By Jesse Wood
The High Country Charitable Foundation is distributing $272,000 in grants for 2017. Now in its third year, this figure marks a record distribution to organizations serving people and animals in need in Avery County.
The foundation distributed most of the grants to Avery-based organizations in the lobby of Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville last week. Organizations based in Watauga County (but which also serve Avery County) will likely receive their distributions tomorrow afternoon in the Watauga County Public Library, according to Jim Swinkola, a volunteer with High Country Charitable Foundation.
Organizations receiving grants include Yellow Mountain Enterprises, Williams YMCA of Avery County, Feeding Avery Families, Avery County Habitat for Humanity, WAMY Community Action, Inc., Volunteer Avery County, Western Youth Network, The Hill Center, Hunger & Health Coalition, Blue Ridge Partnership for Children, Hospitality House, OASIS, Reaching Avery Ministry, Mediation & Restorative Justice Center, Children’s Hope Alliance, Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk Foundation, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Historic Banner Elk School, Spirit Ride, Avery County Schools (SCOTTIE), Avery County Special Olympics, Parent to Parent Family Support Network and Casting Bread Food Pantry.
The grants ranged in value from $4,000 to $30,000, according to Swinkola.
The High Country Charitable Foundation is comprised of mostly residents of Elk River Club, a second-home community near Banner Elk. Jim Ward, who presented some of the organizations with HCCF grant checks last week, is an Elk River resident and founder of HCCF.
“We realized that there was a lot of need, and we knew that we wanted to give back to the community and help with some of those needs. And I was soon surrounded by like-minded Elk River residents with the courage to start he High Country Community Foundation,” Ward said in a 2016 article about the organization in the fall issue of High Country Magazine.
The High Country Charitable Foundation raises the “lion’s share” of its grant proceeds with its annual gala, a dinner-dance fundraiser at the Elk River Clubhouse in the summer, according to Swinkola. Also, Ward organizes a weekly food-truck gathering at Elk River’s Saddle Club in the summer to spread the word about HCCF and fundraise. In addition, private contributions help pad the grant funding.
Swinkola, who has lived in Avery County for the past 35 years and spent much of his professional career as the CEO of Grandfather Home for Children, said he’s been “impressed and amazed at the positive impact” the High Country Charitable Foundation has had in the community.
“This group of men and women, mainly from the Elk River Club in Banner Elk, are working cooperatively with local nonprofits in the North Carolina High Country to fund specific projects. Whether it be to help the hungry, the homeless or those hurt by about abuse or illness, the High Country Charitable Foundation has been there,” Swinkola said.