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High Country Charitable Foundation Awards Over $550,000 in Grants to Avery County Nonprofits

By Nathan Ham

Even with an unknown economic future and a worldwide pandemic finding its way to the High Country, the High Country Charitable Foundation was still able to find a way to award over $550,000 to several organizations across Avery County.

“During the 2020 pandemic, the standard safety nets for needy people and animals are weakened and often fail. This is where the HCCF stepped up to the plate and hit a home run,” said Jim Swinkola, who is one of many proud contributors to the foundation. “In the midst of economic uncertainty and concerns for personal safety, the HCCF gathered and distributed over $550,000 to the established nonprofits in Avery County dedicated to helping those in need. Their clients, both human and animal, had their needs better met thanks to the fiscal kindness of the HCCF.”

Organizations that received grants this year included Linville Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Hunger and Health Coalition, Banner Elk Book Exchange, OASIS, Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center, Western Youth Network, Hill Learning Center, and Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center.

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.

“I don’t have to wonder how those without funds to purchase life-sustaining medications will survive.  I don’t have to wonder how hungry children will eat, or how at-risk children will find the support of mentors.  I have found that part of the answer comes from the HCCF,” said Swinkola.

HCCF board member Barry Blake pointed out that the organization does not receive any government funding or assistance. All donations come from the goodness of people’s hearts.

“Every dollar is donated by summer residents that enjoy their time here in the High Country. We have come to appreciate the residents here and have made some wonderful friends. We hope that our efforts in supporting the charities set up to help disadvantaged people and animals in Avery County will keep them strong and able to fulfill their missions,” said Blake.

2020 HCCF Grant Recipients

Executive Director Elizabeth Young celebrates the 2020 grant to the Health and Hunger Coalition from the High Country Charitable Foundation.

Hunger and Health Coalition

Elizabeth Young, Executive Director: “Thanks to the High Country Charitable Foundation’s continued support, the Hunger and Health Coalition can support the medication needs of Avery County residents in a bigger way than ever. We’ve grown to provide medication access for around 100 Avery County residents and this funding will allow this to continue to grow, even as we face increased demand for our services due to the COVID-19 epidemic. We deeply appreciate this support, and look forward to working with the High Country Charitable Foundation to make sure all low-income residents of Avery County can access the medication they need.”

Roy Dellinger, President Linville Fire Department, (left) accepts the 2020 grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation presented by Gary Butler.

Linville Volunteer Fire and Rescue

Roy Dellinger, President: “Linville Volunteer Fire Department recently received a grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation. This grant will be used to buy safety equipment for our water rescue team. Fire Departments have to be all hazards ready. The foundation has provided much-needed funds to help us accomplish these goals that will be felt countywide. Thank you for supporting Emergency services.”

Allen Bolick (left) and Susan Staton happily accept a 2020 grant for the Book Exchange from the High Country Charitable Foundation.

Banner Elk Book Exchange

Donna Dicks: “For the fourth year in a row, the High Country Charitable Foundation has funded a grant request from the Banner Elk Book Exchange for important programming which will occur in 2021.  A significant portion of the grant was written to continue with our elementary-age tutoring program for children needing “extra help” with academics during the summer; a large part of the grant will allow us to initiate an enrichment program for Banner Elk Elementary students in week-long sessions including art, music, creative movement and science.  Without the support of the High Country Charitable Foundation, none of these special programs could take place.  Thank you to our friends who give so generously and make such a difference in our community!”

Sara Crouch of OASIS (left) receives the 2020 High Country Charitable Foundation grant from Gary Butler.


Sara Crouch, Outreach Coordinator: “OASIS, Inc. (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information, and Shelter, Inc.) will use funding from the HCCF to support survivors of intimate partner violence in finding and maintaining safe, independent housing for themselves and their children. These funds will provide security deposits, utility assistance, security equipment, and more for survivors as they work towards their housing goals. Stable housing is one of the most important factors in a survivor maintaining safety and stability for themselves and their children.” 

Craig and Patty Adams eagerly anticipate the coming year thanks to the financial assistance of the High Country Charitable Foundation.

Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center

Patty Adams, Executive Director: “During these unprecedented times, Spirit Ride Therapeutic Riding Center is more determined than ever to offer our services FREE of charge. Many of our families have lost their jobs, insurance, and childcare. The disruption to a typically developing child during this time is creating a hardship on parents across the globe – but for children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Emotional Disabilities, or Cognitive Impairment – the effects can be devastating. Thanks to an extremely generous and thoughtful grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation, Spirit Ride will continue to give these families the support they need.  The Spirit Ride horses and volunteers thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Sabena Maiden of Western Youth Network accepts the 2020 grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation.

Western Youth Network

Sabena Maiden, Avery Mentoring Program Coordinator: “Western Youth Network would like to express gratitude for your support of the Avery Mentoring Program. With this funding, we will bring further awareness about our programming while also recruiting new volunteers to ensure that we can serve the many Avery youth waiting for a mentor.”

Banner Elk Elementary School staff Justin Carver (left), Amanda Bentley, Shannon Silver, and Cameron Sarafim will improve teaching skills thanks to a 2020 grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation to the Hill Learning Center.

Hill Learning Center

Justin Carver, Banner Elk Elementary School Principal: “This grant will continue to benefit our school and students through the use of HillRap, Executive Functioning and HillMath. Teachers will utilize professional development from the Hill Center and their support systems to work with students on various academic abilities.

Holston Camp leaders Jim Austin (left) and Crosby Palmer joyously accept the 2020 grant from the High Country Charitable Foundation.

Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center

James Austin, Director: “The generous donation from the High Country Charitable Foundation will be used to renovate a community building at Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center (HPCRC) to include two single-stall ADA compliant bathrooms that cater to the physical needs of children ages 2-5. This renovation will provide the means for HPCRC to collaborate with Banner Elk Presbyterian Church to offer affordable, quality outdoor early education and childcare for local families in Fall 2021.”