Header

Archive for Local News

Fireworks Fundraiser in Downtown Sylva Saturday Evening

96.5 Band House Band will play on Saturday night.

96.5 Band House Band will play on Saturday night.

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is planning an evening of music at Sylva’s Bridge Park Nov. 1 to benefit the return of fireworks to Sylva on July 4, 2015.

The Fall Fireworks Fundraiser will be held at the Bridge Park in Sylva from 5 to 9 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 1 and feature food and drinks and performances by two of the region’s hottest bands; Soldier’s Heart and the 96.5 House Band.
The 96.5 House Band will perform from 7-8:45 p.m. They will bring the sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis, KC and the Sunshine Band, Van Morrison, Elvis, The Eagles, Hall & Oates, Wilson Pickett, Dion, Queen, The Beatles, Otis Redding and lots more.
The 96.5 House Band has been entertaining audiences around Western North Carolina since November of 2002. The band has earned a reputation for its upbeat live shows.

The 96.5 House Band has performed multiple times throughout the Asheville area and with legendary bands such as the Beach Boys, The Temptations, Gary Puckett, The Drifters, The Rascals and many more. All have praised the band’s performance and ability to work the crowd when it opened up for these acts. The Beach Boys even asked if they’d open the next few shows for them.
The 96.5 House Band is:
Chris Hoffman – Lead vocals.
Phil Smith – Saxophone, acoustic guitar.
Frank Verhaeghe – Lead guitar.
Pat Ryan – Bass guitar, backing vocals.
Steve Stewart – Drums.

The band Soldier’s Heart will bring its Americana music from the front porch to Sylva’s Bridge Park from 5-6:45 p.m., as well.
Formed In the spring of 2012 and founded on the principle of front porch music Soldier’s Heart began to woodshed ideas into songs. The band has honed a new sound that can only and aptly be described as “Porch and Soul.”
Soldier’s Heart is a Southern Appalachian Folk/Roots band. This six-piece seamlessly blends traditional mountain instrumentation with contemporary songwriting to accomplish the goal of “Bringing the front porch to the people.” With influences from the late Doc Watson to Dylan and The Band, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy!
Soldier’s Heart is:
Caleb Burress: vocals, acoustic guitar
Joey Fortner: vocals, banjo
Jeff Mendenhall: fiddle
Rick Shore: drums
Zack Edwards: bass
Chris McElrath: electric guitar

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is requesting at least a $5 donation for admission to the Nov. 1 concert, with proceeds to help support financing fireworks in Sylva next summer. There will be food and drinks available for purchase by local vendors. Fans should bring a chair or blanket.

“We’re excited to not only bring these two amazing bands to Sylva for a fun night of music, but we’re also extremely pleased to be working diligently on bringing fireworks back to the downtown Sylva area next summer,” said Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spiro. “The community’s support of this event and others this winter will help finance a July 4 fireworks festivity downtown that everyone will be proud of for years to come.”
Citizens and businesses can make donations for fireworks anytime at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. Volunteer, vendor and sponsorship opportunities are also available.
For more information, call 828-586-2155 or visit www.mountainlovers.com

Local Gospel Singer Passes Away

norman-wilson-passes-awayNorman Wilson of The Primitive Quartet passed away Wednesday after suffering an apparent massive heart attack while hunting with friends in Graham County. Wilson played mandolin and sang tenor for the band since 1973.

The Primitive Quartet began when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches, calling themselves the Riddle-Wilson Quartet.

The Riddle and Wilson brothers went on the road as full-time musicians in 1978. Now called the Primitive Quartet, in honor of the old-time gospel singing that inspired them.

They have recorded several albums and have toured throughout the United States and abroad. The group was the subject of a BBC documentary in 1984, and Singing News has listed them among the top five nominees for its readers’ Band of the Year award for several years consecutively. All but one of “the Primitives” live in Candler.

You’ve ‘Goat’ to be Kidding: Eradicating NC Kudzu

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

Goats are known for their insatiable appetite and love of climbing, which makes them the perfect candidates for the job of cleaning up kudzu in North Carolina. Land trusts are using goats to clean up land that’s been overtaken by the invasive plant on several conservation properties.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy in Tryon is wrapping up a project using goats, explains stewardship director Pam Torlina, “I have been really amazed. What’s great about the goats going in, they can get into some really steep areas, where if you were to take machinery or something like that in, it could really start depleting the soil.”

