After reading about the river-walk park party in the newspaper, I thought: I am not going to go, [but] because this is Asheville, I am sure many others will join in.
It led me to remember our first year here in the area. My husband and I had just arrived on a BMW motorcycle from Waco, Texas. Riding between two snowstorm fronts [was] very, very cold, believe me. We … were coming east to help run a summer camp, Talisman, with [one of our] daughters.
We rode into camp in two feet of snow to a very filthy main building with no heat. Some mother with two children had been living there uninvited; … social services was moving them out. It was so terrible. We had to immediately begin to bleach the whole place before we could even think of spending our first night in Western North Carolina. This was February 1989.
We had some money, but not enough to begin setting the camp in order for the coming summer’s kids. [But between my daughter’s] salary and our savings, we began the camp’s rehab.
We needed help with supplies and materials to make this happen. I began looking for items we needed and the businesses that we might contact to help us. I was so hesitant about going to anyone for help. There are so many nonprofit organizations in this wonderful area. I was certain all the businesses would be so saturated with all of their requests [and] would say no, enough already. Go away!
We braved our fears of rejection to try anyway. Our first place was a paint company off the river road. The man was willing to met with us. After we described our program (work with children with Attention Deficit Disorder), he said, “Well, I think we can help.” Before any time had passed, we were loading many cans of paint into our van.
We were joyous, empowered and so happy we were not told to go away and never darken their door again. Wow! [And] we continued to have this type of reception. I could not believe it. What a generous area, full of people so willing to help and to give.
Now, 20 years later, Talisman Summer Program is going year-round at an Elks camp near Tuxedo. Camp Elliot is now Stone Mountain School for boys with learning challenges. We were acquired six years ago by a company that now has our two programs plus five other programs for children and young adults in this area.
We have made a positive difference to the educational needs of our families. We could not have had this success without the aid and support of our community. Thank you, old friends and new, for taking us into your thoughts and prayers.
My husband and I are retired now into a new life of building onto our little mountain cabin, and our daughter is CEO of a new girls boarding school, New Leaf Academy in Fletcher.
— Sue F. Miller