Blog :: 2014

Asheville - Caring for Children's Cornerstone

The best thing about CARING for Children's big house in West Asheville on Thursday evening was the people inside.

While it was true that each girl there had her own story of abuse and neglect that would make anyone's heart flinch, you wouldn't know that by siting down to a meal.

"We're just like anyone else," said resident Zena Redmond, 18. "We want the same things; we just don't always get the same things, or even get them at all."

Called Cornerstone, the house is a transitional living home for girls ages 16-21 with nowhere else to go.

Just like my sister and I used to do in the early 1990s, the girls at Cornerstone style each other's hair. They argue with their moms over the phone. They eat dinner in their pajamas. They have dreams of being models, actresses and teachers. They can't wait to finish high school and go off to college.

They take turns doing chores. They share rides to school. And, even though they won't all admit it over this particular meal of pork chops, cabbage and mashed potatoes, Redmond insists, they see each other as family.

Sometimes they love each other; other times they can't wait to get away.

Cornerstone is set up to teach teenagers in crisis independent living skills in a home setting, said Terri Bowman, development director at CARING for Children, a local nonprofit that seeks to nurture hope and create safety in the lives of children and families in crisis throughout Western North Carolina.

It offers 10 specialized programs and services for more than 1,000 children and families annually. There is an extensive foster care program, residential group homes and outpatient counseling.

Cornerstone uses a teaching-family model, with teaching parents who give guidance and model responsible behavior, Bowman said.

Residents learn about meal preparation, budgeting, goal setting, personal health care, home management, community resources and responsible work behavior.

Youth attend school, perform volunteer service and gain maturity and problem solving abilities while living in a safe, supportive home environment.

Last year Cornerstone served 17 girls; nearly 80 percent left the program to stable housing.

The job was simple: Just go and have dinner and talk about your life, Bowman said.

When I told the girls about this plan, they were quick to chime in on what kind of mentorship they wanted.

Sometimes the people that come to help are patronizing, Redmond said. Volunteers think of the house as a charity case, she said, but that's not what the girls inside are all about.

"We have felt sorry for ourselves enough," said Bailey. "I don't need anybody else to feel sorry for me. I like my life. I don't like what I've been through, but I'm strong."

"I want someone to come here because they actually want to be with us, not because they have to get volunteer hours in, or because they're a therapist. I just want to hang out. I don't want to keep telling my story."

 

CARING for Children is always looking for foster parents, volunteers or people just wanting to hangout and be a positive role model for a child in need.

The organization currently needs volunteers to purchase holiday gifts for 125 children in the nonprofit's foster care program. Secret Santa gifts must be delivered by Dec. 19 to the CARING for Children office, 50 Reddick Road, Asheville. To sign up, email HolidayProject@Caring4Children.org or call 785-1590.

More information at www.caring4children.org.

 

Read More Here

 

Here at Town and Mountain Realty, we were so happy to be able to support Caring for Children as one of the 5 amazing non-profit organizations we chose this year in our 3rd Annual Home for the Holidays FUNdraiser! (The results of how much we raised during the fundraiser and pictures coming soon!) They are such a wonderful organization and we are excited to be participating in their Secret Santa program also! They still need more volunteers, check out the Secret Santa information here: Caring for Children Secret Santa

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    Non-profits that Support the Asheville Community!

    Town and Mountain Realty believes everyone deserves a place to call home. The goal of this year's 3rd Annual Home for the Holidays FUNdraiser continues to concentrate on the homeless population in Asheville.

    We are attempting to reach those in immediate need and that fall through the cracks with government funding. Join us and share the love as we celebrate the season by supporting local non-profits that help members of our community make this dream possible. Here are some details about the non-profits that we are supporting.

     

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    Caring For Children Always an open door for a child in need.  If you drove by any of the CARING for Children, Inc. homes in Buncombe County, you wouldn't think they were different from any of the other homes on the street. You have to step inside to see what makes a CARING home such a special place for children. What you'll see are normal kids. They live in your neighborhood and go to school with your children. They have dreams and goals. They laugh and cry.  The only difference is that they've had some problems and need a comfortable,  supportive environment they can call home. That's what CARING's programs are all about. Using a variety of settings to provide help for children and families in crisis because of family conflict, abuse, neglect, behavior problems or mental health issues. Each CARING program is staffed by professionals who help children and families deal with the present, put the past behind them, and help them look to the future.

    Caring for Children Programs:

    Cornerstone is a residence for up to eight young women ages 16 to 21 who have long-term problems, are too old for adoption, or whose family situation is such that remaining or returning home is either impossible or would be  counterproductive. Trinity Place provides a safe place for runaway and homeless shelter for children ages 7 to 17.  The Shelter provides a place to find answers to the problems from which they are running and where the parent-child relationship can begin to heal. Angels Watch is a foster care program that serves children who are age 0-6 (with siblings up to age 10) who are not in the custody of the Department of Social Services and whose families are temporarily unable to care for them because of a crisis.  Children are placed in licensed Angel Care homes for up to 90 days while the family attempts to resolve the problems PERCS (Proactive Enhanced Response Crisis Services) is a three-bed Therapeutic Level II foster care program for Buncombe County children, ages 0-18, who have been removed from their homes by and in the custody of the Buncombe County Department of Social Services.

