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High Country Charitable Foundation Grant Recipients Grateful for Help from the Avery County Community

Four High Country Charitable Foundation directors (left to right) Stan Kirchner, Barry Blake, Del Williamson and Jim Ferguson

By Nathan Ham

It was another great year of fundraising for the High Country Charitable Foundation. Over $630,000 was raised from donations and auction items at the Fifth Annual High Country Charitable Foundation Dinner and Dance that took place in July to go with other numerous donations to the fund throughout the year.

The HCCF was first organized by a small group of Avery County residents that saw the many great needs of children, families and animals in the county. The funds raised throughout each year are provided to local non-profit organizations and programs through grants.

High Country Charitable Foundation founder and chairman, Jim Ward.

After speaking with many of the grant recipients, one thing was for sure: A lot of the things these organizations do would not be possible without help from the High Country Charitable Foundation.

“The funding from the High Country Charitable Organization will allow us to rapidly rehouse anywhere from 10 to 15 clients in Avery County. With this funding, we would be able to pay utility deposits and possibly a month or two of rent,” said Tiffany Moon, Avery County Services Coordinator for OASIS. “That’s important for the work that we do. Often times survivors don’t want to leave the community they are in, they just want to move away from the area where their abusive partners live and keep their children and are able to continue on with their life.”

Moon says that one out of over three women will be affected by intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, which is more than the women affected by breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer combined.

“This funding is really beneficial for survivors in our community. Without that, we would not be able to rehouse survivors as quickly as needed in this situation,” said Moon.

In 2018 alone, Avery County OASIS was able to help 160 clients.

Helping children receive adequate care, education, food and everything else in between are always crucial to the High Country Charitable Foundation’s mission.

The Jason Project, Inc. and The Grandfather Challenge, started by James and Cheryl Nipper, has been ongoing for four years with the goal of changing young lives. The Nippers said that they couldn’t thank the HCCF enough for playing such a major role in their program.

“James and I are very humbled to be recognized and supported by the fine people at the High Country Charitable Foundation. We organized The Jason Project and “The Grandfather Challenge” after we lost our son Jason in 2014 due to mental illness,” Cheryl said. “With this grant support from the High Country Charitable Foundation, we will be able to host a full group of at-risk students from Avery High School and provide them with a challenging experience that they will never forget.”

The Nippers feel that their hiking program helps challenge at-risk students to not only believe in themselves but to also overcome their own unique life challenges.

Another of the HCCF grants for this fundraising year went to the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

“Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s mission is to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. Grandfather Mountain wishes to help all students understand the importance of clean air and water and healthy ecosystems for all life to thrive. Through this grant, and in partnership with Avery County Schools, we will be providing a new education program called Wild Watch to all first-grade students in Avery County,” said Jesse Pope, President and Executive Director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “Wild Watch is aligned with North Carolina’s first-grade Curriculum to help students learn about animals and the importance of healthy ecosystems for our animals to live. This program will occur both in the classroom and on Grandfather Mountain.”

The Crossnore School & Children’s Home received a grant to support their Youth in Transition (YIT) program for their Avery County campus. This program is designed to offer support and services for those between the ages of 21 and 26 who have “aged out of the foster care system.”

“Providing healing from the effects of trauma and hope for a healthier, brighter future, Crossnore’s YIT program is breaking the intergenerational cycles of poverty, homelessness, early pregnancy, addiction, educational failure, early mortality, and abuse that exist in families across the western half of the state. While some funding from North Carolina is available for residential and clinical needs of children in the foster care system, there is no state funding available to support programs addressing youth aging out of foster care. Funding for Crossnore’s YIT program comes exclusively from private sources,” said Caroline Hart, the Chief Advancement Officer of Crossnore School & Children’s Home. “YIT uses charitable donations as matching funds available to YIT clients who complete the 8-week Financial Literacy Course and who need assistance purchasing a vehicle, making a housing deposit, or paying for school-related expenses such as tuition fees, books, or other materials/supplies. Currently, there are 36 foster teens and young adults receiving assistance through the services provided by Crossnore’s Youth in Transition program.”   

