FANS E-Newsletter
 February - March 2016
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About FANS

Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working for a strong and vibrant Swannanoa by encouraging active involvement, fostering community spirit, and honoring our unique history and natural heritage.  For more info and to find out how you can get involved, visit


FANS' Board of Directors:


Andrew Belz - Chair

Katherine Cross

Maureen Dillow

Sandy Drake 

Carol Groben

Doug Lebbon

Beth McKinney

Sophia Papadopoulos   

Robert Randolph  

Valerie Taylor  

Betsy Warren - Vice Chair

Melanie Wilder -Treasurer 

Kay Wise-Denty - Secretary


Please email us at We welcome and appreciate your input and ideas! 

Free Tax Assistance at Black Mountain Library 

Do you find yourself confused by a maze of rules and regulations when it comes time to fill out your tax forms?  Well, you have lots of company, and Federal Tax Return fortunately help may be on the way! AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, in cooperation with the IRS, N.C. Dept. of Revenue, Council on Aging, and Buncombe County Public Libraries, is offering free tax preparation for taxpayers with low and moderate income, with special attention to those age 60 and older.  Both Federal and N.C. State returns will be electronically filed for safe and accurate preparation and faster refunds.

This free service is available through April 18 at a number of Buncombe County locations, including the Black Mountain Library, 105 N. Dougherty Street. Tax preparers will be on hand at the library on Tuesdays from 10 am - 4 pm.  For more info, call 828-250-4756.
Vote in March 15 Primary and Make Your Voice Heard 

Primary elections take place on Tuesday, March 15.  Buncombe County residents will cast votes in a number of important races at the national, state and local level. All registered voters, including unafilliated voters, are eligible to participate in the primary. If you're not yet registered to vote, you still have time to complete that process. The voter registration deadline is Friday, February 19.

Early voting is available from March 3 - 12 at a number of locations across the county. The closest early voting location for Swannanoa residents is the Black Mountain Library, 105 N. Dougherty Street.

If you'd like to check on your polling location, see a list of early voting locations and hours, download a voter registration form, or get answers to other questions you may have about the primary elections, please visit and click on "Election Services," or call 828-250-4200.
Swannanoa Library Winter Reading Challenge

The Swannanoa Library's Winter Snowflake Challenge offers you the chance to win a prize for doing something you love - reading! Just complete six books or more during February and March, and bring your list of completed books to the library. Your name will be placed on a snowflake and added to the growing "blizzard" of flakes on the library's windows. On April 1, three names from the snowflakes will be drawn for each of three age groups: Adults, Teens and Children. Prizes are gift cards from Barnes & Noble of $10, $15 & $25. "Books" may include audiobooks and graphic novels. 

For more info, call the library at 828-250-6486.  The Swannanoa Library is located at 101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont.
Local Nonprofits Encouraged to Apply for Endowment Fund Grants

The Black Mountain - Swannanoa Valley Endowment Fund, an affiliate of The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC), is accepting applications from Swannanoa Valley nonprofits for its spring grant cycle.  The grants will range in size from $2,500 - $10,000, and will focus on projects and programs relating to health and wellness, education, cultural and natural resources and people in need. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2016.  The online application can be accessed at  For more information, contact Virginia Dollar at CFWNC, 828-367-9907.
The Secrets and Science of Aromatherapy 
Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Learn to love yourself and help others with the age-old practice of aromatherapy.  This free class will be presented by Kathy Strickland of Healthy Traditions. The program takes place on Thursday, February 11, from 5 - 6 p.m. at the Swannanoa Library, 101 West Charleston Ave. For more info, call the library at 828-250-6486.
Superfund Community Advisory Group 
Holds Meeting 

The Swannanoa Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) will hold a meeting Superfund Site - Community Involvement Logo at the Bee Tree Fire Station, 510 Bee Tree Road, on Thursday, February 11, at 6:30 p.m. The CAG was formed several years ago to serve as a liaison between the Swannanoa community and the governmental agencies and other parties involved in the Swannanoa Superfund site. The meeting is open to the public and all are invited to attend. Come and learn about the current status of this property and future plans for cleanup and remediation.
Let's Play Ball!
Babe Ruth Sign-ups 
Underway Now 

Local youth baseball organizers have merged the two leagues that formerly served the Swannanoa Valley, creating more opportunities for kids to play ball with other teams across the county.  The new Owen Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball is a combination of the old Owen Little League and Charles D. Owen Babe Ruth. The new league will be one of seven in the county.

Registration is now open for children and youth age 3 - 18.  You can register at Swannanoa First Baptist Church on Friday, February 19, from 6:30 - 8 p.m., and Saturday, February 20, from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Registration is also available at Owen Middle School on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

The Babe Ruth League administrators are working to upgrade and improve the ball fields at Owen Park.  If you'd like to donate time, supplies, or money, please contact league president John Shaw at 828-691-3236. 
Coloring for Grownups 
Coloring is no longer just for kids! Join the Swannanoa Library's newest ongoing group activity, "Coloring and Conversation," on Wednesdays, February 24 and March 16, at 4 p.m. E njoy  some hot tea and cookies, meet new friends, and participate in the relaxing art of coloring. Coloring pages and crayons will be provided, or you may bring your own. This free program is for adults, and is held at the Swannanoa Library, 101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont.  For more info, call 828-250-6486.
Calling All Book Lovers! 


Come be a part of the oldest continual book discussion group in the Buncombe County library system.  The Swannanoa Library book group gathers every 4 - 6 weeks for a lively discussion of a fiction or nonfiction book selected by the group. The next meeting is on Thursday, February 25, at 6 p.m. at the library (101 West Charleston Ave. in Grovemont), to discuss Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos.

Newcomers are always welcome, so don't be shy!  For more info, call the library at 250-6486.
Native Plants for 
Your Backyard 

Come learn about the many benefits of using  native  plants in your home garden. Let Master Gardener Volunteer Debbie Green help you transform your landscape (or even your containers) with beautiful native plants, all perfectly adapted to thrive in our local climate and soil conditions. This free program, offered by the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension Service and the Friends of the Swannanoa Library, will take place on Tuesday, March 1, at 4 p.m., at the Swannanoa Library, 101 West Charleston Ave. For more info, call the library at 250-6486.
Hit the Trail to 
Explore History of Swannanoa Valley
Come learn about the Swannanoa Valley Museum's Valley History Explorer Hiking Series during a free informational meeting on Thursday, March 10, at Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State Street. The meeting will provide an introduction to the program offerings, details about the individual hikes, advice for hikers, and information about scholarships. The Valley History Explorer Hiking Series offers the opportunity to revisit the history of the unique communities that make up the Swannanoa Valley through seven moderate hikes. Register for one hike or the entire series. Each hike is $20 for museum members and $30 for non-members. 

The first hike of the series, on Saturday, March 12, will explore the Warren Wilson College trails along the Swannanoa River in the Riceville community. Hikers will learn about the history of this area, including the evolution of Warren Wilson College from its beginnings in 1894 as a small farm school for young boys.  On Saturday, April 9, hikers will explore historic sites in Swannanoa's Bee Tree community. Information on later hikes in the series is available on the museum's website.

Hikes are approximately three miles long, and depart at 9 a.m. from Black Mountain Savings Bank, 200 E. State Street. To register, call the Swannanoa Valley Museum at 828-669-9566 or visit
Save the Date for Tour of "Old Town" Swannanoa 

Whether you're a long-time Swannanoa resident taking a trip down memory lane or a newcomer learning about Swannanoa's history for the first time, this tour of Swannanoa's once-bustling "downtown" offers something for everyone. The tour, sponsored by the Swannanoa Valley Museum, will explore the historic buildings and businesses that were once part of the mill town surrounding Beacon Manufacturing.

This easy walk will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 4.  Cost and meeting place are TBA. To register, call the Swannanoa Valley Museum at 828-669-9566, or visit
This newsletter is a publication of Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS).  We hope you'll find it a useful source of information about happenings in our community, news of local interest, and Swannanoa history and heritage.  Help us spread the word about all the great things that are happening in Swannanoa by sharing this newsletter with a friend.

If you have ideas for newsletter content, please send us an email at  We'd love to hear from you!   

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Sheriff's Office Opens Swannanoa Substation
The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office, in cooperation with the Swannanoa Fire Department (SFD), has opened a new Swannanoa substation to enhance law enforcement and community interaction. The substation office space is housed at the main Swannanoa Fire Station, 103 South Avenue. The Sheriff's Office and SFD have a long history of cooperation and coordinated service to the citizens of Swannanoa. The official merger of services into one facility will continue to grow the important relationship between law enforcement, the Fire Department, and Swannanoa residents.