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    Homeward Bound of Asheville

    (A-HOPE Day Center)

    Homeward Bound of Asheville began in 1988 as Hospitality House, opening its doors to serve the growing homeless population through long-term emergency shelter. In 2006, Hospitality House became Homeward Bound of Asheville, and shifted its focus from managing homelessness with shelter to ending homelessness with permanent housing. Homeward Bound's mission is working with others to end the cycle of homelessness. Through demonstrated commitment to collaborating with other community agencies and partners, Homeward Bound makes a sustainable impact on homelessness in Asheville every day.

    Homeward Bound Programs:

    AHOPE day Center is often a person's first entry point to homeless services in Asheville and serves as our initial opportunity to meet clients and engage them in services.  A HOPE is the only day shelter in WNC, and in addition to providing important basic services every morning, it also hosts community partners in the afternoons, facilitating a deeper level of engagement and  better service delivery for clients.  Often called: "Front door to permanent housing" Our PATH team outreaches people who are homeless and mentally ill on the streets, in parks and campsites, and at other community agencies. Through PATH outreach, team members build relationships that allow them to connect clients with crucial mental health care services, as well as basic needs and housing supports.

    Room In The Inn is a mobile shelter serving 12 women for up to 90 days. RITI is sponsored by over 40 faith congregations who take turns hosting the women for a week, providing all of their meals, shelter, and evening activities.  RITI is staffed by a director who works with both the   congregations and the women to move them out of the program and into permanent housing.

    HOPE to HOME is Homeward Bound's newest program, begun in October, 2010 as an initiative of and in partnership with the faith community.  HOPE to HOME pairs interfaith teams of        volunteers from congregations with a person or family who's been homeless and is moving into permanent housing.  Teams commit to providing financial, material, practical, and, most importantly, relational support for one year as their partners stabilize in housing.

    Pathways to Permanent Housing is the last stop on Homeward Bound's continuum of services and is a direct implementation of the Housing First model.  In this program, case managers     facilitate permanent housing for clients and continue their work with clients once housed to  develop and enact housing stabilization plans that lead to independence and self-sufficiency.

     

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    Helpmate For over 30 years, Helpmate has served as Buncombe County's primary provider of crisis-level services designed specifically for and offered exclusively to - victims of domestic violence and their children. We believe that to serve our clients, we must model a violence-free community that is founded in respect and equality. By providing safety, shelter, counseling, and advocacy, we empower each client to create a life that is free of violence. By providing education, we empower our community to create a world that is free of violence.  We provide safe, confidential shelter to women and children who are leaving dangerous and potentially lethal living situations. No one should be assaulted by a partner or spouse.  No child should lay awake at night trembling in fear because his home is not a safe place.  We are fortunate to live in a community where men and women   recognize that domestic violence is everyone's problem, and we are proud to fulfill our mission of working with our community to eliminate abuse and fear.  Together, we can send the message that domestic violence is not acceptable. Together, we can create a model for peace on earth. Together, we can build a strong foundation of care and support, so that today's victims can stand tall as tomorrow's survivors.

    Helpmate Programs: Emergency shelter for women and children 24 hour help hotline Individual and group counseling Court advocate programs Preventative Education for professionals, community leaders, and groups considered at risk of being abused

     

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    Western Carolina Rescue Mission

     

    Western Carolina Rescue Ministries operates on a very simple, but powerful idea: to help people in need. Our work with the poor, the homeless and the addicted takes many forms and fits broadly into three initiatives: Rescue, Recovery and Restoration.

    Rescue

    A place to come when there is nowhere else to go.

    With more than 500 men, women and children experiencing homelessness in our community on any given night, Western Carolina Rescue Ministries operates Asheville's largest emergency overnight shelter. By providing food, shelter and clothing, our focus is to provide for the immediate physical needs of men, women and children at point of crisis in their life and to offer hope through the power of God's love. We are here to help anyone in true need--assisting those who can and will help themselves, showing compassion for those who cannot and refusing to enable the few who would try to abuse the generosity of others.

    Recovery - More Than Sobriety

    Receive the help necessary to build a new life free from addiction.

    Our free, 12-month residential drug and alcohol Recovery Program is an intense life training course; a place where men learn to abandon addiction and receive the resources and support necessary to build a new life. As up to 18 men progress through the 5 stages of the program, our aim is to help them to experience health and freedom beyond the substances that have controlled them for so long.

    Restoration: Poverty Alleviation

    Change situations and build a better future.

