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  • Writer's pictureNancy Beth Weaver-Hoffman

I do dearly love Ashe County

I do dearly love Ashe County. This land, these mountains, are in every fiber of my being. I am sure this place is part of my DNA.

I spent seventeen years “away”, just down the road in Buncombe County, not far at all. I grieved for home every single day.

I tell people it took me 18 years to get out of this hellhole, about 3 months to get homesick and another 18 years to get home.

My family has been here a long time. I’m thinking 7 or 8 generations on my Dads side, about the same on my Mother’s.

I belong here, just like you do. Just like we all do. No matter if you're “from here” or “got here as fast as you could” Pay attention and you can feel it.


Are we going to allow ourselves to be pushed out by folks who only care about money?

There truly is nothing new under the sun, this is no exception. Ashe County has always been a place of have and have not.

If you know, you know. Classism ain’t never been in short supply in these hollers. It used to be have-nots, have-a-little-bit-mores and just a few have-a-lots.

Now the chasm has widened, that which was a ditch between wealth and poverty when I graduated from Northwest Ashe, (Go Mountaineers!) in 1983 is now a ravine.

It is now possible to sit in a roomful of Ashe County residents, both native and not, who aren't even mildly cognizant of the lived experiences of the people who live and work here.

It is possible to ask a room full of officials to address the housing crisis in our county, and find they are completely unaware of the problem, as well as unwilling to do anything about it !

How can this possibly be ? Seems to me this is a large factor in why we have such division ... why it seems so insurmountable at times.

There is a complete disconnect between the folks living the issues and the folks governing the solutions y’all. We gotta fix that !

Housing… Lord help us…nothing is affordable. Nothing is accessible. Not to rent nor to buy. Anything that is reasonably priced is completely disgusting.

We continue to ask our kids to be patient, keep trying, one day there will be jobs that pay a living wage in Ashe County. And they never come. Kids leave for well paying jobs down in the state…come home 3 or 4 times a year and invariably spend hours trying to figure out how they can come back here. And the grandbabies cry when they leave and so do we. How can we teach them the things our parents taught us about these mountains if they don't live here? And everything just keeps going up … except paychecks.

There are 3 homeless encampments in our county. The best we can do for these folks is give them a new tent or a pair of boots ?

We aren't even providing warming shelters for this terribly underserved population when the weather is at frostbite, freeze to death temperatures. Much less a shelter or programs to help them heal and get back on their feet. We have almost no services for those who have a substance misuse disease, yet the problem is at epidemic levels.

Human beings in our community are suffering while we sit by and do nothing. We pay no attention to them until they get arrested. Then our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers have to detox in jail with no help. No medication assistance. This is inhumane.

There are hundreds of grandmas & grandpas, aunts & uncles, siblings raising the children traumatized by our drug crisis. Most of them are completely unequipped to do so, financially and emotionally.

What are we doing to support these folks? Not much. Where is the opioid money ? Remember when they brought that stupid tv show in here to make a mockery of the hillbillies who were trying to live through the problems the system created? Did any of that money reach the people who were affected? Nope

The cost of childcare is absurd. It is nigh on to impossible to manage childcare on Ashe County wages. Save for college? Hah ! A year of childcare is comparable in cost to a year of college… Can’t hardly save for the future when you are struggling to make it in the present, how in the world do we expect grandparents to manage it on a fixed income?

If it’s a child who is in kinship placement by DSS, and in the legal custody of DSS, they do pay for childcare. If you are just stepping in to take care of the grandchildren, without getting tangled up in the system … WIC, SNAP benefits. That's about it.

We are a county full of very real people who are dealing with the aftermath of the infusion of drugs, and who will be dealing with it for generations to come.

And, by the way, Our doctors and hospital have yet to confront and apologize for their complicity in this crisis. As a mom who once intercepted a bottle of hydrocodone being given to a 16 year old in the Ashe Memorial Emergency Dept. for a cut foot…

Well, lets just say I have no qualms about referring to our local health care network as a “pill mill”

I said what I said, and I’ll stand by it.

Where are the people who represent the people who are going to work day in and day out, yet still living paycheck to paycheck ?

I can’t see them, no matter how hard I look.

Can you ?

You know, and so do I, that we could go on for days about this. One thing after another. The bottom line is this … are we going to put people in places who understand the real issues that working folks face? Or are we just going to keep on putting folks who only care about money and development?

Who have no idea what goes on in the homes of working people in Ashe County because they are so far removed from it?

The choice is ours of course.

There are a whole lot more working people here than there are glad handing bureaucrats with their heads in the sand.

We just gotta vote.

We gotta make our voices heard.

We just gotta, or our people and our places are going to continue to disappear til we are just memories of what used to be.

Ashe County belongs to those of us who belong to Ashe County.

Together we can do this.

Let’s get at it, we’re a’burnin’ daylight !

- Nancy Beth Weaver-Hoffman

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