Torlina says the goats visit twice a year, and it normally takes three years for them to make the land kudzu-free. Kudzu was brought to the US from Japan in the late 1800s, but prevents vegetation from growing and spreads quickly. Other kudzu eradication projects using goats are taking place in Roan Mountain and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Ron Searcy and his wife own Wells Farm in Transylvania County, and for the last eight years they’ve rented out their goats to places like the Pacolet Area Conservancy. He says it’s turned into a booming business, and they rent about 300 goats every year to locations in five states, “It’s just perfect browse-land for them. Goats like things that are up high anyway, so kudzu being vines and up in trees, and off the ground a good ways, it’s just desirable for goats.”

Torlina says goats have benefits for the land and community that machinery can’t provide.”They’re really low-impact, they add fertilizer as well, and they’re quiet. And in public places, people just love coming to see them and see the impact that they have on the land in a positive way, as far as getting rid of kudzu.”

By eliminating the kudzu, Torlina says land trusts encourage survival of native plants and animals that are otherwise being pushed out by the invasive plant. She adds it’s part of the long-term commitment to take care of land-trust acreage.

Keeping the Trick Out of Halloween Treats for Food Allergy Sufferers

gr-42236-1-1A bag of Halloween candy isn’t all treats for the one in thirteen U-S kids who suffer from food allergies, which is why one group is working to make this year’s holiday a little less tricky.

Angela Fuller founded Food Allergy Families of the Triad after her child was born with food allergies. She says she really appreciates people who distribute inexpensive items that aren’t going to exclude her child as they trick-or-treat, “Whenever people do offer food-free treats like little spider rings or bouncy balls, those are the things that our kids can enjoy and they get just as much enjoyment out of those things as kids do out of a Snickers bar.”

This year Fuller and other families will be looking for houses with a special pumpkin. The group Food Allergy Research and Education is encouraging houses who participate to paint a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and put it on the porch or doorstep, along with a sign indicating the house is allergy-safe. A free printable sign and more information is online at FoodAllergy.org.

Veronica LaFemina with the group “Food Allergy Research and Education” adds that food allergies can leave many children feeling left out, and she hopes the Teal Pumpkin Project will help create a more inclusive holiday, “It’s empowering for families managing food allergies to know that their neighbors and communities really want to make sure that their children are feeling involved and safe, and able to participate in the same way their friends can.”

Fuller says with candy being such a traditional part of Halloween, her group and others are working hard to realize there are other options that can be found at a comparable cost, “It’s really just getting our generation and previous generations to get on board and recognize that it wasn’t like this when we were kids but this is where we are now. ”

Because of cross-contamination risks for allergy sufferers and other safety concerns for all kids, experts remind parents to carefully inspect Halloween treats, and to set a “No Eating While Trick-or-Treating” policy.

Serena Author to Appear At WCU for reading; book signing

Western Carolina University’s Office of First Year Experience will host “An Evening with Ron Rash” on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in the Coulter Building recital hall at 7 p.m.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, will read from his novel “Serena,” answer questions about the book and sign copies at the event, which is free and open to the public. Serena has now been made into a motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper which has a February 2015 release date in the US.

Deadline to Register to Vote is Today

Friday is the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina, in order to vote in the November midterm. Late Wednesday the U-S Supreme Court stayed an appeals court order that restored same-day registration and reinstated out-of-precinct provisional voting.

That means voters must register by today in their current home precinct in order to be sure their vote will count – explains Allison Riggs with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “The deadline to register to vote is October 10th. They can go to their local county board of elections and register in person or they can mail in their registration application.”

If submitting my mail, your application only needs to be postmarked with today’s date. The new voting provisions that came as a result of North Carolina’s new voting laws were challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The case will now be heard in summer 2015 by a federal judge in North Carolina, but it will not be in time for this year’s midterm election. Supporters of the state’s new voting law argue that some portions of the law could prevent voter fraud.

According to the State Board of Elections, more than 21,000 North Carolina voters used same-day registration in the last midterm election. Riggs and others are concerned about the number of people who may have difficulty voting in this election, and hopes the new law makes citizens all the more determined to make their vote count, “It’s complicated because the Legislature acted to keep people from voting and the response to that should be anger and participation, not apathy.”