    We provide life counseling, job training and assistance with transitional services so that people have the opportunity to change their situations and build a better future. These services are designed to equip long-term homeless clients, Recovery Program participants and the working poor from the community with the tools necessary to overcome the internal and external problems that have plagued their past, corrupted their present and jeopardize their future.

     

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    Asheville Homeless Network

    Asheville Homeless Network (AHN) provides a list of  core services on a regular basis while also working to Fill in Cracks when they the system reveals its imperfections in working with homeless individuals.  AHN also works with other organizations to create programs that take care of the more generalized needs of the community within a team framework. Tents, tarps, sleeping bags, blankets, clothing and more are part of AHNs core services.  One way AHN fills in a crack is when an individual has exhausted trying to get other organizations to issue a sorely needed bus ticket or bus pass for local Asheville travel.  AHN will then use its funds to fill that crack and get that bus ticket or pass to that individual. Many organizations now refer these individuals to AHN for this specific purpose.  AHN now works harder to identify these basic needs that make a huge difference in the lives of those struggling to make progress.

    Being a 100% Volunteer organization, almost every penny goes directly to the homeless and needy.  It normally takes AHN far less $$$ to solve many of the problems currently needing to be addressed.  AHN adds the dynamic of constant direct involvement with the Homeless community to help remind everyone that  there are many features of Homelessness that go unaddressed regularly.

    Beyond the normal everyday needs being handled by AHN - AHN has bonded with other organizations to work on improving other needed services.  Ie: Free Laundry services.  Bus Tickets for emergency situations for people having to leave Asheville. Improvements in the Code Purple Program making it easier for all organizations to do a better job. Improving relations between the Homeless and the Asheville Police Department for the purpose of promoting and achieving a healthier environment for all Ashevillians while lowering the Public Relations obstacles that currently exist and that are not desired by the APD or the Homeless.

    AHN also reaches out to the smaller Faith Based organizations, the Private Sector and the Business Sectors  that have not yet realized their value and worth to the Homeless and Needy, or realized the pitfalls that might cause anyone of them to all of a sudden need the services being offered today to anyone in need for any reason.

    Constantly working to Educate, Educate, Educate, while continuing to help upgrade services provided is the the Goal of AHN.  AHN colaborates with all organizations who have the vision that it takes a family of organizations colaborating together to do the most effective job.  And most importantly, it takes working with the Faith Based Organizations who Provide their own Funding, Volunteer Programs and do it with no expectations other then to know they have done right by those they are helping.

    All the money in the world can not solve the problems of the Homeless or the Rich or Middle class when there is NO LOVE being offered up at the same time. Everyone would like to be Loved properly. Never forget that. Love comes in 1,000s of forms. The more we practice Loving our neighbor whether rich or poor or challenged, the closer we get to ending the real problems that cause Homelessness.

    AHN is very proud of the many Faith Based organizations that have poured out their money, their time and their loving attitudes in the service of the homeless in Asheville. AHN is happy to its part while also working with others on the more aggressive and doable goals.

     

    These amazing organizations help people in our community everyday!

    If you would like to help these organizations, please join us for our 3rd Annual Home for the Holidays FUNdraiser where we will be supporting these 5 local non-profit organizations.

    Town and Mountain Realty will be hosting this family event at the Orange Peel on December 5th from 5pm - 11pm.

    Your donation is your admission and Town and Mountain Realty will be matching all donations up to $10,000!

    If you cannot make it to our FUNdraiser & still want to help,

    you can DONATE ONLINE HERE to help us reach our goal!

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    This Tiny House Village Was Built for and by the Homeless

    They may look modest, but now they're homes to people in need.

    By Diana Bruk

    From: www.goodhousekeeping.com

    Homelessness is a serious issue all around the world, but one group in Madison, Wisconsin, chose to find a new solution -- one that helps the community and empowers those in need to help themselves. This weekend saw the debut of Tiny House Village, a special neighborhood on East Johnson Street that's made up entirely of tiny houses for the city's homeless. The project was devised three years ago by Occupy Madison, and brought to life by a coalition of members and homeless individuals.

    Occupy Madison member Luca Clemente told Al Jazeera that the inspiration for the project came from the realization within their group that there was a fundamental gap not only between the 99% and the 1%, but also between the homeless and those from median-income backgrounds.

    "We had heard about these tiny houses in the media, but mostly in the context of middle class Americans downsizing their lifestyle," Clemente told Al Jazeera. "We saw that it would be possible to do the same thing for the homeless."

    Since the project was financially autonomous and materially self-sufficient, organizers hope that their achievement will inspire similar endeavors across the U.S.

    For now, four people will be moving into the three homes that are currently complete. The project's next goals are to build six more homes, another bathroom, a community room, a garden, a tree orchard, and a coop full of chickens.

    But the project has some more philosophical future aspirations as well. It was important to organizers that, rather than just being assigned places to live, homeless individuals were able to take an active part in constructing their new abodes.

