Leicester – Two communities in the Leicester area were chosen and recognized out of 64 communities involved in the 69th program put on by WNC Communities. The centers were also among 15 communities chosen because of the initiatives they implemented that show promise and can be replicated around the region.
The Leicester Community added a Community Art Night held on the first Tuesday of every month. Children and adults enjoy getting creative, making art, learning new things and socializing. Using a grant from Buncombe County, Leicester was able to make improvements to the kitchen and to purchase new items for the playground, all of which were installed by community volunteers.
In addition to the dental bus at its Health Fair this year, a mobile mammogram bus provided services to the community at reduced costs. Participants left the Health Fair with goodie bags containing essential toiletries to promote good health. As a new fundraising method this year, Leicester produced postcards depicting scenes from Leicester’s history. The postcards proved to be so popular, the first printing quickly sold out and a new batch had to be ordered.
Sandy Mush Community saw an increase of over 100 people from previous years at its annual event, The Sandy Mush Mountain Music and Square Dance. It was attended by 300 people and raised over $12,000. A new High School Equivalency program in partnership with A-B Tech hopes to provide a second chance to community members who left high school without a diploma. Community handcrafters gather once a month for an afternoon of hard work and sharing ideas.
Through a partnership with MANNA Food Bank, staff and volunteers attended the Sandy Mush August Food Pantry to share low cost recipes, healthy food ideas on a budget and provided cooking demonstrations. This year’s Spring Fling Youth Fundraiser honored local craftspeople and serves as a fundraising opportunity for the 4-H club and the Mountain Lady Farm Project. The new state-of-the-art playground has fitness activities for preschool children through adults.
In Madison County several communities won in the Engaged Communities category. They were part of 25 communities recognized for being engaged in numerous projects of benefit to their residents. The community centers were:
Center Community Center’s most successful event is the Thanksgiving Community Meal. This event brings members of the community together for food, fellowship, music and singing. Proceeds go to assisting operational costs and senior programs. They made an extra effort this year to identify the needs of their seniors, one of the largest populations in their community. They worked with local tax prep service providers, county senior and community services, Madison County government and the sheriff’s department to make sure seniors are well educated and taken care of.
The Greater Ivy Community Citizens Association at the Beech Glen Community Center continues its ongoing land acquisition. Plans are to develop the land to meet the needs of the community with an outdoor pavilion, walking trail and expanded parking. Greater Ivy held a spring flea market that raised $1,628. The center assists the elderly by serving as a meal site four days a week. The Kith & Kin program funded by Smart Start provides families with a safe place for the children to play and the parents to network.
Revere-Rice Cove’s Friday Outreach provides food to area residents. Those who can afford it are charged $5 a plate and food is given to those in need. This effort generated over $2,700 to go back into the successful program, as well as for utilities and maintenance on the center. Revere-Rice Cove held a monster bash to benefit Neighbors in Need by collecting canned goods.
They participate in Litter Sweep North Carolina to keep community roadsides clean and serve as a polling place for the Madison County Board of Elections. Madison County Cooperative Extension held a number of classes at the Revere-Rice Cove Community Center that included beekeeping, rotational grazing, cover crops and no-till planting.
Walnut Community Center Foundation continues the PAGE or Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education program, which helps ensure that promising students get a chance to go to college. They also provided over 125 Christmas gift bags and handwritten cards to the female inmates at a local prison. The community plans and sponsors free tours of historic sites in the area, such as the Folk Museum on the Mars Hill campus and the first Presbyterian hospital built in the area 100 years ago. A benefit dinner and singing for a community member recovering from colon cancer raised over $4,000 to help pay for his medical bills.
Walnut Creek held its 3rd annual Walnut Creek Fall Gathering and BBQ. This event was a huge success with food, bluegrass music, bake sale, silent auction, 50/50 raffle and lots of fun. They also held a fundraiser with nationally-known guitarist, songwriter and storyteller, Joe Penland Jr. The Walnut Creek Community Center registered with the NC Adopt-A-Highway program and maintains eight miles of main road and 15 miles of secondary roads.
Spring Creek raised $2,400 through the Spring Fling and Wellness Fair featuring a variety of health and wellness organizations such as the Blood Connection bloodmobile, Haywood Medical Center, A-B Tech’s Emergency Medical Services and the French Broad Mobile Vet. The event included a giant yard sale, live music, lunch by Dave’s 209, homemade desserts sold by community center volunteers, a 50/50 raffle cash drawing and donated door prizes.
Spring Creek’s Forever Fit Fitness Program celebrated a one-year anniversary in April and is seeing attendance grow. To show support for the educators in the area, a home-cooked lunch was prepared for staff of the Hot Springs Elementary School. Pickin’ and Grinnin’ is a monthly cultural event designed to preserve the rich musical heritage of the mountains and invites anyone who wishes to join in.