Yellow Mountain Enterprises serves a much-needed role in the High Country, providing working opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. David Tate is the Executive Director at Yellow Mountain Enterprises, said that this year’s grant will be put towards purchasing a box truck for their thrift store, the Yellow Mountain Treasure box.

“The thrift store enables Yellow Mountain Enterprises to provide a wide variety of jobs to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that we serve. One of those jobs is picking up donated furniture and delivering purchased furniture from our store. Disabled people want to feel useful and have a job and the support of this wonderful foundation helps us provide what our clients need,” Tate said.

Most everyone either has been affected or knows someone that has been affected by drug usage in the High Country. For the Mediation & Restorative Justice Center in Boone, one of their Avery County programs has found a lot of success thanks in large part to High Country Charitable Foundation grants.

“The Avery County Drug Treatment Court, coordinated by the Mediation & Restorative Justice Center (MRJC), is a partnership among the criminal justice system, the treatment community and non-violent offenders who want help and whose criminal charges are related to substance use. The program provides an intensive and comprehensive 12-24 month treatment plan, including behavioral health services, case management, and judicial oversight.  The High Country Charitable Foundation’s support is crucial to ensuring that this program remains accessible to Avery County citizens who need assistance in overcoming addiction,” said Dr. Marisa Cornell, MRJC Executive Director.

The Y-Access program at the Williams YMCA in Avery County is another important grant recipient. The YMCA provides many services to residents throughout the county.

“The Williams YMCA of Avery County is grateful to the High Country Charitable Foundation for a generous grant that supports the Y-Access program. Y-Access enables underserved Avery County citizens to extend their hospital rehabilitation, when medically indicated, until they are fully functioning to prevent hospital readmission; enables low-income citizens access to YMCA membership and healthy living programs; and improves the functioning and quality of life of persons suffering from a chronic condition or at risk for acquiring one through access to evidence-based health intervention programs,” said Dennis Betz, who is in charge of fund development and accountability.

Even some of the beautiful nature spots in Avery County were able to receive some aid from the foundation.

“The gem of the High Country, Wildcat Lake, will see major safety and aesthetic improvements thanks to the High Country Charitable Foundation,” said Jim Swinkola of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk.

A 2019 grant to the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk Foundation helps provide an opportunity to replace a safety and visibility barrier of trees that was removed for safety concerns. 

“My understanding is that the large row of pine trees sandwiched between Hickory Nut Gap Road and the sandy swimming beach needed to be removed because the trees had died and falling branches had become a hazard,” said Swinkola. 

Banner Elk Kiwanis has long supported Wildcat Lake through the addition of a bathhouse, playground equipment, picnic tables and the sponsorship of a handicapped-accessible shelter. Avery High Key Club members joined Kiwanians several times between 2010 and 2017 to spend Kiwanis One Day at the lake, cleaning up winter debris, installing playground equipment and hauling away downed trees.  

“It’s like Kiwanis and Wildcat Lake are spiritually connected, so continued efforts to improve the lake come naturally,” commented Swinkola. “With advice from NC State Extension experts, Kiwanis will help folks in the High Country see a most attractive planting of shrubs and trees where the dead pines once stood.”

The thousands who enjoy Wildcat Lake each summer should anticipate landscaping improvements next season. 

What Others Are Saying

Ruthie Styles, Community Development Manager for the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children

We received a grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation to support our Play and Learn program.

Play & Learn is a FREE playgroup with activities for parents/caregivers of children, age birth to five. The objective is to play together in a structured setting with age-appropriate toys, games, and activities that promote overall growth in young children. Parents and caregivers can take the activities they learned home to continue playing and learning.

Dick Larson, Executive Director of Feeding Avery Families

Because of the High Country Charitable Foundation, Feeding Avery Families has not only been able to sustain its operation but continue to expand what we do to feed those around us who are hungry and in need.  This year HCCF funding has permitted us to renovate our operating space to accommodate the Backpack ministry in the Avery County Schools while establishing and building food pantries both inside and outside the schools.  With their support, our outreach to the hungry children in Avery County keeps growing and diversifying.