    "Rather than taking people form the streets and putting them in a building, we thought we could work together to create our own structures," Clemente told WKOW.com. "We don't give houses to homeless people. We enable people to build their own houses to create their own futures."

     

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    Great Story - Check out how you can help the homeless & those in need in our wonderful Asheville & WNC community here: www.townandmountain.com/Ashevillefundraiser

     

    Billboard Homeless Shelters Might Soon be a Reality

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    From: www.jetsongreen.com

    By: Christine Walsh

    In early 2014 the company DesignDevelop proposed Project Gregory, which involved building shelters around billboards. This would allow the shelters to rent out advertising space and use the money to finance their running costs. The company now says they could build the first such shelter by early 2015.

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    The Gregory Project homeless shelters are triangular shaped structures, which are raised above the ground on stilts. The living space is accessible via a wooden staircase. The interior measures 194 sq ft (18 sq m), which is divided into two spaces. One of these will house the sleeping and living area, and the other will contain the bathroom and some additional storage.

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    The walls and ceilings of the shelter are made of wooden OSBs, which allow for inexpensive construction. Housing homeless people in run down, industrial structures can be quite depressing, and the people behind the Gregory Project wanted to make their shelters better, so the units are designed in a very modern way which will hopefully prompt the inhabitants to rejoin society and turn their life around.

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    The interior furnishings will include a table with a storage space, two chairs and a bed with built in additional storage space. The bathroom will be equipped with a basin, toilet shower and more storage space. DesignDevelop is planning on creating an on- and off-the-grid version of these shelters, and the prototype for the on-the-grid version is expected to cost £41,000 (approx. $65,000), while the addons and extras to make it off-the-grid would cost a further £60,000 (approx. $95,500).

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    Help Support the Homeless & Those in Need in Our Wonderful Asheville & WNC Community

    at Our 3rd Annual Home for the Holidays FUNdraiser!

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    Click here for more information or to donate today!

    Gorgeous Asheville and WNC!

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    Here is an amazing beautiful video of Asheville & WNC!

    Hunter Ward sent us this AMAZING time-lapse video he put together of Asheville & Western North Carolina! Hunter says, "From the Biltmore Estate to Rough Ridge, Linn Cove Viaduct & beyond, WNC has something to offer for everyone."

    From: www.wlos.com

     

    Here is another great time-lapse video of the Blue Ridge Parkway & Asheville from Hunter Ward also.

    [embed]http://youtu.be/92S5-aIbzyA[/embed]

    "Time-lapse of rolling fog over Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway, beautiful Looking Glass Rock, and picturesque Downtown Asheville. Explore Asheville!"

    From: www.youtube.com

     

    Gorgeous views and so much more fun to be had is everywhere around Asheville and WNC!  Town and Mountain Realty is an independent, locally owned and operated Real Estate Company. Our agents are involved in the Asheville community and excel in helping people turn their real estate goals into reality. We know that real estate is a life decision and we strive to support and help our clients make good investments and choices.

    We would love to introduce you to the Asheville neighborhoods that we know so well. Whether you are interested in a centrally located neighborhood or if you are looking to move to the surrounding areas, we are here to help. The experienced Brokers at Town and Mountain Realty will help guide you with the knowledge only a team of local agents can provide. We pride ourselves on focusing on your needs, and diligently working towards exceeding your every expectation. Even if you are just curious about the Asheville lifestyle, we would love to answer any questions you have!

    Contact us today!

    (828) 232-2879

    www.townandmountain.com

    Here is another great experience in Asheville!

    From: www.adventuresbydaddy.com

    By: Dave Parfitt

     

    Keepin' It Weird on an Asheville, North Carolina Family Vacation

    In 2011, a state senator labeled Asheville, North Carolina a "cesspool of sin."  If Tatooine's Mos Eisley spaceport is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, perhaps Asheville is the Mos Eisley of North Carolina.  Earlier this year, I attended a conference at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and got just a small taste of this beautiful destination.  The visit whetted my appetite to return with my whole family someday.  Asheville truly has a little something for everyone: outdoor adventures, history and culture, and a funky little downtown full of shops, art, restaurants, and beer.  And as far as the "cesspool of sin" goes, Asheville is more likely a "quarter of quirkiness" at best.  So grab the kids and continue reading for more details and photos of what makes Asheville, North Carolina a fantastic family vacation spot.

    Ziplining at NAVITAT CANOPY ADVENTURES

    Asheville, North Carolina

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I loved what I saw during my short visit to Asheville, North Carolina, a vibrant community that embraced creativity, quirkiness, and just being plain weird.  It was refreshing to see a town filled with unique spirit reflected in the buildings, people, arts, music, food, and drink, and best of all, it's all found in a drop-dead gorgeous part of the country.  Yes, Asheville, I'll be back, but next time, I'll be sure to bring my family with me as well.

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    Happy Halloween Asheville - Original Amazing Pumpkin Carvings!

