WEDO serves 15 Counties in Western North Carolina.
Our Mission Statement: To promote economic growth and development within low income communities through means of interest free loans, grants in aid, technical assistance, training, marketing and economic assistance.
WEDO has been involved in various general economic development projects that have been profitable to the low income in the area. Examples: raising red worms; picking up night crawlers for immediate sale; small cut and sew operations; Christmas tree production; community gardens; and sub contract work for vocational rehabilitation centers.
WEDO is a Proud Member of the:
Women crusade to be phlebotomists despite the challenges
Ask a few of the women pursuing a career with help from the Western Economic Development Organization (WEDO) about their future, and you’ll likely get an emotional response.
For many students, affording college tuition of any kind is just not in the cards, and that’s when Mary Ann Morgan steps in.
Morgan, executive director of WEDO, helps eligible candidates interested in furthering their education get connected to the finances and resources they need to reach their goal.
For those who are eligible, WEDO helps to promote economic growth and development within low-income communities through means of interest free loans, grants in aid, technical assistance, training, marketing and economic assistance, and even childcare.
And that’s what Morgan has done to help three Haywood County women who shared a goal of becoming phlebotomists, those medically trained to draw blood.
With the financial help from WEDO, Duska Roberts, Ashley Grasty and Morgan Esclavon are pursuing a career in phlebotomy. Roberts and Grasty recently received their phlebotomy certifications from Haywood Community College and Esclavon, who just completed her CNA at HCC, has enrolled in phlebotomy courses and will begin her studies on Oct. 13.
But for the career-minded trio, taking that step to pursue phlebotomy was more than just about an education — it was about proving to themselves that they could commit themselves to their future and create a better life for themselves and their families, despite all odds.
“I can see a difference in 90 percent of the girls’ attitudes and confidence since they came in here,” Morgan said. “They’re always coming in here and saying, ‘I want to tell you what I made on my test.’ I’m sort of like an adopted mom.’”
Making ends meet
Roberts, 39, gets teary-eyed whenever she talks about her current accomplishments. She recently completed the phlebotomy course at HCC and received a 97 on the state test and is looking for work in the field.
Pursuing phlebotomy wasn't an easy decision due to her living situation. When she first moved to Haywood County, she lived in public housing with two children and was barely making ends meet while working at Kmart part time. She also needed childcare, and WEDO helped with that.
Now, whenever she talks about her future, her face lights up and she gets excited to share her experiences she had while taking classes at HCC.
“I like all of it,” an enthusiastic Roberts said when asked what she enjoyed about phlebotomy. “A lot of people are skiddish about needles, but I’ve never had a bad experience with digging in someone’s arm and I never want to. Not everyone can poke people — but if it’s something I can do and do it well, then I want to help the process and help people get better.”
Roberts admits that she chose a profession in the medical field because there would always be a need for it.
“A lot of people can’t find jobs, but the medical field will never be obsolete,” she said.
Now that she has some education under her belt, Roberts is looking for better employment, and is engaged and living with her fiance. She remains positive that she will find a job in the field, even if she has to commute from Haywood County.
“The biggest thing is to get experience under your belt,” she said. “It’s a little harder (to find work) in a small town like Waynesville, but if you’re willing to transfer and work in Asheville, you can always get jobs. Since I plan to continue my education, I think I will always have a place to go.”
Ashley Grasty, 23, of Clyde, has three children, a husband, and something that’s held her back from a better education in the past — her learning disability. But recently, Grasty decided she wasn’t going to let her disability get the best of her anymore.
Enrolling into the phlebotomy classes with Duska, Grasty charged forward and received her phlebotomy certifications as well, making a 91 on the state testing.
“In high school I always had to have help,” Grasty said. “But this time, I had no help whatsoever.”
Grasty is also a diabetic and admits to being in the hospital her entire life, where she encountered very uplifting doctors and nurses who inspired her.
“I had one nurse come in every morning and sing ‘You are my sunshine,’” she said. “Ever since, I’ve wanted to be in the medical field.”
