Help the national spotlight shine on Haywood

By Vicki Hyatt | Jul 19, 2014


When the national media focuses a direct beam on a relatively small community, it is usually because of something really bad or something really good.

In the past 20 years, I vividly recall the half a dozen times or so when an issue we were covering captured the attention of a significantly wider audience.

There was the tragedy when two passersby randomly pulled off the interstate near the Rabbit Skin community and killed five members of the Phillips family in 1999. In 2004, the aftermath of massive flooding created by tropical storms Frances and Ivan brought outside help — and media attention.

There were several quirky incidents that helped Haywood issues become part of the national news cycle for a time. One involved a Waynesville preacher whose sermons and statements about building a political church led to a highly publicized church split — and national media attention in 2005.

Then there was bizarre 2006 stories about a “dungeon” operated by Master Rick in the Allens Creek where men could come to be voluntarily castrated and learn to be subservient. You can imagine the number of outside media representatives who flocked to Waynesville for that story.

There has been plenty of good press in Haywood, as well. Most recently, Dale Walksler and The Wheels Through Time Museum have put Maggie Valley not only on the national radar, but garnered international interest for the “What’s In The Barn” reality show featuring rare motorcycle and other vintage vehicle finds purchased and brought to the museum.

Trade publications often mention places such as The Swag for its widespread reputation as one of the top country inns or Lake Junaluska for its unprecedented beauty and hospitality.

Now Haywood County is on the cusp of receiving national attention for its effort to convert a closed prison into a place where those without a home, whether because of life circumstances or being recently released from the Haywood County jail.

The center is just a part of the countywide effort to tackle the roots of poverty that is spreading like wildfire. The organization Haywood Helps has adopted a logo that contains the words “Community Problems, Community Solutions.”

The motto really says it all about the organization and its first major undertaking — turning a place where people spent years atoning for their crimes into one where a second chance is offered.

The Guaranteed Rate/Ty Pennington Ultimate Neighborhood Giveback Challenge  is searching for the ideal project to show how a little bit of outside help can turn a community dream into a reality.

In every Facebook vote held to far — and this is round three — the Haywood project has dominated.

Haywood is already a winner since by reaching the finalist round, we are guaranteed to win at least $10,000 to use toward the project.

But just imagine the wonderful publicity that could flow into our community if we ended up with the grand prize of $50,000 plus help from Ty Pennington and his crew of “Extreme Makeover” fame.

While the other makeover shows have been filmed for national broadcast, there is no guarantee that will happen in this case, but there’s plenty of verbiage in the agreement that allows for the possibility.

Organizers are confident the Haywood project will remain the most popular in the online voting competition, but must now convince judges we have volunteers and available funds to complete at least a portion of the project.

If those who have so enthusiastically voted on Facebook and shared links with their friends could donate even a few dollars toward the effort, it would show the Guaranteed Rate sponsors that we in Haywood put our money where our heart lies.

There is a “Give Now” button on the Haywood Helps Facebook page, and on the Haywood Pathways Center Facebook pages. Just think, if each of the 2,800 individuals who voted to support this project gave only $5 to help fund it, not only would more than $14,000 be raised, but it would send a powerful message to the Ultimate Neighborhood Giveback Challenge folks — CHOOSE US.

Another way to support the cause — and have fun — is to buy a ticket to the Haywood Helps 2014 Gala. Tickets are $100 each and can be purchased at The Mountaineer, 220 N. Main St. in Waynesville or sending a check to Mountain Projects/Haywood Helps, 2251 Old Balsam Road, Waynesville, NC 28786 to order tickets by mail.

Those who started the Haywood Helps effort had a single purpose in mind at the very first meeting held this spring — to take care of the people and the challenges in our community with the talent and resources available to us.

Relying on government funding for solutions is not only an uncertain way to exist in our current economic climate, but is a way to shirk responsibility for things we can handle on our own.

Be part of the change in our community that will not only help individuals within our border, but can lay forth a framework that can serve as a model for other counties and towns across the nation.

We in Haywood County have an opportunity to chart a new course and there are plenty of chances to become involved.

Watch for upcoming meeting notices in The Mountaineer, educate yourself on the efforts now taking place in your community and take a single step to start today.

Send in a donation or purchase a ticket to the Haywood Helps Gala.