    Asheville: The Next Green Tech Town

    From: www.huffingtonpost.com
    green tech

    More than 300,000 people may have marched in Manhattan last month for a worldwide climate call-to-arms, but evidently we can't even get it together at the statewide -- let alone national -- let alone global level. A study released last week by the Georgetown Climate Center shows that less than half of U.S. states are preparing for the coming effects of climate change. (Full rundown of the study here, at the Los Angeles Times.)

    Unbelievably, those unprepared include Louisiana, where coastline is fast disappearing and with it the area's natural protection against future super storms; and Texas, where temperatures are rising and the current drought is among the worst seen in 500 years.

    This shouldn't come as a surprise, perhaps, since far too many U.S. governors still deny that climate change even exists (see this disturbing map). But it's enough to turn our hopes toward American cities, which seem unfazed by politics and focused only on the realities ahead.

    Chicago is planting trees for a warming Midwestern climate. Phoenix is rethinking its sprawl. Boulder has a carbon tax. San Francisco has mandated food composting. My hometown of Los Angeles now requires all new and refurbished homes to have 'cool roofs. (Disclosure: I advise the organization that helped promote this policy.)

    Some may argue that change is easier to effect on a smaller scale. But cities don't have the luxury of looking the other way. Sea-level rise now threatens 1,400 U.S. cities. At the same time, more of us are moving to urban areas than ever before.

    These towns are smart to prepare for the worst. But the smartest among them are also preparing for the best, becoming hubs for green tech and innovation that can bolster a city's economy along with its resiliency.

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    One to watch: Asheville, North Carolina. Surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and long a haven for artsy types and outdoorsy retirees, the city has had at its forefront a certain eco-consciousness (as well as climate preparedness; the city has an extensive 169-page Sustainability Management Plan in place). But now, the city is poised to cultivate a new generation of green tech startups, led by the efforts of Lazy Environmentalist Josh Dorfman.

    That moniker refers to Dorfman's well known book and TV franchise; what you may not know is that Dorfman also has an MBA and a background bootstrapping startups, including GoodGuide and Amazon's VineMarket.com. (Clearly, the man is anything but lazy.)

    Last fall, Dorfman moved to Asheville with his young family and thought it would be great to use his startup and media experience to help scale up an entrepreneur community in his newfound hometown. Not long after, the perfect opportunity came along: He was hired by the county as its new director of entrepreneurship.

    The resulting effort, the recently launched VentureAsheville.com, will create what Dorfman dubs "a high-growth entrepreneurial ecosystem." Local wanna-be entrepreneurs are paired with startup funding via an in-town angel investor network (Asheville Angels) and are given access to bi-weekly pitch events, networking get-togethers and mentoring. A green tech offshoot of national startup accelerator The Iron Yard will be launching this fall.

    Sustainability-minded businesses that fall outside the realm of cleantech have access to Asheville nature-based business accelerator Accelerating Appalachia. Last year's graduates include Riverbend Malts, which provides locally farmed artisan malts to craft brewers, and Veterans to Farmers, which trains veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for careers in family farming.

    Of course, Venture Asheville isn't exclusively focused on green tech. But the niche seems a natural fit for the city, which headquarters the National Climatic Data Center and its hundreds of climate scientists (including 16 Nobel laureates). The city will also soon be home to a 20,000-square-foot space downtown called the Collider that will serve as a meeting grounds for climate tech startups and scientists, entrepreneurs and even artists. Dorfman sees this as yet another potential incubator for innovation.

    Ultimately, though, all of these opportunities will hopefully allow others to do what Dorfman, himself, wants to do: Live somewhere with a wonderful quality of life, help the environment and create a community "where good-paying green jobs come from."

    "It's a millennial strategy," he says. "I'm talking to a guy in LA right now who grew up in Asheville and is currently working on a startup. He can look at Asheville now and say, 'Yeah, not only is it a great place to live, but I see where I can get capital, where I can find programmers. Maybe I'd love to move home.'"

    Want to head there, too? Check out Asheville's latest crop of sustainability startups:

    Appalatch - Locally manufactures outdoor apparel using U.S.-sourced sustainable materials and 3-D printing to markedly reduce textile waste.

     

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    Outrider - Creates adaptive all-terrain electric bikes (actually trikes) that can be used by those with physical disabilities, including paraplegics and quadriplegics.

    BrightField Transportation Solutions - Designs solar-powered EV charging stations.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    LoLo - Provides loyalty rewards platform for supporting locally based businesses.

    If all this isn't inspiration enough, perhaps the prospect of grabbing a pint with a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist will be: Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city. Suds and startups -- sounds like a winning combination to me...

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    New Asheville Based Bluegrass Musical

    From: www.nytimes.com

    By:

    Love, Loss and Local Color Make a Bluegrass Musical

    'Bright Star' Is Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's New Show

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    SAN DIEGO -- Darkness and light are blended in even proportions in "Bright Star," a sepia-toned new musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell making its premiere at the Old Globe theater here. The characters in this musically vibrant if overstuffed show, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina during two separate decades of the 20th century, endure hardship, heartache and almost melodramatic loss. But, as the title suggests, their eyes remain fixed not on the black canopy of night but on the beacons of hope that pierce it. A telling song from the second act reminds us that no matter how gray the future seems, the "sun is gonna shine again."