Riggs says depending on how it impacts turnout, the court’s action could have an impact on the outcome of next month’s election, and even the majority of the U-S Senate. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has a 2-point lead over her Republican challenger Thom Tillis, according to a recent USA Today poll.

Energy Funds are Available to WNC Schools

WNC Communities is launching a program to fund lighting efficiency projects for public schools in Western North Carolina.

The General Assembly allocated $500,000 of TVA settlement funds in the 2014-15 state budget for WNC Communities to undertake this program.
An implementation program is being developed to ensure maximum use of funds in the most effective way, while seeking matching and/or reimbursement funds that may be available as additional assistance. An advisory committee of school representatives, energy experts and others will be named to assist WNC Communities in the implementation of a fair and equitable distribution process.

WNC communities was selected to serve the state in this collaborative effort as the organization is currently serving in similar successful programs with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the distribution of TVA settlement funds. The organization also has a rich history of serving Western North Carolina in carrying out numerous community service programs over a 65-year period.
For additional information, contact WNC Communities at 252-4783.

US Forest Service Next Round of Plan Revision Meetings Announced

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina today unveiled the schedule for the next round of meetings held as part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan revision. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Each of the six meetings will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Every meeting will have the same agenda and present the same information, and provide opportunity for public review and comment.

During each meeting, Forest Service employees will share information about the proposed Forest Plan, including potential management areas and desired conditions. The meeting will open with a presentation on significant issues, management areas, and the development of plan components. The Forest Service planning team will share some proposed desired condition statements and information about watersheds and recreation settings during an open poster session.

New Data Shows Staggering Rates of Poverty in North Carolina

Poverty remained high in North Carolina last year, according to new Census Bureau data released last week. The new data highlight that many people have not benefited from the state’s weak economic recovery and that North Carolina must do more to help struggling people afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care, and transportation.

One in five North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2013, which translates to an income of less than $24,000 per year for a family of four. The median annual income in North Carolina adjusted for inflation did not rise between 2012 and 2013 and is lower now compared to 2009 when the economic recovery from the Great Recession officially began. Yet other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gaps between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened. (As an important an aside, it should also be pointed out that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians whose incomes place them above the official poverty line still do not, as a practical matter, bring home a “living income.”)

Many feel Lawmakers have also dismantled services that help people get back on their feet when they are struggling, including unemployment benefits, job training programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit that makes work pay and helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

The new Census data show that progress towards eliminating poverty in the state is stuck: North Carolina’s poverty rate is 2.1 percentage points higher than the U.S. poverty rate, and is the 11th highest rate in the nation. The state’s poverty rate (17.9 percent) and median income ($45,906) remained statistically unchanged, meaning there has been no progress in fighting poverty or raising middle class living standards for the average North Carolinian since 2009.

Governor, Congressman address UNC Board of Governors at Western Carolina University

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ three-day visit on the Western Carolina University campus came to a close Friday (Sept. 12) as the board held its regular monthly meeting and heard remarks from District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, joined UNC President Tom Ross and numerous chancellors from WCU’s sister institutions for the gathering in Cullowhee that included board committee meetings on Thursday (Sept. 11) and the meeting of the full board Friday at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Congressman Meadows, a resident of the Glenville community in Jackson County, noted in his comments to the Board of Governors that the ambassadors he meets with from around the world are often familiar with the state’s university system.

“North Carolina is known for a lot of things – a lot of great things,” he said. “The one thing that continues to come back when I mention that I’m from North Carolina is our university system. It is something we must protect. It is an asset that we must continue to tout. It transcends everything else.”

McCrory spoke to the Board of Governors about a wide range of issues involving the state budget and the North Carolina economy. He also expressed concern about an issue he said has not been addressed adequately by North Carolina leaders – the long-term maintenance costs of state-owned buildings.

In one of the meeting’s lighter moments, McCrory announced that he is an alumnus of Catawba College, the WCU football team’s opponent for its Saturday (Sept. 13) game. McCrory provided the coin toss during the gridiron matchup at WCU’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium. He thanked WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher for providing a warm welcome to campus and said, despite the fact that he graduated from Catawba College, “I wore my purple tie just for you.”

Ross delivered his report concerning the UNC system to the Board of Governors during the meeting, and he also expressed appreciation to Belcher and his staff for their work in preparing for the board’s visit. The Board of Governors scheduled its meeting on the WCU campus in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution.
“We could not have been treated better this week, during this 125th-year celebration of Western Carolina, and we thank all of you for your warm welcome and hospitality,” he said.

