YWCA acknowledges financial woes, closes pool 

BREAKING BARRIERS: The YWCA's pool was the site of the first racially integrated swimming classes in Asheville. Photo courtesy of the YWCA

The Asheville chapter of the YWCA, which provides programs and services that aim to eliminate racism, empower women, nurture children and promote health, announced in a June 17 press release that it was facing a $650,000 deficit as it begins its next fiscal year and that it needed to make “difficult decisions to ensure the long-term sustainability of our programs and services.” 

The release cited the lingering economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, shifts in funding priorities and the need for facility repairs as reasons for the shortfall. “We have reassessed our financial strategies, continue to explore alternative funding sources and optimize our operations. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission and the community we serve, and we are asking for your support to help us overcome these obstacles,” the press release said. 

The YWCA has been a culturally significant part of Asheville history and the city’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1956, two years after Brown v. Board of Education, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt agreed to speak in Western North Carolina — but only if she could address a racially mixed audience. The venue for Roosevelt’s talk was the Asheville YWCA. In 1968, the Asheville branch became the first officially integrated YWCA in the south. The organization’s pool also was the site of the first racially integrated swimming classes in Asheville

As part of the announcement last month, the YWCA said it would temporarily close the organization’s nearly 50-year-old pool for maintenance and repairs. 

“The YWCA pool has been a pillar of our community, providing vital swimming education and recreational opportunities to all, regardless of financial or physical barriers,” Diana Sierra, CEO of the YWCA of Asheville, said in the release. “We understand the significant impact this closure will have, and we are committed to reopening a stronger facility. This temporary pause is necessary to make critical repairs and secure the future of our aquatics program.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit avl.mx/dvg

Teacher’s pet 

The Henderson County-based Blue Ridge Humane Society is waiving pet adoption fees for first responders and education professionals. Fees are also waived for veterans and those participating in the organization’s seniors for seniors program. First responders are defined as firefighters, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, utility workers and public health professionals. Education professionals include teachers and administrators who are working in both public and private schools. Proof of employment or a volunteer card is needed to receive the discount. More information is at avl.mx/dvc

Mills River hires new town manager

Following a nationwide search, the Mills River Town Council has selected Matthew McKirahan to be the next town manager. McKirahan earned a master’s of public administration from UNC Chapel Hill and most recently worked as the organizational performance director for the Village of Pinehurst. He also has extensive experience in communications and marketing from his time working at the UNC School of Government. McKirahan will begin work Monday, July 29. 

Tools for Schools event Aug. 6

Asheville-based nonprofit Eblen Charities, in partnership with Ingles Markets, will hold its 16th annual Tools for Schools Drive on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The event, at Ingles Markets at 151 Smokey Park Highway from 6 a.m.-7 p.m., aims to collect new and used backpacks, binders, rulers, safety scissors, glue sticks and other school supplies. All funds and donated school supplies will be given away to support students, teachers and schools in the Asheville City and Buncombe County school systems for the 2024-25 school year. Eblen Charities will distribute the school supplies on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 23 Hamilton St., Asheville, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. More information is at avl.mx/dve

Fenton Lebeck to lead housing organization

Hendersonville-based affordable housing nonprofit Housing Assistance Corp. announced Margaret Fenton Lebeck as the organization’s executive director, effective July 1. Fenton Lebeck has more than 10 years of professional experience in the nonprofit/nongovernment organization sector, including working as the executive director for Love Light + Melody and manager and chief of staff for the global ministries of the United Methodist Church. 

Asheville Design District celebrates 2 years

The Asheville Design District will celebrate its second anniversary Saturday, July 20. The event will take place at 121 Sweeten Creek Road, Asheville, and include a variety of food trucks, live music and a market hosted by Marchè and Atelier Maison & Co. that will feature numerous vendors showcasing unique products. The event kicks off at 11 a.m. with an outdoor yoga practice hosted by Yoga Nut. The event is free and open to the public. Pets are welcome. More information is at avl.mx/dvd.

Cultivate Climbing opens new gym

Cultivate Climbing is holding an event Thursday, July 11, to unveil a new bouldering-focused gym in Asheville’s Foundy Street development. This event, which begins at 6 p.m. at 173 Amboy Road, will reveal the opening night for the 13,000-square-foot facility, which will feature 15-foot bouldering walls built by Walltopia, a fitness and weight room, a cafe and gear shop. Murals and street art from the former skatepark have been preserved to illustrate the area’s cultural heritage. 

Attendees can participate in a Q&A with founders and team members and get a look at the new space through a virtual walk-through. Cultivate also plans to make its first public announcement about its third location coming to downtown Asheville, which will feature free yoga for members, hot/cold therapy, advanced training walls and robust weight and cardio areas. 

Hendersonville awarded AARP grant

The City of Hendersonville has been selected among more than 3,300 applications for a $15,000 AARP Community Challenge grant, which funds innovative, quick-action projects in areas such as public places, housing, transportation, digital connectivity, community resilience and more. Hendersonville is one of only 343 recipients chosen for this grant.   

The city plans to use the grant to advance its 2017 bicycle plan by installing shared lane markings (sharrows) connecting key destinations, as well as five bicycle racks and two bicycle repair stations placed at various locations in the city. The project’s installation is expected to be completed by the end of this year. 

Sound of success

Quality Musical Systems held a luncheon last month to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The business makes speaker cabinets for professional stadiums, arenas, high schools, amusement parks, theaters and high-end home theaters.

Owner and founder Dan Wilson recognized past and current employees and the community. According to a press release, Wilson began building and selling his own QMS line of speakers at local flea markets. Today, the business at 204 Dogwood Road in Candler has expanded to a 40,000-square-foot warehouse.

“QMS is a small-town big deal that no one really knows about but everyone at some point has experienced our product,” says QMS representative Jennifer Messer. “We are the behind-the-scenes silent partner, but our speakers make a lot of noise throughout the world.” 

More information is at avl.mx/prya

Our VOICE seeks board members

Our VOICE, an Asheville-based organization dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking, is seeking new board members from Buncombe, McDowell and Transylvania counties. Previous board experience is not required. Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 19, with board service to begin in October.  For more information or to apply, visit avl.mx/dvh.


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