23rd Anniversary Celebration of the Empowerment Resource Center – WRES

Free celebration will leave you feeling inspired and motivated.

Darryl Rhymes of A-B Tech, Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, MLK Prayer Breakfast founder Oralene Graves Simmons, and Elder John R. Hayes celebrating the 16th Anniversary of WRES in 2017. Photo: Andre Daugherty
Darryl Rhymes of A-B Tech, Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, MLK Prayer Breakfast founder Oralene Graves Simmons, and Elder John R. Hayes celebrating the 16th Anniversary of WRES in 2017. Photo: Andre Daugherty

An invitation from the staff and Board of Directors.

On Sunday, September 17, 2023, from 4 to 6 p.m., the Empowerment Resource Center – WRES will celebrate 23 years in operation with a gala event at the A-B Tech/Mission Health Conference Center, 16 Fernihurst Drive, on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

The Empowerment Resource Center has served the Asheville and Buncombe County community via the WRES 100.7 FM low-powered radio station for 23 years since its founding by community activists and civic leaders John R. Hayes and Sophie Dixon. The station serves as a catalyst for inclusion and innovation by offering programming that reflects the needs of the community, while also promoting empowerment in communities of color and low wealth.

Over the course of more than two decades, WRES has actively worked to bridge the information gap that often separates programs, organizations, governmental agencies, and resources from the broader community.

During the celebration, the board and supporters of the Empowerment Resource Center will honor Elder Hayes, who worked tirelessly to ensure that Asheville and Buncombe County had access to critical resources and information via WRES 100.7 FM. Hayes passed away on June 10, 2021, and this celebration will honor his life and legacy as well as recognize others who have helped to make the station a success.

Board and Supporters Speak Out

Longtime board member Bernard Oliphant is one of those, recognizing that under the guidance of Hayes, co-founder Sophie Dixon, and countless volunteers, “WRES has always been abounding, unmovable, and steadfast with compassion and love.”

The current board president, the Rev. Dr. John R. Grant, pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, noted that “Mt. Zion has been a consistent and continuous supporter since the station’s inception and remains committed to doing so in the years to come.” The church’s mission, he stated, “is to worship God, make disciples and minister to the total needs of persons locally, nationally and worldwide. We’re grateful to WRES for, among other things, broadcasting Mt. Zion’s weekly worship services for the past 23 years to spread the gospel of our Lord Jesus the Christ.”

Dr. Grant is also president of the Baptist Ministers Union of Asheville and Vicinity, which renders services and represents churches in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, McDowell, and Transylvania Counties. With its long-standing history of service and outreach that extends to these counties and beyond, “the BMU is grateful to WRES for providing opportunities for our churches and nonprofit organizations to have our public service announcements aired for the empowerment of our communities. We thank you for a job well done.”

Elder John R. Hayes (right) with son Michael Hayes (left), grandson Darren Hayes (left front), and daughter Paula Hayes during the Hillcrest Summer Enrichment Program.
Elder John R. Hayes (right) with son Michael Hayes (left), grandson Darren Hayes (left front), and daughter Paula Hayes during the Hillcrest Summer Enrichment Program.

Community Leaders

Other community leaders shared Dr. Grant’s praise for the organization. Scott Dedman, Executive Director of Mountain Housing Opportunities, was an early organizer of the low-power radio station, along with Elder Hayes, Ms. Dixon, and several other nonprofits.

“Twenty-three years ago,” he said, “two friends and visionaries, John Hayes and Sophie Dixon, presented the idea of creating a ‘Low-Power FM’ radio station for Asheville and surrounding areas. The FCC designation ‘low power’ was ironic, as our goal was to empower people in need—people who need justice, fairness, equity, financial strength and stability, and even encouragement and inspiration. And the Empowerment Resource Center was born.”

Dedman added, “Representatives from Mountain Housing Opportunities, OnTrack Financial, Pisgah Legal Services, Self-Help Credit Union, and others came together to organize the station, but it was Elder Hayes’s and Ms. Dixon’s dedication and vision that always moved us ahead.”

Pisgah Legal Services

Joining Dedman in praise for the Empowerment Resource Center/WRES was James A. Barrett, Executive Director of Pisgah Legal Services, which provides free or low-cost counseling to low-income residents. He noted that when The Empowerment Resource Center was incorporated in June 2001, “Pisgah Legal Services was pleased to be able to help in its formation.”

