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LIVE UNITED: High Country United Way Funds 34 Programs with $250K in Grants


By Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

The High Country United Way closed out the month of August with a breakfast celebration in honor of its generous donors and its most recent grant cycle, which distributed $250,000 to nonprofit programs in the area. As fundraising picks up for the next cycle, the agency looks forward to expanding its network of support in the community.

Comprised of board members, staff and volunteers who encompass all aspects of life in Watauga and Avery counties, the High Country United Way serves as a central medium for positive change through financial support for various local organizations.

“Our mission statement sums it up: Uniting people and resources to help those in need in the High Country,” said HCUW Executive Director Gary Childers. “It’s a pretty simple statement with huge ramifications.”

HCUW Executive Director Gary Childers is pictured working at his desk in the HCUW offices.
HCUW Executive Director Gary Childers is pictured working at his desk in the HCUW offices.

The HCUW works year-round to raise money and fund programs that directly address unmet basic and emergency needs of citizens in the High Country, which includes food, housing, clothing, safety, shelter, fuel, electricity and more.

“Most people look at us as fundraising. We’re about that, but we’re also about human capital, as well,” Childers explained. “We can coordinate volunteers who want to help people.”

The organization also works to identify and combat pressing needs and overarching societal concerns that, when addressed, could greatly improve the standard of living for general population in many aspects.

“The lesser-known part of our mission is to determine what things could be addressed that could have the greatest impact on people’s lives. We call that community impact,” said Childers. “We try really hard to get this message out.”

To carry out that mission, the HCUW has established three “visioning councils,” each comprised of approximately 20 informed and caring citizens of Avery and Watauga counties and each focused on one of three fundamental issues: education, health and stable income.

“We have a four-pronged approach to support. We never go away from the basic human needs and emergency needs that are to be addressed immediately. We are always engaged in trying to help in these areas,” Childers said. “We also address these three strategies that our councils have established.

“We know that people can have a better standard of living if they have access to healthcare. We know they are less likely to be caught in a cycle of poverty if they can get a better education. We know that they won’t be in these emergency situations if they can stabilize a living wage. If we support programs that work in these areas, it will not only help people with immediate needs, but it will help them move to that point where they will no longer need that kind of support.”

Over the past fiscal year, HCUW received applications for funding from 28 local programs. The board members began sifting through applications in May to determine which of those requesting programs aligned with the organization’s four strategies for community impact — emergency needs, education, health and income.

“The allocations committee looks at the requests they get and compares them to the goals they have set in these four areas,” said Childers. “If they feel it is a worthwhile program that will address these needs, they will grant funding to the agency that’s carrying out the program. A lot of these agencies have been doing good work for a long time.”

This year, the HCUW allocated $217,000 to 24 different agencies for 34 local programs, at least partially funding the vast majority of applicants.

Donated funds that were allocated to a specific cause by the respective donors make up the remainder of the $250,000 total, along with funding reserved for the possibility of new programs that may be established later in the year.

“Sometimes, there are ideas in the works that align with our goals that need help getting started,” Childers said. “We were on the ground floor of some organizations, including the Hospitality House, the Community Care Clinic and the Children’s Council.”

At the end of August, the HCUW hosted a breakfast, which was sponsored by and hosted at LifeStore Bank, in honor of recipients and the donors who made this grant cycle possible.

Among those recognized were the HCUW’s three largest singular sources of support: The Mast General Store and owners John and Faye Cooper; the State Employees Combined Campaign; and the Josephine Leiser Foundation and board member Ruth Turner Camp.

Also recognized were Nancy Reigel, a HCUW board member and community impact advocate, and her husband, Terry.

As the organization kicks off fundraising campaigns for the new fiscal year, High Country United Way looks forward to building new connections, inspiring more people to contribute and developing relationships with more corporate sponsors.

To learn more or get involved, contact Childers by phone at 828-265-2111, visit highcountryunitedway.org or stop by the HCUW office on the fourth floor of the LifeStore building at 1675 Blowing Rock Road in Boone.


This Year’s Grant Recipients: Agency | Program | Funding


  • Avery County Public Schools | B.R.A. Student Vision Reality | $7,820
  • Avery Habitat for Humanity | Family Support | $6,906
  • Blue Ridge Partnership for Children | SCOTTIE Mobile Classroom | $7,820
  • The Children’s Council | Raising a Reader | $3,464
  • The Children’s Council | Family Literacy | $11,220
  • Community Care Clinic | Reducing Barriers for Care for the Uninsured | $4,335
  • Community Care Clinic | Integrated Primary Care and Behavioral Health Services | $10,349
  • Hospitality House | Circles of the High Country, Avery | $4,888
  • Hospitality House | Circles of the High Country, Watauga | $8,628
  • Hospitality House | Initiative to Provide Crisis Assistance and Re-Housing | $11,220
  • Kari’s Home for Women | Beautiful Daughter Recovery Program | $1,742
  • Mediation and Restorative Justice | Avery/Watauga Drug Treatment Court | $8,628
  • Mountain Alliance | Youth | $9,754
  • OASIS | Legal Remedies to Prevent Homelessness for Victims | $8,500
  • WAMY | Total Family Development | $19,888
  • Watauga Habitat for Humanity | Family Support | $6,800
  • Western Youth Network | Mentoring | $11,200
  • Western Youth Network | After School/Summer Leadership Academy | $6,906
  • Yellow Mountain Enterprises | Yellow Mountain Enterprises | $6,800


  • ASU Foster Grandparents | Foster Grandparents Tutoring/Mentoring | $2,550
  • ASU Parent to Parent | Support Network for Families with Special Needs Children | $5,100
  • ASU Senior Companion | Companions for Low-Income Seniors Living at Home | $5,865
  • Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture | Community of Gardens | $5,950
  • Casting Bread Food Pantry | Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen | $2,380
  • The Children’s Playhouse | Scholarship | $510
  • Hunger and Health Coalition | Fresh Market | $10,200
  • Mediation and Restorative Justice | Mediation | $7,650
  • OASIS | Emergency Shelter | $4,250
  • Sugar Grove Developmental Day School | Tuition Supplement | $5,525
  • Volunteer Avery County | Food Bank | $1,700
  • WAMY | Avery YO! Healthy Snack Program | $4,250
  • WAMY | Gardening | $994
  • Watauga County Schools | Extended Learning Centers | $3,060
  • Yellow Mountain Enterprises | Group Home Shoe Project | $510

Photos from the HCUW breakfast in August by Susan Stuber: