200 girls. Besides providing space for biweekly lessons, our partners also provide volunteers who serve as site liaisons and coaches. It’s only through these partnerships that we’re able to empower a generation of girls in our community to fulfill their unlimited potential.


T.H.E. Center for Disordered Eating

THE Center for Disordered Eating

Mission: Mobilize support and resources for individuals and families affected by disordered eating.

We accomplish this by providing free support groups for teens and adults in recovery and their families; helping local schools deliver prevention programs; educating the community about eating disorders through a lending library, community outreach, annual conference and awareness walk; and mobilizing a network of medical and behavioral health care professionals to increase the availability of treatment resources.

Based in Asheville, we rely heavily on community partners to achieve our outreach results: workshops and events with UNC Asheville, A-B Tech, Girls on the Run, the NC School Community Conference, the NC School Resource Fair, the YWCA, Happy Body and the Asheville Yoga Center. We partner with schools, universities and churches to reduce stigma and increase understanding of eating disorders through film screenings, panel discussions and online campaigns. We also collaborated with the YWCA’s after-school program on a Healthy Bodies curriculum aimed at reducing risk factors for unhealthy and disordered eating.

On May 16-17, T.H.E. Center will host the seventh national HEAL (Healthy Eating and Living) Conference at the Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park, in partnership with the Eating Recovery Center, a renowned treatment facility. This year’s theme is treating eating disorders in children and adolescents. For more information, visit our website.


Southern Highland Craft Guild

Southern Highland Craft Guild- MorrillPenlandSpring_web

Mission: Bring together the crafts and craftspeople of the Southern Highlands for the benefit of shared resources, education, marketing and conservation.

We’re an educational nonprofit organization founded in 1930 to create a network and a market for mountain craftspeople. Today, the guild represents over 900 artisans selected by a jury for the high quality of design and craftsmanship in their work. Members live in a nine-state region from Maryland to Alabama. It’s a member-run organization governed by a board of trustees supported by a small staff. The cornerstone of our work is collaboration between artists.

Guild staff and members work together through retail markets, exhibits and educational programming. We operate six craft shops and the semiannual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands. Through craft demonstrations, members educate visitors daily and during special events at our headquarters in the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville. We collaborate with local school groups to provide affordable, hands-on field trips for students of all ages.

Through cooperation with the guild, many local groups, such as the Carolina Mountain Woodturners and the Asheville Quilt Guild, use the Folk Art Center for meetings and programs.


We’ve also partnered with many public and private organizations, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, the National Park Service and the Windgate Charitable Foundation, in fulfilling our mission.


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About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

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