The new satellite location is not permanently staffed with an officer, but it serves as a hub of activity for deputies working in the eastern part of the county. Before the satellite office opened, deputies often had to drive to Court Plaza in Asheville, or to offices on Leicester Highway to conduct police business and complete paperwork. Many of those tasks can now be performed locally, saving fuel and mileage. Additionally, the reduced travel time means that officers have more time to do their most important work -- serving the community and its residents.
The cooperative venture between the Sheriff's Office and SFD is a first for the county. "We look at this as being a future model to help expedite and meet the needs of the community -- calls for service, meeting with citizens, meeting with complainants," said Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan. The idea for the new office was raised with Sheriff Duncan at a Swannanoa community meeting held at the Bee Tree Fire Station a couple of years ago.
Swannanoa residents should still call 911 for emergencies or 828-255-5555 for non-emergencies before coming to the satellite office for law enforcement needs.
A dalmation statue keeps watch over the main Swannanoa Fire Station at 103 South Avenue. The Fire Station houses a new Sheriff's Department satellite office.

Community Rallies to Support ArtSpace Charter School 

Flood and Mudslide 

Cause Extensive Damage


Heavy rains in late December caused the collapse of a bank adjacent to Swannanoa's ArtSpace Charter School, sending a torrent of mud and water through the school. Almost immediately after the call went out, volunteers -- including teachers, administrators, community members, and students and their families -- descended on the school to assess the damage and begin the daunting task of cleaning up. 


In addition to the extensive damage to the school's floors, walls and supplies, one of the biggest initial hurdles ArtSpace faced was a flood insurance deductible of $25,000. To raise the money, ArtSpace launched a crowdfunding campaign and asked the community for help. As volunteers and contractors worked to remove mud and debris, and to replace carpeting and drywall, donations began to pour in to the crowdfunding site. Within a week, the insurance deductible had been covered. Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) is honored to be among the many donors that have contributed a combined total of over $52,000 to date. One of the largest single donations came from Swannanoa's Native Kitchen & Social Pub, which advertised that it would contribute an entire day's worth of profits to ArtSpace.  With the help of patrons who packed the restaurant from opening to closing, Native Kitchen was able to contribute $5,900.


Although work will continue for some time on the building and grounds, ArtSpace's scheduled opening day after Christmas break was delayed only by a couple of days thanks to the efforts of countless volunteers and donors. The crowdfunding site remains open; if you'd like to help, please visit According to a recent article in Mountain Xpress,additional donations will be used to help pay for implementation of the school's master plan, which includes steps to address the drainage issues that have plagued the school for many years.


Beacon Blanket Legacy 

Lives On in Swannanoa


Most folks don't have to live in Swannanoa very long before they start to hear stories about Beacon Manufacturing and the impact it had on our community. Beacon opened its Swannanoa plant in the mid-1920s. At one time, it was the largest blanket manufacturer in the world, employing more than 2,200 people. The million-square-foot Beacon plant sat in the middle of town, just a short walk from the "Station" (the name locals gave to the old downtown Swannanoa) and the employee homes in Beacon Village. Many Swannanoa residents grew up as part of the "Beacon family," and have fond memories of the days when the plant, and the surrounding community, were humming with activity. 


Sadly, the Beacon plant closed in 2002, and burned to the ground in 2003. But Beacon and the Owen family remain an important part of the history and life of Swannanoa. The below photographs of Beacon blankets pay tribute to that history and to the generations of Swannanoans who worked at Beacon. The members of Swannanoa's "Beacon family," many of whom still live here today, lovingly produced blankets that brightened homes and kept people warm all around the world. Most Americans of a certain age probably grew up with Beacon blankets on their beds and in their homes. And countless WWII soldiers wrapped themselves in wool army blankets that were produced by the millions at Beacon's Swannanoa plant. That's a legacy Swannanoa can be proud of.

