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Avery County Citizens Come Together to Organize a Winter Coat Drive with Special Event January 12

By Nathan Ham

As the ball drops on another year in the High Country, it’s never too late to consider how you might be able to help those less fortunate in your community. 

Avery County native Elizabeth Hempfling along with the High Country Charitable Foundation and Feeding Avery Families are pooling their resources together and asking the community to help out by donating new coats, jackets, gloves, hats, and other winter items to help make life a little easier for those that may be struggling to stay warm. 

“I grew up in Banner Elk so this is home to me. I’m not ashamed to admit I put socks on my hands to go play outside in the winter. It hit me that as it turns to winter up here, I don’t think there’s much attention given to the fact that there are people that don’t have jackets, don’t have gloves and don’t have the essentials to stay warm throughout the winter,” said Hempfling. 

Hempfling reached out to Jim Ward with the High Country Charitable Foundation to help launch this coat drive and get the word out. 

“Our goal is to get new items. We want people to feel as though they have a product that is theirs from the beginning. We have a lot of great companies already that are going to help support that and a lot of good people already saying that they would contribute,” she said. “There are homes that don’t have heat, it’s not just for walking around outside. We’re going into some of the coldest months of the year so this is a really key time to put this into perspective and really look at the needs in our community and around us.”

As part of the coat drive, Feeding Avery Families and the Banner Elk Winery have teamed up for a chili cook-off on Sunday, January 12 from 3-6 p.m. at the winery located at 60 Deer Run Lane in Banner Elk. 

According to data provided by Dick Larson with Feeding Avery Families, Avery County has about 18,000 residents and 15 percent of those suffer from food insecurity. Feeding Avery Families has provided food for approximately 1,300 people each month, and as you can imagine, those that are having a hard time providing food for themselves and their families also tend to have transportation and housing insecurities. 

“I have seen, too many times, school-age children walking in the snow with only shirts on their backs. Their gloveless hands are stuffed in their jeans’ pockets as the only warmth. If this were a one-time observation, I would assume that the child simply left the house before his parent could remind him to put on his winter jacket.  But after so many observations, my firm belief is that these children do not have proper winter coats, let alone hats, scarves, and gloves. Part of the issue, as we all know, is that children grow. A coat that may have fit two years ago is now too small,” said Jim Swinkola, who is one of many supporters of the High Country Charitable Foundation. “Unfortunately, I see much the same with many adults.  I see men walking in subfreezing temperatures with stiff winds blowing the snow around them. Many have on the traditional flannel shirt and a baseball cap. They all pick up their pace as they get closer to their trucks or the store door, seeking protection from the cold. The coat drive sponsored by the High Country Charitable Foundation is one opportunity in our county to make a difference. Hopefully, the Christmas spirit is still in your heart.”

Items of need (new items only please)

  • coats/jackets
  • scarves
  • hats
  • gloves
  • socks
  • any additional items that would help keep those warm through the worst of the winter months

The drop-off and mailing locations for the coat drive are as follows:

Engel and Volkers Banner Elk

610 Banner Elk Hwy, Banner Elk, NC 28604 

Hours of operation: Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Banner Elk Winery

60 Deer Run, Banner Elk, NC 28604 

Hours of operation: Daily 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Feeding Avery Families

508 Pineola St, Newland, NC 28657 

Hours of operation: Monday 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.; Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.; Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Please drop off your new items by January 12 (items that will be received past the deadline should be taken to the Feeding Avery Families location only, or by contacting event director Elizabeth Hempfling by phone at 828-773-8431 or by email at elizabethsevents@gmail.com).