    The shining achievement of the musical is its winsome country and bluegrass score, with music by Mr. Martin and Ms. Brickell, and lyrics by Ms. Brickell. The complicated plot, divided between two love stories that turn out to have an unusual connection, threatens to get a little too diffuse and unravel like a ball of yarn rolling off a knitter's lap. But the songs -- yearning ballads and square-dance romps rich with fiddle, piano and banjo, beautifully played by a nine-person band -- provide a buoyancy that keeps the momentum from stalling.

    Mr. Martin, by the way, is indeed the Steve Martin who began his career as a banjo-strumming standup comic in the 1970s. He has since become one of the most fascinating polymaths in American culture as actor, novelist and noted art collector. But he never put down that instrument. Mr. Martin has won a Grammy for best bluegrass recording, and established a bluegrass and banjo prize in his name. Last year he collaborated with Ms. Brickell -- the retro-folk singer who had a pop hit back in 1986 with "What I Am" -- on a collection of songs called "Love Has Come for You." That led to a desire to create a musical, and "Bright Star" is the result, although initial plans to use music from that album were largely abandoned, with only two songs remaining.

    Together they fashioned the original story, and Mr. Martin wrote the book. The beaming title tune sets a hopeful tone. World War II has ended, and the boys are coming home. Among them is Billy Cane (the winning, rich-voiced A. J. Shively), whose eagerness to see his hometown again receives a jolt when he learns from his father (Stephen Bogardus) that his beloved mother has died. She had encouraged his ambitions to become a writer, and he has soon fixed his desire on being published in the region's most respected magazine, The Asheville Southern Journal.

    In Asheville we meet the editor, the tart but warm Alice Murphy (a wonderful Carmen Cusack), the show's other principal character. A 38-year-old single woman, she oversees two assistants, the snarky Daryl Ames (Jeff Hiller), who's also (anachronistically?) obviously gay, and the wisecracking, sexy Lucy Grant (Kate Loprest). The chipper atmosphere of this office is established in one of the show's weaker songs. ("How I love my wonderful career," Alice trills. "I'm so engaged, such a pleasant working atmosphere." Show us, don't tell us, Alice.) We are soon swept back to Alice's youth, where much of the drama takes place. Some 22 years earlier, she was an outspoken small-town lass from a farming family who fell in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Wayne Alan Wilcox), the scion of the town's leading family and the son of the mayor, Josiah Dobbs (Wayne Duvall, exuding chicken-fried menace from every pore). Trouble comes when Alice gets pregnant and Josiah hatches a plan to separate the two, despite Jimmy Ray and Alice's plan to marry.

    When we pick up the story again in the 1940s, Billy moves to Asheville and becomes a protégé of Alice, leaving behind his own true love, Margo Crawford (Hannah Elless), an underdeveloped character who pines for him in one of the show's most beautiful ballads, "Asheville" (a retooled song from the album).

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    Here's the song "Asheville" is based on, "When You Get to Asheville:"

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    From: www.citizen-times.com

    By: Carol Motsinger

    The write-up also celebrates Asheville's "rich literary tradition" that "continues today," citing Asheville native Thomas Wolfe, O. Henry, who married into a prominent Asheville family and is buried in Riverside Cemetery, poet Carl Sandburg who worked and lived 25 miles outside of town in Flat Rock, as well as the period of time F. Scott Fitzgerald spent at the Grove Park Inn in the 1930s.

    The play bill also includes images of Pack Square Park in the 1930s.

    "Bright Star" features music seeped in Appalachian bluegrass and folk traditions. Martin began his career as a banjo-playing stand-up comic in the 1970s. Today, Martin is celebrated as a traditional bluegrass musician.

    He lives in Brevard and has played alongside Grammy-winning local artists Steep Canyon Rangers.

    Read More

    Benefits of Yoga for Men

    While women are still the majority in yoga classes, there's a strong movement of men not only trying yoga, but striving both on and off the mat. Men benefit just as much from a regular yoga routine as women.

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    Enter Dan Abramson and his army of Yoga Joes, green plastic soldiers molded into yoga poses. Abramson is on a mission to make yoga more appealing and accessible to men everywhere.

    According to the Kickstarter campaign Abramson started to fund this project, Yoga Joes are "peaceful action figures designed to inspire children, men, and military veterans to try yoga."

    Read More About Yoga Joes

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    For a decade, troops returning from war with mental and physical trauma have been dosed with cocktails of numbing drugs and corralled into talk-therapy sessions, often with civilian clinicians who have no experience in combat and its aftereffects.