Beacon blankets were known for their bright colors and varied patterns. "Camp" blankets were among the most popular designs.
Vintage Beacon blankets have become collector's items and can often be found for sale on eBay and other websites.
Winter Work Sows 
Seeds of Growth at the Swannanoa Community Garden
The Swannanoa Community Garden, sponsored by Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS), and located off Lake Eden Road, produced more than 800 pounds of produce last year for local food banks. The garden beds have been winterized with a blanket of compost and yellow clover, and the garden managers and volunteers are gearing up for an even bigger harvest during the next growing season.

Although the physical labor of gardening has lessened over the winter months, the important chores of grant writing, networking and researching continue. This hard work was recently rewarded with a generous grant of $750 from Buncombe County Parks and Recreation. Bountiful Cities, a non-profit group that helps community gardeners, gifted the garden with $150.  Additionally, The Learning Community School, based at Camp Rockmont, held a fundraiser that raised nearly $200 for the garden. These grants and donations will help sustain and grow the garden in the coming year by facilitating the purchase of enriched soil, seeds and plastic for the reconstructed hoop house. 

V olunteers continue to be a major source of hands-on support for the garden. Students from Mr. Bo Mallory's freshman science class at Owen High School, and fourth, fifth and sixth-graders from The Learning Community School helped this past fall with ongoing garden chores, including spreading soil, mulching, composting and creating new beds.  These two schools will also plant and maintain their own beds in the spring, and help prepare starts for the garden in March and April. A group of Owen High students are discussing the possibility of starting a garden club that will provide volunteers for the Swannanoa Community Garden.

Jeff Dektor, a garden volunteer, has put countless hours into reconstructing a 10' by 20' hoop house that was donated to the garden last year.  Due to high winds, the hoop house was crushed and bent so badly that the conduit structure was only good for recycling. But Jeff was determined to save the structure, and after many hours of hard work, was able to unbend, reinforce and reconstruct the hoop house to its original size. He's made it so strong and windproof that it will last for years. Thank you, Jeff!

If you'd like to volunteer or make a donation to the Swannanoa Community Garden, please contact Sandy Drake at
The hoop house, partially destroyed by high winds, will have new life thanks to
the efforts of volunteer Jeff Dektor.

Be Prepared for 

Weather Emergencies


Our recent heavy rains, flooding and snowstorm serve as an unwelcome reminder that weather in this part of North Carolina can be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. To help residents be more prepared for extreme weather, Buncombe County has joined with Nixle, an emergency communication system that allows the county to quickly notify citizens of weather emergencies. To sign up, just text "BCALERT" to 888777, and you'll automatically receive a text alert of any life-threatening emergency.


Residents are also encouraged to work within their neighborhoods to keep everyone safe, including checking on elderly or disabled neighbors when bad weather strikes. 


For more tips on emergency preparedness, please click here.


Swannanoa Trivia


Answer this Swannanoa trivia question and find out if you're a "Swannanoa Scholar" (scroll down to the bottom of the newsletter for the answers).


Q. Did Beacon Blankets ever manufacture clothing?
____________ ___________________________________
Do you have a Swannanoa trivia question you'd like to submit for possible inclusion in a future newsletter edition? If so, please send us an email at

Swannanoa Scenes 

Winter Then and Now 


This photo from the Swannanoa Valley Museum's
collection shows the Swannanoa train depot and
businesses along Railroad Street in the old downtown Swannanoa. It was probably taken during the blizzard
that hit western North Carolina in March, 1936.  
This photo of the Swannanoa River was taken 
several days after the recent January 2016 storm that dumped about a foot of snow on our area. 
  Answer to Swannanoa Trivia Questions 

Q. Did Beacon Blankets ever manufacture clothing?

A. Well, not quite, but almost. Beacon sold kits for making bathrobes out of its blanket cloth.  Home sewers could buy the fabric and a kit that contained everything needed to make a robe, including a Beacon label. The robes were worn in several classic Hollywood movies. The character "Kramer" also wore Beacon robes on the popular TV show, Seinfeld. A web search reveals that vintage Beacon robes can still be purchased today on eBay and similar sites.
Please consider making a donation to help support FANS' work in the community.  Checks can be mailed to:  FANS, PO Box 697, Swannanoa, NC  28778.  Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization -- donations are tax deductible.  Every little bit helps. Thank you! 

For more info, call 581-9848, send us an email at  or visit us at                                     


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Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa  

FANS, PO Box 697, Swannanoa, NC  28778