Though Grasty admits attending classes at HCC was a huge challenge, she said she kept going to set a good example for her daughter.
“My daughter is in Head Start and I’m trying to show her that school is important,” she said. “I am still going to school everyday when I don’t like it.”
For Esclavon, 19, pursuing an education at HCC has been something that gave her confidence.
After being picked on in high school and developing with low self-esteem, Esclavon finally decided to make a change for the better.
She had been doubting herself after her 3-year-old niece with cerebral palsy was removed from her care and sent to live with other family members. That's why Eslcavon promised that she would find a way to take care of her one day — and so, she decided to get her CNA.
Esclavon found out two weeks ago that she had passed her CNA test.
“When I found I just cried because my work is always going to be fore her,” Esclavon said, through tears. “Now God has called me to phlebotomy.”
Esclavon said without the WEDO program, her future in the medical field wouldn’t have been possible. She said the program had provided everything she needed — including tuition funds, uniforms, supplies, and funding to pay for her drug screen and background check.
“My mom has been disabled since I was a little kid so I didn’t have encouragement or self esteem growing up,” Esclavon said. “I can’t explain how blessed I am now. My mom cried when I told her about this program.”
A proud family
Now that the women have challenged themselves and overcoming the barriers to become phlebotomists, they are feeling closer — and more hopeful — than ever.
“After 20 years of not being in school, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh can I do this?’” Duska said about first enrolling at HCC. “The thing is, yes you can. The Western Economic Development Organization gave me confidence as well as an education. I feel like I can do anything.”
And for the first time ever, Grasty has achieved her goal and has overcome the struggles in her way — even when it seemed impossible.
“I’m most proud of me actually going through with it,” Grasty said. “If it weren’t for God and my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Esclavon plans to keep moving forward with her medical courses so that she can one day be reunited with her niece.
“When she left it was so hard — it was like she was my kid,” Esclavon said. “So I have really have a heart for (the medical field.)”
Sabrina Ashe has worked in the fast food industry for years. She is now enrolled in Haywood Community College’s nurse aide course and plans to use these new skills to leave the fast food business for a better paying job.
Ashe is the recipient of grant funds from the Western Economic Development Organization. The organization still has funds available for Haywood County residents that would like to receive vocational training or a High School Equivalency Diploma (formerly known as GED) at HCC.
The application is also open to residents in other counties listed in the service area as follows: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Yancey, and Qualla Indian Boundary (Cherokee Indian Reservation), provided that individuals obtain their testing and vocational training from HCC.
“Receiving these funds will help me get a better job so I can provide for my family better,” Ashe said. “Mary Ann Morgan, executive director of the Western Economic Development Organization, is very supportive. I appreciate all the help she has given me.”
Like Ashe, Susie Evans receives Western Economic Development Organization grant funds for the HCC Nurse Aide course.
“I have some experience helping people in their homes but I wanted to be certified," she said. "Without these funds, I could not have come back to school.”
Evans is also working toward a High School Equivalency Diploma at HCC. Prior to starting the nurse aide program, she worked as a housekeeper at Silver Bluff.
“I love this type of work,” Evans said. “I am a people person. I enjoy helping the elderly.”
Western Economic Development Organization’s mission is to promote economic growth and development within low income communities through means of interest free loans, grants in aid, technical assistance, training, marketing and economic assistance. By assisting individuals to obtain the High School Equivalency Diploma and other vocational training, the organization is promoting the growth of a strong community for Haywood County.
“Being able to come back to school is a way to better myself and my life. I really appreciate the help Mary Ann gave me,” Evans said. “It was a tremendous help, a blessing to me.”
In addition to the funds available through this organization, HCC’s Foundation has additional scholarship funds available for Workforce Development students. Call 565-4170 for more information.
For more information about funds available through the Western Economic Development Organization, contact Morgan at 144 Industrial Park Drive, Unit C, Waynesville or call 452-7585.