    But alarmingly high suicide rates among veterans, as well as domestic violence, substance abuse and unemployment, suggested to some military doctors, combat commanders and researchers that conventional treatments aren't always enough.

    Now, one proven, effective treatment is gaining wide acceptance within hard-core military circles: yoga.

    Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors.

    "It's cleansing -- I really feel refreshed," Marine Sgt. Senio Martz said after finishing a recent yoga session.

    A stocky 27-year-old, Martz was leading his nine-man squad on a foot patrol through the lush poppy fields and rock outcroppings of the Kajaki district of southern Afghanistan 20 months ago when a roadside bomb knocked him unconscious and killed or wounded the Marines under his command. The blast put an end to his plans for a career in the Marine Corps. It also left him hyper-vigilant, a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and carrying the joint burdens of guilt and shame: As a squad leader, it had been his responsibility to bring his nine Marines home safe.

    "It's a feeling of regret -- failure -- that really affects me now," he said. "I didn't see the signs that could have alerted me to warn them to get away." He stared at the floor and then looked up with a tight smile. "I go on living where their lives have ended. I can't help them now."

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    At a retreat for retiring Marines with combat wounds and PTSD, yoga teacher Annie Okerlin helps them work through pain, stiffness and anxiety and begin to relax. Pentagon-funded studies have shown yoga to be an effective therapy for combat trauma.

    Yoga gives him relief from the acute anxiety that forces him to listen to and sight-sweep everything around him, constantly checking the doors and windows, always on alert, poised for danger, with no break. It is hard for him to let go.

    Not all yoga helps. Some forms of yoga are used by special forces, for instance, to build muscle power and flexibility. But yoga teachers working with wounded troops have developed trauma-sensitive forms of yoga, including a technique called iRest. This adaptation uses meditation techniques in a soft and secure setting to reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system by drawing the patient's attention and consciousness inward, rather than focusing on stress and the terrors that dwell outside, said yoga teacher Robin Carnes.

    For instance, Carnes has learned that when she is giving a class to troops with hyper-vigilance, like Martz, she should first open all the closet doors and drawers, so that her patients don't spend all their time fretting about what might be inside.

    Drawing from traditional yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga teaches patients to firmly plant their feet and activate their leg muscles in poses that drain energy and tension from the neck and shoulders, where they naturally gather, causing headaches and neck pain.

    "The goal here is to move tension away from where it builds up when you are stressed, and focus it on the ground so you feel more balanced and connected," Carnes said.

    A study published earlier this year of 70 active-duty U.S. troops, then-based at Forward Operating Base Warrior, in Kirkuk, Iraq, found that daily yoga helped relieve anxiety, reduced irritability and improved sleep -- even amid daily "gunfire and helicopter sounds."

    Progressive relaxation, calming breathing and relaxation techniques "reduce physical, emotional, mental and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD," according to retired Air Force Maj. Nisha N. Money, a physician who recently served as chief of fitness policy for the Air Force.

    Read More About Yoga & PTSD

    Yoga alleviates pain and injury. Most men come to yoga with injuries and pain, particularly in the back, knees and joints. Yoga uses controlled movements, expert alignment, biomechanics and breath to open your body efficiently while minimizing the risk of injury. Safety and alignment are the absolute first priorities in yoga. Yoga demands that you do not push beyond what you are capable of doing safely. Clear physical landmarks and attention to the breath prevent you from pushing past your limits. There's always a variation or modification to keep you safe while still progressing and challenging yourself. Within the first month of a regular yoga routine, you will alleviate your pain and injuries - beyond that, yoga will help take your health to a whole new level. Yoga keeps your body fit, flexible and strong. Many men say, "I'm not flexible enough to do yoga." That is like saying, "I'm not strong enough to lift weights." The poses are powerful and specifically designed to open and strengthen your body efficiently. Yoga will make you more flexible, light and in many ways stronger than any other exercise - without wrecking your body! With patience and steady practice, you will become more open than you've ever imagined. The right combination of strength and mobility is key, whether you're a professional athlete or just trying to age gracefully. You will tone and strengthen muscles that you didn't know you had. The small muscles in your back that have been deteriorating from that desk job will be getting a long-awaited wake-up call. With a commitment to yoga, you will be a lean, mobile, strong and physically fit yoga machine. Yoga will provide the fun challenge you crave. Yoga is more than just sitting around, humming and talking about your feelings. As a former collegiate wrestler, I can honestly say that some yoga classes are more challenging than any workout I've ever done. It will be humbling at times, but worth it. You will learn how to challenge yourself without being competitive. Competition will result in injury. Most men come from a strong athletic or business-minded background, where competition is fierce. Yoga teaches you to challenge yourself intelligently and completely without being overly aggressive. Learning new poses and noticing real progress is addicting! The light-hearted, compassionate attitude in yoga will help you to not take yourself too seriously, even while you're sweating it out.