During his presentation, Ross introduced WCU engineering technology major Ben Strawn, who spoke about his experiences as an intern this summer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The WCU senior from Peachland said the primary project he worked on during his internship, an electronic explosive initiator, is expected to be produced by the Army and used in the field.

In his comments, John Fennebresque, chairman of the Board of Governors, joined Ross in thanking the WCU community for its hospitality.

“I have noticed for the past three days – there is something about this place,” Fennebresque said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face. It’s unbelievable. So if there’s special water or something like that, I want some.”

Belcher’s time before the Board of Governors included the screening of a video produced by Joseph Hader, a WCU alumnus and member of the staff of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. The video focuses on WCU’s service to Western North Carolina.

“It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege for us at Western Carolina University to host the Board of Governors, President Ross, staff of UNC General Administration and chancellors and staff from our sister institutions across North Carolina,” Belcher said. “I hope during your brief visit here you caught a glimpse of who we are and why this little slice of paradise we call Cullowhee is so special.

“We love Western Carolina University, and I think it shows,” Belcher said. “For 125 years, WCU has been in the business of changing lives. I assure you, the best is yet to come.”

Two Convicted In Black Bear Poaching

A federal jury sitting in Asheville convicted on Monday, Sept. 8, Jerry Francis Parker, 63 and Walter Henry Stancil, 66, both of Rabun County, Ga., for their involvement in illegal bear hunting activities and related offenses, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The defendants are subject to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, the loss of their hunting licenses for five years, and a period of banishment from the national forests.

According to evidence presented at trial and documents filed with the court, the defendants engaged in a number of illegal hunting activities in 2011, including using chocolate candy as bait at a site that one of the defendants described as “probably the most active bait site in the United States.”

The defendants were convicted of violating the Lacey Act, which criminalizes the interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state or federal hunting laws.

American black bears are a species of special concern warranting federal and state protection. The hunting of American black bears is illegal at any time within the National Parks. Hunting on Forest Service land is only permitted during open season and in compliance with federal and state law. The U.S. Attorney is committed to the protection of natural resources from illegal hunting activities, including baiting, spot-lighting and exceeding hunting limits.

The investigation was conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

Tunnel Repair Begins on Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced upcoming tunnel repair work inside the Morton Mountain Tunnel from September 2 through September 27. A full-time, single-lane closure will be in effect throughout the duration of the project. The tunnel is located 12 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road.

 A leak in the tunnel ceiling and walls caused significant damage on the north end of the tunnel. Last winter, the leak formed very large icicles and an ice mound on the road surface causing roadway hazards for drivers that had to be cleared before the road could be opened for safe travel. During the repair, the tunnel will have one lane closed to allow workers to cut channels for the installation of drainage pipes in the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. Debris curtains will be set up to shield vehicles from construction activities in the closed lane.

 Visitors should expect delays through the 0.25-mile, single-lane closure area. Bluegrass Contracting Corporation of Lexington, KY was awarded the contract and will maintain traffic flow through the area using a temporary traffic signal. On weekends, flaggers will direct traffic through the area from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Local Hospitals Earn Top Awards for Patient Satisfaction

WestCare Emergency Medical Services and Swain County Hospital Emergency Department were recently awarded for excellence in patient satisfaction in the U.S. by Professional Research Consultants, a national healthcare research firm and leader in gauging healthcare consumer perceptions.

PRC annually recognizes healthcare facilities, providers, outpatient service lines, and inpatient units scoring in the top percentages of their national client database for the prior calendar year through the National Excellence in Healthcare Awards.

WestCare EMS received the 5-Star Award, scoring in the top 10 percent of the national database.

Swain County Hospital Emergency Department received the 4-Star Award, scoring in the top 25% of the national database.

The awards are based on the percentage of patients who rated the units “excellent” for the overall quality of care question.

WestCare EMS staffs three ambulances daily, responding to over 400 calls a month, in addition to providing support for the Jackson County First Responder program as well as educational and outreach programs for a variety of local institutions. The unit is also a North Carolina Office of EMS accredited teaching institution and an approved teaching site for many of the National Association of EMT’s courses.

