In 2015, there were many service opportunities available through Cashiers Rotary. On display throughout the year were the hard work and dedication of the people who have truly put service above self. Director of Special Projects Duncan Wheale introduced the opportunities and the people behind them at a recent meeting. All Cashiers Rotarians are strongly encouraged to find two service opportunities to which they can offer their time or expertise to further the success of the programs.
We began with a quick overview of the 2015 Arts & Crafts Shows, which took in approximately $60,000 across both shows. Christine and Will Wardowski have taken over the artisan recruitment side of things, which is already off to a strong start for next year’s events. They’ve enlisted Regina King and Vanna Cameron to join the jury committee for reviewing submissions. Karen Sullivan remains active in an advisory role, and anyone else that would like to help is welcome. Remember, it’s all hands on deck for the two shows in 2016, so please mark your calendars and plan to volunteer.
Adopt-a-Highway Trash Clean-Up continues its collection along the stretch of Highway 107 adopted by the Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley. Twice a year, Bill Mobley and his group of merry Rotarians, who have included Bob Starkey, Steven Johannessen, Vic Galef, Tom Keating, Milt Stork, Mary Alice Grant, the Kings and others, spend about three hours on one Saturday morning to rid the road of trash and litter. They have just completed the annual Autumn clean-up and will be returning to the roads come Spring.
Howard Meister shared with the club the many service organizations and opportunities he oversees or helps to coordinate, working with other Rotarians to help those in need.
Big Brothers Big Sisters: This fantastic mentoring program for school-aged children currently serves 18 children at both Blue Ridge School and Summit Charter School, with many more children waiting to be paired with a mentor. In-school and after-school mentoring opportunities are available. Barry Caponi and Tom Keating are among the Rotarians currently serving as mentors.
Meals on Wheels: Started 3 years ago, Meals on Wheels delivers food to elderly and home-bound residents of the Cashiers area. There are currently 12 individuals who receive 5 meals a week and enjoy the company, no matter how brief, of their deliverers. Jake Shuler, the Wardowskis, Roger Kinsman and others have all contributed time to deliver meals, but more drivers are needed.
Fishes & Loaves: This non-profit food pantry offers free meals and boxed food goods to families in need, including special boxes for Christmas meals. Together with the support of 11 area churches and the time donated by volunteers to stack, cook, and box up food, Fishes & Loaves serves 175,000 pounds of food and approximately 3500 families a year, greatly impacting lives through the power of food and proper nourishment.
Blue Ridge Free Dental Clinic: In its 10th year, the BRFC has done more than just encourage grown men to dress up as ballerinas. The free dental clinic has fielded 11,000 patient visits, performed 38,000 procedures and provided more than $6 million in dental care to area residents. The famous Tooth Fairies, including Ron Keller, Ed Morse and other very manly Rotarians in tights and tutus, offer dental health education programs in area schools.
Carl Hyde, who works closely with Blue Ridge School in several volunteer capacities, provided the Club with more insight into the service opportunities available through area schools.
The Backpack Program, headed up by Rick Robson, is an initiative that distributes food to children for weekend meals. This project is a collaborative effort between Manna Food Bank in Asheville, Fishes & Loaves in Cashiers, and area school officials who help identify the children in need. The meals are cleverly packaged in backpacks and sent home with the children who otherwise might not receive meals at home when school is out of session.
Blue Ridge School is also the home of the Cashiers Rotary-sponsored Interact, a club for young people ages 12-18 who want to join together to tackle the issues in their community that they care most about. Through Interact, they carry out hands-on service projects, develop leadership skills and have fun! Interact at Blue Ridge School currently has a core membership of students and 2 faculty sponsors who meet every other Friday for 30 minutes during lunch. Carl Hyde, Karen Sullivan and others have started attending these meetings. Any Rotarians who can and want to help further strengthen the ties between Cashiers Rotary and Interact are encouraged to attend also.
Many other education-based opportunities also exist through Blue Ridge School, including Tutoring and the 30-Min Reading Partners programs. Please contact Rotarian Terri Walawender to learn more.
Tom Keating introduced the impetus behind Cashiers Cares Cooking, which cooks and serves hot dogs to families following the annual Cashiers Christmas Parade. The meals are an add-on service to the Cashiers Cares initiatives, which helps to raise money for various area non-profits through its network of churches and other financial supporters. Vic Galef, Tom Keating, Milt Stork, Mary Alice Grant, Roger Kinsman and others have all donated time and effort to help make the Parade a fun and ptomaine-free activity for all.
Regina and Chris King have recently volunteered to oversee our annual Warm Coat Drive, which distributes and monitors drop-off boxes for coats, jackets, scarves, gloves, etc. at area locations. The cold-weather gear is then distributed to those in need to help them brave the winter weather. Several Rotarians devote their time to be responsible for one or more locations, but there are more to be filled. Contact Regina directly to join the warm and toasty crew.
Ed Morse stood in for his lovely wife to let us all know about the Community Care Clinic of Cashiers & Highlands. The clinic is the only free medical services organization of its kind on the Plateau and provides a myriad of services to people from all walks of life who can’t afford health care anywhere else. They also provide health education and wellness programs, including the Diabetes Education program, which helps to raise awareness about preventing, living with and caring for those with the disease. Anyone concerned about the overall health and access to health care of their fellow residents is encouraged to get involved. Volunteers do not need to have medical training or knowledge to donate their time, effort and compassion to this worthy cause.
As the area’s only completely service-based organization, the Rotary Club of Cashiers Valley depends on its members and their commitment to community service to succeed and thrive. Please reach out directly to the Rotarians mentioned here to get involved or speak to Duncan Wheale or Karen Sullivan directly about any additional service opportunities you’d like to see the Club get behind.