    Yoga will help improve diet, sleep and overall health. Once you're feeling the physical benefits of your yoga regimen, you naturally begin to shift your diet and sleeping patterns. You will no longer want to eat a pint of ice cream or stay out late on a weeknight knowing you're doing these healthy things for yourself. During yoga, you will notice your mind is so focused on what you're doing that it is impossible to think about your job, bills or anything else. You find yourself fully in the moment, and that complete focus puts your mind at ease. Afterward, you will feel grounded and relaxed. The combination of your body and mind feeling fantastic is a recipe for practical, healthy lifestyle changes.

    Yoga allows you to do the things you love more efficiently and for longer. The whole point of yoga is to live your life to the fullest. Whether you love to run, fish, golf, play basketball, travel or play with your kids without hurting yourself - yoga will help you do the things you love better and longer. While the yoga poses are fun and a strong tool, they're not the point. What matters is that when you feel great, you are able to truly savor life.

    Yoga improves your performance and relieves stress. In the trenches of the workplace, sports arena, family reunions and even the grocery store, you will face many challenges. Yoga trains your mind to be grounded and calm, especially while in the fire of stress. Why would anyone want to put themselves in a challenging yoga pose, hold it and be asked to stay calm and breathe deeply? Because on the battlefield of life, you will be challenged far more than you will on your yoga mat. However, by practicing to stay grounded in very uncomfortable situations, physically and otherwise, you train yourself to be at your best when it matters most.

    Read More

     

    Innovation on Another Level: Vine-pruning Robot

    [embed]http://youtu.be/VjeG8CSK0kE[/embed] Video: A French inventor has developed Wall-Ye, a prototype robot that helps with mapping and pruning vines and even with harvesting grapes

     

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    Now that Wall-Ye V.I.N. has been built we can rest assured that there are no jobs too sacred to be handed over to the automated expertise of robots. Wall-Ye is a robot that takes the human touch out of caring for those grape vines that make French wines among the best in the world.

    Created by Christophe Millot, an inventor based in the Burgundy region of France, Wall-Ye will soon be taking on the most labor-intensive of chores performed in wine vinyards: pruning and de-suckering, or clipping off fruitless shoots. I asked Millot about Wall-Ye and how he might expect French winemakers to feel about putting the fate of their precious grapes in the hands of a robot.

    Decked out in white with red trim, Wall-Ye stands about 50 cm (20 in) tall, 60 cm (2 ft) wide and weighs about 20 kg (44 lbs). As it travels up and down the rows of vines six cameras are used to navigate in between, image and cut the plants. Cameras located on the top and bottom ensure that it maintains a straight path in between the vine lanes. Other cameras store the shape and, with GPS, location of every vine. A 3D model AI tells it when to cut the shoots, which it performs with a pair of camera-guided arms with clippers. Unlike its human counterparts Wall-Ye never takes a break and can work day and night to prune up to 600 vines per day. That kind of productivity is why some winemakers are eager to get Wall-Ye working despite its 25,000 euro ($32,000) price tag.

    But what about the purity of it all? Winemaking is an art non? Millot acknowledges that, even for French winemakers, economics trumps tradition. He says that there's simply not enough seasonal workers to go around. The typical vine pruners, de-suckerers and pickers are young people on school break out to make some extra cash. But the problem is in August France goes on vacation, meanwhile the vineyards still need to be tended. Moreover, inexperienced pruners have to be trained for three years before they're up to speed. It's a lot of investment that, for some, yields too little return.

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    Inexhaustible as it is, however, Wall-Ye still can't do all the things human workers can do. As of yet, the robot can't actually pick the grapes. But Millot told me that grape picking capabilities will be added to the AI next year. "Everyone will benefit from the evolution of its brain."

    Not everyone is excited to replace their human hands. The owner of the Chateau du Val d'Or in Bordeaux, Phillipe Bardet, told the Daily Mail, "Technically it's interesting, but intellectually, it's inconceivable. It doesn't fit with my philosophy of making a Saint Emilion grand cru."

    Bardet, then, won't be too happy to learn that others are developing robots to work their vineyards. California-based Vision Robotics is developing a much larger vine pruner robot and Canterbury University in Australia is developing their own as well. All three robots use similiar systems: imaging that gets fed into AI 3D modeling to determine when and where to cut.

    Read More

    Pruning is a particularly sensitive task because it tells the vine how many bunches of grapes to produce and affects its ability to ripen the fruit to perfection.

    'Each plant is unique in terms of things like vigour, so it must be treated uniquely during pruning,' said Fetzmann of Domaine Louis Latour.

    'But I can see a robot doing the pre-pruning in November, and humans finishing in March. A machine like this could be really useful stocking data about each individual vine stock, adapting treatments to the diversity in vegetation and soil even within a plot.'

    Many vintners surveyed in a straw poll by AFP considered vineyard robots to be an inevitable development.

    'We once said we'd never use machines to harvest, now we do,' said Fetzmann. 'Everything that can be mechanised will eventually be mechanised.

     

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