Several guest speakers on tap for SEARCH meeting




SPRUCE PINE – Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare, or SEARCH, is hosting an early spring meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 15 Hemlock Ave. in Spruce Pine. 

The evening begins with dinner, a potluck at which the main dish and dinnerware will be provided. Others are encouraged to bring a dish to share. Let Mimi Duncan know by Friday, March 6, if you plan to come and what food you might bring. Call her at 828-765-2721 or email her at At this meeting, free childcare will also be available; if you plan to bring your child or children, add that information to your RSVP.

Retired journalist Victoria Hicks, whose actions and thinking helped to shape a better final agreement with HCA, will lead the discussion.

Present to share positive news about a collaboration between transportation services in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties will be Sheila Blalock, who has been the executive director of Mitchell County Transportation for 10 years. A graduate of Mountain Heritage High School and Mayland Community College, she was instrumental in getting a significant grant to fund the purchase of the software and equipment needed to make the coordination of services across three counties possible. She will also describe Mitchell County Transportation, which is No. 1 in the state for a small, rural system of 15,000. 

Diane Creek, a public health professional who heads the Toe River Health District, will round out the roster of special guest speakers with a presentation about what the district is doing to prepare the three-county region for the possibility of the Coronavirus appearing here. Though she says it’s “a huge deal” and “it’s taking tons of their time” to prepare for it, Creek also welcomes the opportunity to educate the community directly. 

SEARCH team leaders will share news about the future of ambulance services in Mitchell and Yancey counties plus announce a newly funded project.

Email Susan Larson at for more information about the meeting.