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New program will provide no-cost counseling sessions for Asheville food and beverage workers who need help

Linked4Life Foundation launches initiative with All Souls Counseling Center,selling carabiners at the Foundation’s new “HOPE Bus” to help fund the program 

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 19, 2024) – The Linked4Life Foundation is launching a wide-ranging program that includes establishing a peer network for mental health resources and providing no-cost counseling sessions for Asheville food and beverage workers. 


The effort aims to help as many local food and beverage workers as the Foundation can - people who may be dealing with anything from housing insecurity to substance abuse to juggling work and family responsibilities. The goal is to provide up to six counseling sessions at no cost for each worker in need of mental health service.  


Linked4Life’s partner for the initiative is All Souls Counseling Center, a local non-profit that provides sliding-scale mental health counseling services to adults in Western North Carolina.


“We need to break the stigma of mental health and send a clear message to those who need it most that they are not alone,” said Cheryl Antoncic, co-owner of Bear’s Smokehouse and founder of the Linked4Life Foundation. “Being in the food and beverage industry, we know how impactful this initiative will be to our entire Asheville community.”


The effort is part of a broad initiative supported by a number of food and beverage establishments in Asheville, who are banding together to help the industry’s local workers. Current supporters include Asheville Pizza & Brewing, Chai Pani, Green Man Brewing/Green Man Eats!, Hi-Wire Brewing, Wicked Weed Brewing Funkatorium, and Chemist Spirits/Antidote. Linked4Life is also seeking additional supporters, particularly from the food and beverage industry.


“We are proud to partner with Linked4Life for this important initiative,” said Meredith Switzer, Executive Director of All Souls Counseling Center. “It’s important for the Asheville community to support our hard-working food and beverage workers, who are such a vital part of our city and economy. This program will make a difference for people who often don’t have access to the mental health services they need.”


Linked4Life will also be working with the local food and beverage partners to establish peer networks for mental health resources. These programs help organizations improve the well-being of their members or employees, as they become leaders in breaking the stigma of mental health. 

Driving this effort with the Foundation will be Dr.  Laura K.  Jones, who runs a mental well-being consulting practice called MindWell Consulting, LLC. In 2022, Jones led the development of a successful mental health peer network program for student-athletes in UNC Asheville’s Athletics Department. She regularly works with local and state organizations to develop programs and cultures supportive of mental health, holistic well-being, and performance.  

The Foundation will hold an informational session about the initiative, “Be a Mental Health Champion for the Food and Beverage Industry,” for potential partners and supporters on Tuesday,  June 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bear’s Smokehouse location at 135 Coxe Avenue.  

And to kick off the initiative, the Foundation will open its new HOPE Bus on July 4. 

The HOPE Bus is a reimagined former food truck at Bear’s Smokehouse, in the heart of the South Slope district. It will be a place for people to share messages of hope and demonstrate their commitment to breaking the stigma of mental health. 

Visitors to the bus can make a $6 donation and receive a pair of Linked4Life blue carabiners – metal clips that symbolize the power of connection.

You keep one, and the second comes with a tag so you can write a message of hope to hang in the HOPE Bus. Open from noon to 8 p.m. each day, the Bus will also have artwork by local muralist Ian Wilkinson tied to Linked4Life’s commitment to mental health.

The July 4 launch of the HOPE Bus at Bear’s Smokehouse will be part of a Linked4Life celebration called “Mental Health is No Bull” - visitors can see the HOPE Bus, get barbecue and take a turn on a mechanical bull. 

After the city’s fireworks in the South Slope district, the party will continue with a performance by BoogiTherapi, an Asheville-based funk band fronted by Ryan Barber. 

To register for the June 25 informational session, click here. If potential partners or supporters can’t attend the informational session, they are encouraged to visit the Foundation’s websitefor more information and complete a form about how they’d like to get involved or show support. 


About the Linked4Life Foundation

Linked4 Life is a partnered movement founded by Cheryl Antoncic, co-owner of Bear’s Smokehouse. The movement, supported by the Bear’s Foundation, was established in 2020 when the impact of the COVID pandemic on individuals’ mental health became indisputable. 

The Foundation’s work started in Connecticut, where Bear’s Smokehouse was founded and has four locations. On October 10, 2020, in celebration of World Mental Health Day, Linked4Life worked with partners including RiseUP for Arts to break a Guinness World Record by linking 13,808 carabiners at Dunkin Stadium in Hartford. Through the sale of carabiners and donations, the event raised approximately $40,000 to benefit The Jordan Porco Foundation, whose mission is to promote mental health, prevent suicide and create a message of hope for young adults.  

Currently, the Foundation is working with Art4Hope to revitalize a mile-long nature trail in Hartford’s Keney Park. RiseUP artists and Linked4Life partners will work with community members to clean up the trail and install art that includes prompts for mindfulness activities.  

About All Souls Counseling Center (ASCC)

All Souls Counseling Center’s mission is to serve as a leading nonprofit provider and community partner for quality mental health counseling, outreach, and education with a focus on those who are underinsured and uninsured in Western North Carolina. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Asheville, ASCC has grown to include 18 professionally licensed therapists providing high-quality therapy to individuals, couples, and groups.

All Souls’ experienced counselors work with clients on diverse issues including, but not limited to: depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, addiction recovery, grief and loss, chronic pain management, life transitions, postpartum depression, parenting issues, stress management, relationships, victims of crime, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual identity, sexual orientation, and gender identity (LBGTQ+ affirming). 



● Always call 911 first if you or someone you know is experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency or may be a danger to someone else.

● Call or text 988 or chat to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

● Call 888-573-1006 for the WNC Mobile Crisis Team 24/7/365 mental health hotline.

● Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line.

Press Release Contact: 

Kyle Parks

Parks PR

Cell: 813-352-1325

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