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High Country Community Groups Recognized at 70th Annual WNC Honors Program in Asheville

Representing Deep Gap Ruritan during the recent 70th annual awards ceremony of the Asheville-based WNC Communities organization are club members, left to right: Jeff Brooks, Bencita Brooks, Gretchen Baldwin and Cliff Baldwin. Leeann Bridges, far right, representing Harrah’s, makes the awards presentation. Photo courtesy of WNC Communities.

By Sherrie Norris

Three High Country Ruritan clubs were among 65 community groups recently recognized at the WNC Communities 70th annual WNC Honors Awards Program at the Doubletree by Hilton Biltmore-Asheville in Asheville.

According to Terri Wells, Director of Community and Agricultural Programs for WNC Communities, the awards program is built on a 70-year tradition of recognizing rural community development clubs for their innovative ideas and grassroots solutions.

“These centers and clubs are the backbone running through our beloved mountains,” she said, adding that 250 community leaders from 13 Western North Carolina Counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians attended the November 2 awards luncheon.

“The 65 communities participating in this year’s program made a $6 million investment of time, talent, money and effort in our Western North Carolina Communities,” Wells explained. “Their fundraising efforts brought in $950,000 with more than 5,5000 volunteers investing an impressive 195,500 hours of their time in outreach programs dedicated to conservation, education, beautification, health, wellness, and economic development.”

Deep Gap Ruritan Club of Watauga County and The Peak Creek Ruritan Club of Ashe County were recognized in the category of “Engaged Communities” — involved in numerous programs impacting their residents — and each received a cash award of $500.

“Members of the Deep Gap Ruritan Club attended this year’s WNC Honors Awards, and were recognized for their achievements,” Wells said. “The club cleared more than $11,000 on their prime rib steak dinner and raffle this year. That money is distributed throughout the year to individuals and families in need, to local organizations who support those in need, and to provide scholarships for deserving students. One of the main goals of Ruritan is to provide service to the local community.”

She further explained, “Ruritan service projects are divided into five areas: Environment, Business, Citizenship, Social Development, and Public Service. Deep Gap members donated 4,634 hours of their time, and the club donated $17,660 to help enhance the quality of life in their community. Deep Gap partners with other organizations in the community to provide food, financial help, and support of those who need a helping hand.”

Peak Creek Ruritan continues “careful building maintenance,” Wells noted. “They own and use the Laurel Springs Community building as their clubhouse; it is also the main asset to the entire eastern part of Ashe county for a variety of uses, such as wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, government agency meetings, voting, and fundraisers held by other groups. The pancake breakfast and indoor yard sale continues to be their biggest fundraiser, and it allows them to fund freshman scholarships. If the student chooses to attend a college which is a ‘partner’ with the national Ruritan Foundation, then the college and the Ruritan Foundation match the award given by the club. Fifty percent of the Club’s scholarship winners indicate that they plan to return to their area to work after graduation and serve their community.”

Foscoe Ruritan Club was honored as one of the “Participating Communities” and received a cash award of $250 for its successful projects implemented during the past year. Those include its annual Home Grown Music Festival, its most successful fundraiser, and the club’s support of Valle Crucis Elementary School, the Civil Air Patrol, Junior ROTC, the Foscoe Fire Department, two scholarships and medical assistance to community members.

A total of $37,500 was awarded to the 65 community centers and clubs participating in the 2019 WNC Honors Awards, thanks to the generous sponsorships from the following: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Valley River Casino & Hotel, Biltmore Farms, Inc., Duke Energy, The McClure Fund, First Citizens Bank, Buncombe County Farm Bureau, Carolina Farm Credit and Wells Fargo.