The Swain County Hospital Emergency Department has provided emergency medical care to residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities for many years, offering the full spectrum of emergency care. The department is staffed with physicians with special training in emergency medicine, as well as an outstanding nursing staff with many years of clinical experience.

Sylva Streets To Reopen Wednesday

Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sylva Streets would be open again on Wednesday following an inspection by a structural engineer who certified the walls from the fire gutted Hooper Building on Main Street were structurally sound. One lane of Mill Street and one lane of Main Street will be opened with the inside lane still being coned off for the immediate future. It was also found the walls of the adjoining buildings were also safe. Tenants were permitted into their buildings on Tuesday to remove property and inventory and commence the salvage process from items which suffered water damage. The work of the structural engineer will give credence to the desire to save the historical image of downtown Sylva and commence the renovation to the Hooper property. As mentioned several times during the “live” coverage of the fire by WRGC Radio News Reporter Roy Burnette, the fire departments were constantly watering down the walls of the building in order to keep the walls cooled as much as possible. Obviously their efforts were successful in saving the building and keeping the fire from spreading to timbers which might have been secured to the rock and block structures. The fire departments deserve even another accolade for their work.

Agricultural Development and Farm Land Preservation Grants Awarded for 2014

The North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded nearly $2.3 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. These grant recipients were applicants from the trust fund’s Cycle VII request for proposals. Funding resources included statewide general appropriations, Tennessee Valley Authority settlement funds and, for the first time, military funds.

The trust fund collaborated with the military to support agriculture and agribusiness in areas of the state where military bases and training are located. TVA settlement funds were distributed to a 17-county region in Western North Carolina.

Franklin:

The Black Family Land Trust was awarded $143,475 toward the purchase of a 20-year conservation easement on 436 acres of a livestock and horticulture farm owned by Martha Mobley of Louisburg.

Haywood:

The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $362,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and crop farm owned by Andrew and Jamie Francis of Canton.

The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District received $87,500 toward the purchase of a 30-year conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Austin and Kathy Swanger of Clyde.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council was awarded $188,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 80 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Charles and Janice Henson of Canton.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy was granted $135,780 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 175 acres of a livestock, crop and forestry farm owned by Robbie Kirkpatrick

Swain:

The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $10,200 to stimulate profitable and sustainable farms through a series of educational workshops, market studies and marketing efforts.k of Candler.

Jackson County was granted $10,000 to assess whether a viable business model can be developed for a profitable red-meat slaughter and processing facility in Western North Carolina. This project will impact the TVA region.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council received $25,000 to develop a Smoky Mountain Agriculture Economic Strategy focusing on the needs and opportunities for farmers in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $16,000 for the creation of a mobile soils exhibit that will serve as an interactive education display in order for the public to better make connections between the conditions of soils and water on quality of life. This project will impact the TVA region.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville Foundation was granted $7,000 to demonstrate the innovate use of perennial food crops on marginal land to increase small farm profitability. The program will serve Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties.

WNC Communities received $25,000 to establish a system to deliver brewers grain as an alternative and cost-saving feed source to family farmers with smaller livestock herds. This project will impact the TVA region.

WNC Communities was awarded $32,500 to fund enhancements and safety upgrades to the WNC Regional Livestock Center in Haywood County. The trust fund was a partner in the construction of the center. This project will impact the TVA region.

 

Smoky Mountain Military Stand Down Reaches Out to Local Veterans

homelessveteranIf you know a Veteran who is struggling with homeless or perhaps just making ends meet, look no further. The Smoky Mountain Veteran Stand Down will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Macon County Community Facility Building, located at 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin.

This event is made possible by  efforts of over 50 donors, sponsors and agencies to provide one day of care and services to veterans who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and low-income veterans who are unable to afford basic care.

Services for veterans will include haircuts, military surplus gear, dental work, optometry, veterans benefit administration, local education services, legal services, housing support, medical and mental health services, veterans service officers and supportive services for veteran families. A hot breakfast and lunch will be served to veterans and their families.

Free transportation is available at the following locations:

— For Haywood County: 7 a.m. at the Open Door Soup Kitchen, located at 32 Commerce St., Waynesville. Call 452-3846.

— For Jackson County: 7:30 a.m. at the Jackson County Justice Center, located at 401 Grindstaff Road, Sylva. Call 586-4055.

— For Swain County: 7:45 a.m. at the State of Franklin, located at 125 Brendle St., Bryson City. Call 488-3047.