And over the years, PLS has frequently provided community information for the public information role of WRES, and several of its staff members have served on the board of ERC.

In a statement Barrett said, “The ERC and its community radio station have played an important role in the Asheville area. Founders Elder John Hayes and Ms. Sophie Dixon have been amazing in their work to start and continue the station and the nonprofit. The radio station helps to build and sustain the African American community as well as the rest of the Asheville community . . . [and] has provided a continuous stream of valuable and useful information to the community about health issues, community services, legal issues, educational opportunities, religious programming, civil rights history, and much, much more.

(L-R) A-B Tech President John Gossett, Duane Adams, Sophie Dixon, and Leronica Casey.
(L-R) A-B Tech President John Gossett, Duane Adams, Sophie Dixon, and Leronica Casey.

A-B Tech

A-B Tech Community College founded its “No Limits” radio show on WRES in September 2013. The show was the brainchild of Elder Hayes and Rev. James Lee, who saw the show as a vehicle for encouraging more African American youth to attend college and, specifically, A-B Tech.

The original co-hosts were Lee and Phyllis Utley, who were both A-B Tech employees at the time. They were succeeded by current hosts Duane Adams and Leronica Casey.

Elder Hayes recorded the show’s opening and engineered every show until his death, both in the studio and occasionally on campus. He was A-B Tech’s biggest cheerleader in the community, and both the college and the Empowerment Center shared the goals of making college more accessible and changing lives. A-B Tech is grateful to him, Sophie Dixon, Randy Weston, and all the WRES-100.7 FM hosts for the past decade of “No Limits.”

Mt. Zion CDC

The mission of Mount Zion Community Development, Inc. is to advocate and amplify the voices of People of Color, in particular, and all people in general who are disproportionately impacted by health disparities, and to address the need for jobs, housing, crime prevention, education, and health care. Belinda Kennedy Grant, Executive Director, explains its vision as “to build a thriving community that reduces barriers, systemic and institutional racism, and ensures access to employment, quality healthcare, education, and housing for People of Color.”

“It remains an honor to have partnered with you over the past 23 years,” Ms. Grant wrote. “We were there in the beginning, and we express our gratitude for your commitment, dedication, and excellent coverage in sharing our broadcast for the good of the community.”

Buncombe County Broadcasts

Lillian Govus, Buncombe County Director of Communications & Public Engagement, praised the Empowerment Resource Center radio station WRES 100.7FM in particular for its long-term communication of essential information to the community. The county sponsors “Tapped In,” at 11:30 every other Wednesday, a broadcast designed to reach, inform, empower, and connect communities of color with county programs, initiatives, and services. The live, bi-weekly 30-minute programs are hosted by members of the Buncombe County Communications and Public Engagement team and are rebroadcast through the week. It’s also available as a podcast on Anchor and Spotify.

Among the topics “Tapped In” has covered are: Buncombe County’s Slave Deeds Project; property tax reappraisals; The Community Reparations Commission; veteran support; opioid awareness and intervention; local parks information, and teen suicide awareness and prevention. Many of these topics are of particular importance to minority residents of Asheville and Buncombe County, but are also of interest to the broader community.

Celebration Will Rock

The free afternoon celebration of WRES/ERC’s first 23 years will be filled with fun, laughter, and empowerment. The lineup of speakers and activities will leave you feeling inspired and motivated. Whether you’re a long-time supporter or new to our community, this event is for everyone who believes in the power of empowerment.

RSVP for this event by emailing [email protected], visiting wresfm.com, or calling (828) 281-3065. If you cannot attend the event but would like to make a contribution of $23 or more, please donate via www.paypal.com/paypalme/wresfm or mail a contribution to the Empowerment Resource Center – WRES, PO Box 7495, Asheville, NC 28802.

Empowerment Resource Center/WRES Board of Directors

  • John Grant, Chair
  • JéWana Grier McEachin, Vice-Chair
  • Sophie Dixon, Executive Director
  • Board members: Terry M. Bellamy, Earl Brown, Tara Brown, Scott Dedman, Bernard Oliphant, Claudia Tucker (Member Emerita)

Listen to WRES-LP at 100.7 FM or at wresfm.com.