Gwynne Dyer, Executive Director of Avery County Humane Society

The Avery County Humane Society is dedicated to responding humanely to the needs of animals in Avery County.

We are in a unique position in that Avery County does not have animal control. The Avery County Humane Society is the only hope for a homeless animal in Avery County. This combined with the fact that we do not receive any federal, state or county funding or funding from any national organization make funding day to day operations a challenge. When large repairs are needed, we face an even greater challenge.

This year our “cat condos” need to be replaced. Time has taken a toll on them and we want to repair them using a more durable material. These needed repairs are keeping us from receiving the clean inspection report from the state that we are accustomed to. Our grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation will allow us to make the necessary repairs and pass this part of our inspection.

We do an incredible job at the Avery Humane Society providing love and support to the animals under our care; along with providing food, shelter and any needed medical attention. We also spay or neuter all animals that come to the shelter and provide low-cost spay and neuter services to the residents of Avery County. The help that we receive from the High County Charitable Foundation allows us to continue to provide these services and to fill this vital role in the community.

Kaaren Hayes, Director of Parent to Parent FSN-HC

Grants provide monthly opportunities for families who have children with special needs to come together as a family in a supportive and accepting environment to learn with and from each other while providing fun social activities for their children. Additionally, these funds will provide a printed and an online database of community resources for Avery County. 

Elizabeth Young, Executive Director of Hunger and Health Coalition

The Hunger and Health Coalition is so grateful to the High Country Charitable Foundation for supporting our outreach to Avery County residents. This funding allows us to provide life-sustaining medications, such as insulin and heart medications, to individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford it. The High Country Charitable Foundation has set the pace for aggressive goal setting and fundraising for non-profits and we are all the better for the love that the Elk River Club pours into making Avery County a healthier place for all people.

Jeanne Tilley, Associate Director, Grants and Strategy at Hill Learning Center

Thanks to the High Country Charitable Foundation, Hill Learning Center will provide training and mentoring to Avery County Schools teachers in critical subjects like reading, writing, math, and executive functioning. Hill and ACS teachers work together to make sure that the students who are struggling get access to proven instructional methods that will help them succeed in school! Struggling learners receive the help they need, thanks to High Country Charitable Foundation.

Sarah Gray, Chief Development Officer at Grandfather Home for Children/Children’s Hope Alliance

One teen from Hickory Cottage sits on the outside patio that will soon become a closed-in patio for the children to enjoy while safe from bad weather.

This year, the High Country Charitable Foundation is helping Grandfather Home improve one of our cottages for boys.  Thanks to HCCF, the boys in Hickory Cottage will have a roof built over their back patio so they can enjoy being outside even when it is bad weather.  A roof over the patio sounds like no big deal to you and me, but to boys like Cody, it’s extremely important.  Why?  Cody, age 15, comes from a very rural area where his parents raised him in isolation.  To avoid abuse at home, he spent most of his younger years outdoors building forts and playing alone.  Now living at Grandfather Home, Cody and his therapist go outside when he gets anxious, scared or upset.  Being outdoors provides comfort to Cody and is a coping skill to feel safe or to recover from bad dreams.  Thank you, HCCF, for recognizing that Grandfather Home is a very special place that helps kiddos who other homes can’t take in because of their severe backgrounds of trauma and abuse.  At Grandfather Home, we believe every child deserves a chance to feel safe and loved.  And with help from HCCF, we are helping more kids in need!  We couldn’t do what we do without your support.  We are very grateful to the High Country Charitable Foundation!

Jennie Harpold, Director of New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College

The New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College is most appreciative of its recent grant award from the High Country Charitable Foundation. Each summer, NOSW brings fourteen, lower-income, less educated women to Lees-McRae College as they seek to improve their educational, personal and financial circumstances. This unique three-week residential program offers women the opportunity to develop pathways for their futures. Funding from this grant will be used to defray costs of the Summer 2020 program. Local women who have completed the program in the past have gone on to receive degrees from community colleges, four-year colleges and universities or have found employment if that was their most immediate need.