For more information, call Mark Schuler at 456-6061 or Mike Casey at 837-7407.

Bullying: Protecting your child on the “Information Superhighway”

gr-41126-1-1Bullying is no longer a behavior that happens mostly on the playground or the school bus. Social media is providing online channels for negative interactions between children, with more than half of teens reporting they have witnessed online bullying.

Experts like Peggy Caruso, a life coach and author of the book “Revolutionize Your Child’s Life,” says the best way an adult can help their child is to be aware of the potential sources of bullying. “To understand and prevent negative influences, I think the biggest thing is understanding the types of bullying, the signs that you look for.”

She says those signs include a child who seems withdrawn, lacks the desire to interact with others, or exhibits extreme changes in behavior. North Carolina law prohibits bullying, and specifically prohibits the use of technology to inflict psychological distress.

In addition to increased technology providing other outlets for bullies, Caruso says it has also decreased typical communication between children, like talking and problem-solving face to face. “One of the issues with technology and social media and whatnot, is the loss of communication. So, I also teach them how to mastermind together, brainstorm with other children, and just try to bring back some things that are lost.”

To deter negative online interactions, she says advise your child to resist the temptation to respond to the bully, don’t retaliate, save any evidence and use online privacy tools and settings to block the bully.

Endowment Attracts Medical Students in Underserved Areas

The effort to attract medical students to pursue careers in underserved rural areas of Western North Carolina is getting a boost with a $3 million endowment to help pay for scholarships.

The donation from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust will support a collaboration established last year by the UNC School of Medicine and the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

While 45 percent of North Carolina residents live in rural counties, just 18 percent of primary care doctors have primary practices in rural communities, according to the NC Medical Journal. That disparity is expected to grow worse as the population ages.

This summer, five students in the program are being mentored by physicians in Linville, Burnsville, Cherokee, Bryson City and Robbinsville. The scholarships support the second, third and fourth years of medical school and reduce student debt by $30,000 each.

“Stamp” of Poverty Falls Hard on NC’s Rural Communities

food-stamp Oftentimes, the issue of hunger is associated with people in inner cities, where the cost of living tends to be high, but a new study shows some of the greatest need can be found where America’s food supply is grown and raised.

Jon Bailey with the Center for Rural Affairs authored the report, which examines the use of food stamps, now called ‘SNAP’ benefits, from 2008 to 2012. “And what we found is that, during that time period, more households in rural areas received SNAP benefits than did households in more urban – both metropolitan and small-city – areas.”

In that five-year period, the report says more than 14 percent of rural households received SNAP benefits, compared to slightly under 11 percent of urban households. USDA says almost one-point-seven million North Carolinians receive SNAP benefits.

Another key finding, says Bailey, is that rural areas and small cities have higher percentages of households with seniors and children receiving food support than in larger urban areas.  “SNAP is providing a way for those people and those households to meet their food needs, which is important, because those two population groups are probably most at risk of hunger and food insecurity.”

In rural areas, one in nine households has a SNAP recipient who is either under age 18, or an adult 60 years of age or older. In North Carolina, the average SNAP benefit per household is just over 250-dollars a month.

Fires in Western NC

It seems inevitable that every summer wildires are making headlines. Wildfires are sometimes called “wildland fires.” Wildfires can originate from a dropped match, cigarette embers, campfires, exhaust sparks from a train, or arson. Many wildland fires are ignited by lightning, according to the US Forest Service NC sees about 2 or so lightening fires a year in the region.

Benji Reece with the US Forest Service says so far there have been 24 fires in our region destroying over 100 acres of property.

Wind, temperature, and humidity all influence wildfires. Strong winds push flames toward new fuel sources. Wind can pick up and transfer burning embers and sparks, starting “spot fires.”

During the day, sunlight heats the ground and warm air rises, allowing hot air currents to travel up sloped landscapes. At night, the ground cools and air currents travel down the slopes.

Large fires can create their own winds and weather, increasing their flow of oxygen.

A really large fire can generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 mph. The high temperatures preheat fuels in the fire’s path, preparing them to burn more readily.

Fires can be expensive. Reece estimates the suppression cost on the 24 fires in our region are about $11,000 or $463 per acre. This cost is actually down from previous years.

Several firefighters from WNC including Reece will be mobilized to assist with wildfires in the Pacific Northwest this week.