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Changing the world one bumper sticker at a time

In a world that can seem unfriendly at times, or even downright threatening, reminders to be kind to one another can't hurt.

That's the idea behind a kindness-bumper-sticker contest that asks folks to come up with a slogan of eight words or less.

"When you're sitting waiting at a red light, something you read on the car bumper just in front of you could remind you of what's important in life," notes Isaac Coleman, board member of the Kindness Campaign. "Most of the time, the key thing is to be kind."

Submissions are due by Tuesday, Feb. 28, and the winner will receive a dinner for two at Vincenzo's Ristorante, valued at $60 -- plus, of course, the thrill of seeing their slogan on cars all over town.

The contest is just one effort by the campaign, launched a little more than a year ago, to inspire local acts of kindness as well as "draw attention to all the good things that go on in this community," explains volunteer coordinator Cathy Holt.

In that vein, the campaign will be giving out "Community of Kindness" awards to nine social-service agencies that helped the more than 1,000 Hurricane Katrina refugees who ended up in Asheville.

The awards ceremony (Thursday, Feb. 9, 11:30 a.m. at the mayor's office in downtown Asheville) will recognize ABCCM, the Manna Food Bank, Hearts with Hands, the Salvation Army, the United Way's 211 Center, Catholic Social Services, the Affordable Housing Coalition, the Asheville Chapter of the Red Cross and Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care.

At the ceremony, Mayor Terry Bellamy will also sign a proclamation designating Feb. 13-19 as Kindness Week in Asheville and encouraging city residents to get in on the action.

"Do a little extra something for a person that [you] know who maybe doesn't get a lot of company," suggests Holt. "Drop in and say hello."

Or try doing an anonymous act of kindness, she adds, "like buying a bunch of flowers, getting up early and stealthily sticking one into each newspaper bag on your block."

Other planned Kindness Week events include an Interfaith Celebration of Kindness (Monday, Feb. 13, 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church). A potluck dinner will follow the event, which will feature representatives of 13 faith traditions (including Catholic, Muslim, Baptist, Jewish, Baha'i, Unitarian, Native American and Earth religions) sharing dance, music and poetry about kindness.

The Campaign is also coordinating a "cook team" to prepare and serve a Valentine's Day dinner to homeless women and children.

Additionally, there will be several free showings of Ryan's Well, a 30-minute film about how one young boy made a difference. The film will play at Mystic Journeys (Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.) and at the Fine Arts Theater (12 p.m. daily, Friday through Sunday, Feb. 17-19).

A group of adults with developmental disabilities from Goodwill Industries, as well as children from Asheville Catholic and other schools, also have their own acts of kindness planned.

And if the bumper-sticker contest fails to elicit any good slogans, there's always the suggestion of one 9-year old boy whose mother has attended several Kindness Campaign events: "Be kind, darn it!"

For more information, call Holt at 252-3054 or visit www.thekindnesscampaign.org. Kindness slogans can be e-mailed to cfholt@buncombe.main.nc.us or mailed to Kindness Campaign, P.O. Box 5020, Asheville NC 28813.

-- Lisa Watters

How can I keep from sangin'?

Ginseng once grew so thick in the Eastern woods that a guy like Daniel Boone could harvest a ton of it, lose it all in a boating accident, shrug, and return to the forest to do it all over again. But supplies of the valuable plant have gone from Boone to bust during nearly three centuries of harvesting; these days, you'd be more likely to see Bigfoot than the whorled leaves and red berries of Panax quinquefolius in some Appalachian coves.

Ginseng's gnarled root has been an esteemed tonic in Asia since Moses was but a boy. Today, most American ginseng roots wind up in Hong Kong or Singapore, bought by exporters at prices as high as $500 a pound.

In 1973 the international community, recognizing the prized plant's plight, listed it under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting and regulating trade in the wild root.

Since then, CITES rules covering American ginseng have been tightened, beginning in 1983, when amendments to the treaty required export ginseng to be certified as either wild or cultivated. Today, farm-raised ginseng is a major business -- 96 percent of the U.S. export is cultivated -- with Wisconsin the national leader.

