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Deep Gap Ruritan Stays Strong Through Pandemic, Awards Four Scholarships to Local Graduates

Recent graduates of Watauga High School honored with scholarships from Deep Gap Ruritan include, left to right: Spencer Cathey, Bailey Grace Cook, Macie Keller and Jake Gragg. 
Photo by Bencita Brooks

By Sherrie Norris

It takes a lot to keep a good community club down, and the pandemic was no match for the energy and dedication of the Deep Gap Ruritan Club. 

While its members at large were unable to meet every month during the last year due to mandated restrictions and necessary safety precautions, the club as a whole stayed strong.

 Much work was accomplished behind the scenes, especially by the committed officers and board of directors which met routinely in members’ homes and volunteered valuable time via phone and email conferences.

No, there was no huge fundraising steak dinner, as has been the club’s custom for many years, but there was a successful raffle, private donations and other contributions that helped to keep their efforts afloat.

As proof of the club’s ongoing and unwavering desire to serve its community, four recent graduates from Watauga High School were honored on Thursday evening, June 10, with club-supported scholarships to help with their college education. 

The graduates were invited, along with their parents, to attend the club’s June meeting, during which they received their awards following a delicious meal provided by club members.

The scholarship recipients and their plans for the future include the following:

  • Spencer Cathey who will be attending NC State University this fall pursuing a degree in biology, received $2,500 from the Charles Rogers Memorial Scholarship Fund. 
  • Bailey Grace Cook was the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship from the Ruritan National’s Build Your Dollars Scholarship. She will be attending Appalachian State University with plans to pursue a degree in elementary education.
  • Macie Keller was awarded the $1,000 Harold Eller Memorial Scholarship and will be working toward her nursing degree at Caldwell Community College. 
  • Jake Gragg received a $1,000 scholarship from the Ruritan Club and will attend  Appalachian State University this fall, focusing on a bachelor of science degree in CTE Workforce Leadership with a combination of business, construction and horticulture.

The selection process for the scholarships begins in late winter each year and is based on the criteria set forth by the club several years ago, said club spokesperson/secretary, Kathy Idol. 

“Recipients must be residents of the Deep Gap area who earlier attended Parkway School with grades and financial need considered,” she said.

The relatively new Charles Rogers Memorial Scholarship was established through memorial gifts following the untimely death of Rogers, who was a former club president and active member instrumental in fund raising efforts. His widow, Billie Rogers, was especially happy to choose this year’s recipient because of his intended major at NCSU.

The Harold Eller scholarship was named as such by the club following Eller’s death to honor him as a beloved charter member who had worked hard through the years for the greater good of his community.

A much earlier donation from his brother was instrumental in establishing the  club’s original scholarship, with his family requesting memorial gifts be made to the club following his death.

Each year, Deep Gap Ruritan donates $300 to the Double-Your- Dollars fund through the National Ruritan Foundation, which in turn doubles the contribution. The local club then provides an additional $400 from its  treasury.

The Deep Gap Ruritan Scholarship comes from funds raised at the club’s annual steak dinner, during which the majority of operational funds are usually raised. Even though the dinner could not be held due to the pandemic this year and last, funds were still made available by the club to continue this long-held tradition. Assistance was given toward the scholarship through the recent raffle of a new riding lawn mower, a weed eater and a monetary gift, participation of which was greatly appreciated. 

The Work Continues

Deep Gap Ruritan did not allow Covid-19 to stop it in its tracks, In fact, just the opposite was true. 

During the pandemic, the club participated faithfully in a weekly fresh food distribution to local families, in conjunction with the Asheville-based Western North Carolina Communities organization. Club members picked up produce boxes, that had been delivered to Mt. Vernon Baptist Church on Saturdays, and distributed throughout the community.

Club members continued to perform their semi-annual road cleanup duties on Brownwood Road and also provided assistance to residents in the community with donations for various needs, collectively and Individually.  Records indicate the volunteer hours of community service donated by this club and its members during this difficult time was nothing short of impressive.

But, as club president, Leslie Gentry has said, “We are here for our community and we will do anything and everything we can to help our neighbors as needed.”

Current officers and board of directors include: Leslie Gentry, president,

Ronnie Cooper, vice-president, Elaine Davis, treasurer and Kathy Idol, secretary; Bencita Brooks, Cindy Farthing and Marie Greene.

On behalf of Deep Gap Ruritan, Gentry invites new members who are interested in serving others to join in the fun, fellowship and work of this community club. “We have members from adolescents and teens to those in their 80s. There is a place for anyone who has a heart to serve others.”

The club has resumed its monthly meetings on the second Thursday  of each month at Deep Gap Fire Department beginning with a covered dish meal at 7 p.m.