Archive for January, 2010

Executive Director C. Roger Hibbard has retired after 33 wonderful years at Blue Ridge. We will be honoring Roger’s time on the mountain with a reception and dinner in March. (More details to be announced later).

Until then we’d like to congratulate Kurt Eckel (our Operations Director since 1997) who officially took over the reigns on January 1st!

Here is a recent press release announcing the change in leadership:

Paul V. Breazeale, President of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly Board of Directors, is pleased to announce that Kurt L. Eckel, Operations Director of the Assembly, has been named Chief Executive Officer effective with the retirement of C. Roger Hibbard, December 31, 2009.

Prior to Blue Ridge, he worked in the Asheville area’s hospitality and tourism industry for 15 years.  With various hotels, Kurt has been a director of sales, food and beverage director and general manager with multi-property responsibilities.  In addition, Kurt was an adjunct instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville, North Carolina.

Kurt is a member of Paynes Chapel, a classic western North Carolina country church, in Sandy Mush, North Carolina. Kurt’s professional involvement includes membership in the Association of YMCA Professionals and the Western North Carolina Conference Center Association, serving as president in 2007.  His other offices have included vice-president of the Asheville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, chairman of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, and a member of the board of directors of the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Valley and Asheville Area Chambers of Commerce.

Kurt, a graduate of Stetson University (Deland, FL) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration, is a YMCA Senior Director and has completed the YMCA’s Executive Development Program.  He served as operations director at Blue Ridge from 1997-2009.

Kurt and his wife, Peggy, will celebrate eight years of marriage this year.  Their family includes sons Ben and Adam, daughters Ashley and husband Travis, Reba and husband Ian, and four grandchildren. Kurt and Peggy reside at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly.


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Staff News

The 2009 holidays, already an exciting time of year, were particularly exciting for two Blue Ridge staff members:

Amanda Linsley, Guest Services Supervisor, became engaged just a few days before Christmas! Her boyfriend of 3 and a half years, Casey Duckworth, proposed at their family’s holiday gathering using Christmas lights spelling out the words “Marry Me”. Amanda is extremely excited about the engagement. Though they have not yet set a date for the wedding, she says, “We are looking forward to whatever God brings into our life.” Congratulations, Amanda!  We wish you and Casey a lifetime of love and  happiness together.

In other news, Chris Melton, an employee who has worked in Conferences Services since the spring of 2008,  recently left Blue Ridge and his parents home in Marion to begin his service in the U.S Navy.

We received a letter this week from him, postmarked on Christmas Day, from the Naval Training Center where he is stationed in Illinois. He writes:

Blue Ridge Family,

Hey, hope all of you there are doing great, and I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’m not sure what the weather is like there, but it’s cold here, and it snows almost every day, which makes marching outside very unpleasant. I’m learning to adapt to military lifestyle, which is not easy in the slightest, but I’m doing pretty well.  It’s a lot to take in and a lot of information to learn, especially in the first weeks, but I’m doing a pretty good job of staying on top of things. Military life isn’t easy. I have no freedoms. The only communication I have is through letters, once a week on Sundays, that is the only  time we are allowed  to read them. There is no TV, or music, or computer – just physical training and studying. There are 88 guys in my division. I’m trying to get to know them but it’s hard because we are not allowed to talk, not even in the cafeteria. Meals are good though I can’t say  it beats Blue Ridge “Deli- Day”! Well I hope all of you are doing well and I hope to see you all again soon. I graduate February 12th.


P.S. Please Write!

Chris has said that he plans to be a Criptologic Technician in the Computer Intelligence division of the Navy.  We wish him the best of luck at Basic Training and beyond!  He is in our thoughts and prayers, and we are so lucky and proud to have him serving our country. It was wonderful to hear from him and we have already sent a return letter of well-wishes from all of us at Blue Ridge. We look forward to seeing him upon his homecoming at the end of February.

For anyone wishing to send Chris a letter, his address is:

Sr Melton, Christopher
Ship 14, USS Arizona, Division 090
3410 Sailor Drive
Great Lakes, IL 60088

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It is probably safe to say that Old Man Winter has officially arrived at Blue Ridge! We have been getting lots of severe weather in the past few weeks, making for lots of interesting stories and pretty views. On the weekend before Christmas a massive Nor’Easter dumped about 11 inches of snow on Western North Carolina. It was our largest snowfall in a decade and one of the top snowfalls in over a century!

While the snow is beautiful to look at and often fun to play in, it has also proven to be hazardous and costly. Many Buncombe County residents, especially those without 4 wheel drive, were stranded in their homes and thousands were left without electricity over the weekend.  Most area schools and businesses closed, yet Blue Ridge remained open as the Grounds and Maintenance staff struggled to keep our parking lots and roads plowed. Staff Development Director, Elaine Godfrey, even had to be “escorted” to the safety of the front gates by our plow truck after the buildup of snow threatened to keep her here for the night.

The weather particularly took its toll on Lee Hall, where the weight of the snow  from the main roof caused the shed rooftop over the Blue Ridge Store and Snack Shop to collapse!

A few days later, just as the region was beginning to recover from the blizzard, a wave of freezing rain and more extreme temperatures swept over the area.  On Christmas morning the ice storm took down numerous trees and limbs around Blue Ridge and even knocked out power out for a day and a half.  Fortunately our new generator was able to provide power to Blue Ridge Center for Food Service and the Guest Services office.


Another wave of bitter-cold weather moved in just in time for the New Year. For the first few days of 2010 it did not get above freezing, and there were wind-chill temperatures in the single digits.

Unfortunately this appears to be just the beginning of the treacherous winter that awaits. These low  temperatures usually aren’t recorded until later on in the winter months, but according to the National Weather Service, “The mountains could expect below-normal temperatures through March and a chance for above normal precipitation”, meaning more snow and ice lie in our future. We are eager to see what Mother Nature has in store for the month of January, but our fingers are crossed that it is a little more mild than December so that we can all avoid those dreaded “winter blues”.

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