But wild ginseng, which is easily distinguished from the cultivated form, remains the Holy Grail of woodland herbs, commanding a price exponentially higher than its farm-raised counterpart. It can be legally harvested by permit on certain public lands, and on private lands with an owner's consent. But ginseng's allure means it's often poached by unscrupulous "diggers" in national and state parks and on private property.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture recently estimated that our state has more than 3,300 collectors who earn $200 to $300 or more per pound for the dried, wild root, selling to about 30 licensed ginseng dealers. Some years, the legal harvest has topped 11,000 pounds.

As stocks continued to decline, further changes to the CITES rules in 1991 made it illegal for U.S. exporters to sell wild ginseng less than 5 years old, a move designed to aid the plant's seed-bearing capability. Last fall, the rules changed again, making it illegal for wild roots less than 10 years old to be sold overseas.

Despite the apparently stringent rules, though, some in the trade say wild 'sang doesn't stand a chance unless elaborate measures are taken to restore and protect it.

"What the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't have the guts to talk about is replanting," says Robert Eidus, owner of the North Carolina Goldenseal and Ginseng Company, in Madison County.

Eidus, who says he grows between 300,000 and 400,000 ginseng seedlings each year at his licensed farm, believes that alongside trade restrictions, the federal government should give equal concern to ginseng propagation and saving the lush, north-facing mountain coves where the plant flourishes from development and indiscriminate logging.

"Sadly," says Eidus, "there's no incentive for that kind of thing."

On Friday, Feb. 10, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives will hear public comment on ginseng's status in the wild and on the new CITES export rules during a forum at the Holiday Inn Tunnel Road. The meeting begins at 8 a.m. and will continue until noon.

The Holiday Inn is located at 1450 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The number is (828) 298-5611. For more information, call USFWS botanist Pat Ford at (703) 358-1705 or e-mail patricia_ford@fws.gov.

-- Kent Priestley

Ashes to Ashes

Dr. Bill Bass talks to the dead, but not in a seance, psychic-medium sort of way. Bass, one of the world's leading forensic anthropologists, specializes in determining the circumstances of a person's demise by studying details that can be found on and around bodies. He's helped solve innumerable cases and is well known for creating the world's first human-decomposition laboratory. The Knoxville facility allows students to observe firsthand how bodies decompose in a variety of situations. The lab launched Bass into the media spotlight with the Patricia Cornwell mystery, The Body Farm (Scribner, 1994), and a book Bass co-wrote, Death's Acre (Putnam, 2003).

On Sunday, Feb. 12, Dr. Death will return to the Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville for one of his wildly popular presentations. This time, Bass has ashes on his mind.

His talk -- "Whose Ashes are They?" -- will focus on the science of cremation.

Dr. John Williams, director of Western Carolina's University's Human Identification Laboratory, has not only seen Bass' sold-out presentations, he's worked side by side with Bass on crime scenes.

In 2002, the two worked together on the Tri-State Crematory scandal in Georgia, where more than 300 bodies were discovered stashed around the property, rather than cremated, as their families had been told.

Bass' study of the weight of human bone ash helped prosecute the case, and he also helped identify bodies for bereaved families.

Despite their grisly nature and all the scientific background, Williams says Bass' talks are "very entertaining and captivating." Though Williams plans to attend the event, he says Bass' presentations are not just for fellow experts; the layperson will be just as intrigued. "He's not preaching to the choir," Williams says.

Bass' presentation begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for the general public and free to Colburn Museum members. Reservations are required for members, and a members-only reception will follow the event. For more information, call the museum at 254-7162.

-- Brian Postelle

Civic Center options advanced

Two ambitious scenarios made the cut at the Asheville Civic Center Task Force's Jan. 31 meeting.

Following City Council's request that the group recommend two plans for Council's review, each task-force member made two choices from six options. The result moves forward proposals to construct a new performing-arts center either inside the footprint of the current arena (with a separate, new arena built elsewhere), or at the rear of the Civic Center building (with accompanying renovation of the existing arena).

Locating the performing-arts center inside the existing building was the first-place choice for five of the seven task-force members, and follows a basic proposal by the nonprofit Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts, which has been studying options and promoting a public/private partnership for a redesigned center over the past two years. Under their plan, a retooled Civic Center would house the new performing-arts hall and several technical and educational projects, including the high-tech Media Arts Project, public-access television station URTV, and media/performance functions for both UNCA and A-B Tech. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium would be redeveloped as a "great hall" with a flat floor.

