Celebrating a Season of Gratitude Thanks to A-B Tech Employees

With 2020 coming to a close, we thought the last issue of Tech Talk for the Year would be the appropriate place to highlight what employees have done to help their communities since the pandemic changed our landscape in March. We are sure this list is not everything that has been done, but we wanted to share the information we had. It’s heartwarming and beautiful to see how well we step up when needed.

In Behavioral Sciences, Porscha Orndorf (Sociology) and Sam Johnson (Psychology) spent their extra time at home in front of their sewing machines. Both have sewed masks to share with friends and community members as a way to help promote healthy habits and use their talents for the benefit of others. Porscha made more than 1,000 masks. giving most to local organizations such as Get Masked WNC, Steady Collective, and Beloved, among others. Sewing is one of Porscha’s hobbies, and back in March she dug through her boxes of fabric, potholder loops, and ribbon for the right supplies.

Culinary and Hospitality opened their freezer doors to the Southside Kitchen, which was feeding hundreds of people per day. Southside Kitchen and the Housing Authority of Asheville received a food donation from Sysco amounting to nearly 7,000 pounds of meats, fish, cheese, yogurt, and more, to provide the kitchen with proteins for more than 17,000 meals. The first meals were served on March 17 and by the ninth week, they had served over 10,884 meals. “The kitchen is staffed by graduates of the original Kitchen Ready class and staffers from Benne. Through the We Give A Share initiative, we have secured a year's worth of local food products to continue to serve the 400 - 500 meals we are now making,” said Cathy Horton Director, The Brumit Center for Culinary Arts & Hospitality and Chair of Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management.

Mona Shope, Records Specialist, and Melissa Smith, Administrative Assistant from the Nursing Department, were able to volunteer temporarily with Meals on Wheels.  “I knew this was a great program and so I wanted to take the opportunity to get out there and help with this.  It was really easy getting to know the route because it was in my end of town.   It's been great meeting these nice people and they are so appreciative when I hand them their meals.  I'm so glad that A-B Tech allows me to help others in this time of need and uncertainty.  I am forever grateful,” Shope said.

Anita Rhodarmer, Community Services Program Specialist, has a lot of senior citizens that live around her that she did shopping for as well as family members that have medical issues. “I found out that Publix and Harris Teeter are the best places to shop they have employees cleaning the whole carts not just the handles. During a time like this is when you find out how many older people live in your community that don't have family to help out.”

Vicki Thompson, College Entry, CCP Homeschool and International Advisor, made masks for others and delivered stamps and groceries to those who couldn’t get out. She said it wasn’t much, but we believe it was – especially to those she directly helped.

Martha Ball, Communications Coordinator, worked with the Sandy Mush Food Pantry after the need to double the frequency of the pantry arose. She unloaded trucks from MANNA Foodbank, then distributed the food to families in the community.

Randi Brookshire, Instructor of Accounting, got creative when spare time became an issue. “For example, some of the nonprofits have registries on Amazon, allowing you to purchase needed items and have it sent directly to them. I’ve done this as money permits, and the supplies are distributed to families whose children would have been fed at school,” she said.

Michael Harney, Spanish Instructor, delivered food boxes for Loving Food Resources and spent the summer cutting eight lawns. “I have collected trash from alongside the road near my neighborhood - very isolating, as nobody stops to help (lol).  I have also taken a few clients to appointments to help the case managers at WNCAP where I work full-time,” he said.

Eileen Shupe, Nursing Instructor, volunteered at MANNA Foodbank and gave the gift of life through blood donations.

In Allied Dental Health, Marilee Bush Dental Instructor, her husband, and church volunteers put on a once-a-month dinner for over 200 veterans.  When they were not able to do that when the pandemic first started, she had the idea to collect cards for the veterans to remind them they are being thought about.  Many of them use the dinner for much needed socialization as well as a meal. The 29 Dental Assisting students in the program all wrote a card to a veteran and they also wrote a card to a healthcare provider.Instructor Paula Covert and her son loaded, transported, and delivered food to surrounding communities on behalf of the Food Hub. She also made paracord bracelets for the officers deployed and the students wrote letters for 'Operation Gratitude.' 

Jason DeCristofaro, Music Instructor, hosts two Jazz Nights every week in Western NC.   As a result of the pandemic, the two venues where Jason hosts these nights had been closed since mid-March.  Between these two nights, more than 100 musicians in the Western NC/Upstate SC region are employed each year.  

With the goal of continuing to provide Jazz Night attendees with music, and to also find an outlet for musicians to create music and receive donations from listeners, Jason has volunteered his time to create virtual concerts in the form of YouTube playlists.  Jason has volunteered all his time as the video editor, musical director, and side musician for these virtual concerts, noting that: 

"Asheville and Western NC is an area known for having a rich musical scene.  Musicians are an important foundation of this scene, and many have been economically devastated by the temporary closing of live music venues as a result of the pandemic.  I am fortunate to have my two day jobs teaching adjunct at A-B Tech and Warren Wilson College, but so many musicians who provide the soundtrack for our community's live music scene rely exclusively on live performance to make a living.  I feel the least I can do is volunteer my time and musical skills so these artists who contribute to the musical life of Western NC have some form of support during this unprecedented time."

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