Melissa Soto, Executive Director of WAMY Community Action

WAMY Community Action has been serving the youth of Avery County since 1964.  Currently, we offer an after school program, Community Kids, in each of the elementary and middle schools in the County. Thanks to the High Country Charitable Foundation’s resources, guidance and generosity, WAMY now has a 12 passenger van.  This will allow us to provide transportation home for the youth of Avery County.  We are so thankful for the High Country Charitable Foundation and their continued support of WAMY Community Action!

Todd Carter, Director of Development at Hospitality House

We are grateful for the continued support of the High Country Charitable Foundation. Last year their funding provided for 25 percent of our housing and shelter services to Avery County families and individuals, making them our single largest private grantor supporting Avery County’s homeless population.

Christon Clark, Executive Director of Avery County Habitat for Humanity

High Country Charitable Foundation’s support of Avery County Habitat for Humanity over the past four years has allowed us to increase our housing production leading to our 50th Build which broke ground in late August. Habitat and our Partner Families are grateful for the generous support of HCCF!

Barb Holdcroft, Coordinator of Avery County Special Olympics

This money will enable us to take our athletes, coaches/chaperones, to the various athletic events sponsored by Special Olympics, especially the State Games.  Entry fees and the cost of travel/food/lodging add up hampering our ability to take our many qualified athletes to these events across the State.  With these funds, we are now able to compete in all of these State events:  Summer Games, Fall Tournament, and Winter Games.  This generous support also allows us to purchase new equipment and uniforms.  We are truly blessed!!

Donna Dicks, Chair of the Banner Elk Book Exchange

Our High Country Charitable Foundation grant request for funding a summer tutoring program for elementary-age children was fully funded for a second year.  It allowed two teachers to work with a total of seven students over a period of three weeks during the month of July.  Two first graders made tremendous growth with the extra summer help; a second-grade student was able to expand his areas of reading interest, as well as improving comprehension skills and in developing effective ways to read non-fiction.  Other students benefitted from the structured time of review and skill-building during the course of this program.

Without this grant, we would not have been able to provide any of these services or programming.  Many thanks to High Country Charitable Foundation for making a difference in children’s lives and academic success at an early age!

Cindy Lindecamp, Coordinator of Volunteer Avery County

Volunteer Avery County received a grant from HCCF. With the money that was received, we will be able to help more people purchase heating fuel this winter. We will be able to purchase more food for our food pantry. Without the money, we always ran out of funds before the cold days were over. Without HCCF we could not serve as many people in need.  We greatly appreciate them. 
Janet Millsaps, Executive Director of Reaching Avery Ministry
Reaching Avery Ministry is very grateful to have received a 2019 grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation. The money granted to our agency will be used for heating assistance for those in need in Avery County.  With harsh winters in the High Country, many families struggle to stay safe and warm. This grant will ensure those who are unable to purchase heating fuel stay warm this winter.

Photos by James Nipper

Cheryl Nipper of The Jason Project with HCCF director Stan Kirschner
Elizabeth Young of the Hunger and Health Coalition beside HCCF director Jim Ferguson

Avery County Humane Society represented by board member Jesse Pope (left) and Gwynne Dyer next to HCCF director Jim Ferguson.
Trey Oakley (left) of the Williams YMCA of Avery County with HCCF director Jim Ferguson.
Mountain Alliance for Youth represented by Tina Houston and Zack Green next to HCCF director Ginny Burton.
David Tate of Yellow Mountain Enterprises with HCCF director Ginny Burton
Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation represented by Courtney Lane (left) and Jesse Pope with HCCF director Ginny Burton
Feeding Avery Families Dick Larson with HCCF director Del Williamson
Jim Swinkola representing the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk Foundation shakes hands with HCCF director Del Williamson, while HCCF chairman Jim Ward watches. 
HCCF director Stan Kirchner (center) flanked by Tricia Ward Holloway (left) and Ginger Karney of Engel & Volkers Banner Elk.
HCCF directors (left to right) Jim Ferguson, Del Williamson, Jim Ward and Barry Blake standing next to a new van for WAMY funded by a 2019 grant.