First-choice nods to this option came from Sidney Powell (who chairs the AACPA board), Buncombe County Commissioner Bill Stanley, Ron Storto of the Tourism Development Authority, and -- voting in absentia -- Civic Center Commission Chair Max Alexander and former Mayor Charles Worley.

The other building plan being recommended draws on the 2001 Heery Report and calls for renovating the existing arena, constructing a new performing-arts center at the rear of the existing complex, and either redeveloping Thomas Wolfe Auditorium as a flat-floor space or demolishing it.

Task-force chair Jan Davis and Mayor Terry Bellamy favored this option, ranking the AACPA plan second.

Rejected options included renovating the arena and building a new performing-arts center at another downtown location; repairing and enhancing the current facility immediately; repairing and enhancing the current facility as funds become available; or issuing a request for proposals to develop a public/private partnership for building a performing arts/meeting complex approximate to the current arena (to be refurbished).

Storto called the separate-arena option "probably the most viable," noting that it could be done in stages without shutting down the entire facility. Stanley emphasized the importance of locating the new arena downtown and of serving the needs of both the "performing-arts community [and] the sports community." He added, "You end up with two state-of-the-art facilities."

The separate-arena option was Bellamy's second choice because she did not want to "take additional land off the tax rolls," she said, also noting that, unlike the performing-arts center, "there are not a lot of people lining up to fund an arena." Davis concurred.

During public comment, David Craig Starkey, general and artistic director of the Asheville Lyric Opera, applauded the task force's decisions, saying, "I think it is important to bring two substantial options to the table."

Cost estimates, availability of land for a new arena, and potential funding partnerships are on the agenda for the next meeting. It was originally slated for Feb. 6, but Davis anticipated that it would be postponed while additional information is gathered.

-- Nelda Holder

Local Chamber moves up

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has moved into new offices in the Montford neighborhood, and this week you can check out the space for yourself and help celebrate the new digs.

If you knew where the old chamber offices were, you won't have a hard time finding the new space -- it's two blocks away, at 36 Montford Ave.

While the chamber has been in its new space since last month, it plans an official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for the public from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10. The ribbon cutting will take place at noon. Can't make it Friday? No problem. The chamber will hold a second open house the following day, Saturday, Feb. 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And, of course, the chamber's welcome center is always open to the public during business hours.

The new headquarters, which one staffer there calls "amazing," ecompasses 33,000 square feet, in addition to a 4,000-square-foot visitor center. The chamber expects to draw 250,000 visitors annually to the new visitor center, which features expanded retail space and areas for local merchants to tout their products and services. A new 147-space parking lot should make visiting the center more convenient.

Part of the center is dedicated to The Asheville Shop, where visitors can buy Asheville-themed T-shirts, books, artwork and local handmade products. Also for sale are tickets for the Biltmore Estate and for rides on the Asheville Trolley. Two more booth leases are still available, and the chamber would like to see them occupied by local businesses that cater to visitors.

If you'd like to be among those merchants with a presence in the new center, sponsorship opportunities still exist; contact development manager Dana Davis at 232-2247 or ddavis@ashevillechamber.org.

In addition, the third floor of the new building is available for commercial lease. Chamber officials say the 7,219-square-foot space can be built out to suit almost any user. For more information on that, contact Rick Lutovsky at 258-6123 or rlutovsky@ashevillechamber.org.

-- Hal Millard

Zen and the art of leadership

The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership

What do get when you mix an old-school business executive and his Zen-quoting, 30-something entrepreneur son? Well, in the case of Sander and Jonathon Flaum you get The 100-Mile Walk: A Father and Son on a Quest to Find the Essence of Leadership (Amacon, 2006).

When father Saunder, a corporate CEO and adjunct professor at the Fordham Graduate School of Business, decided to write a book on what makes great leaders, son Jonathon, an Asheville resident and CEO of WriteMind Communications, wondered, why not write it from the perspectives of the father and son's two very different generations?

Thus was hatched the concept of the book. The insights it contains come through a series of strolls adding up to 100 miles, in places such as Asheville, Manhattan, New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio. The results are "the 9 P's" of leadership: people, purpose, passion, performance, persistence, perspective, paranoia, principles and practice. Each "P" gets its own chapter, with father and son offering their own individual takes it.

"It was a great learning experience," Jonathon tells of working with his father. "It was nice to get into my dad's world and for him to understand my world a little better."


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