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High Country United Way Celebrates 40 Years With Spring Fling at Ransom Pub

Marti Phillips and Dr. Gary Childers

By Nathan Ham

A big group of High Country United Way supporters turned out for a special “Spring Fling” celebration on Tuesday night at Ransom Pub in downtown Boone.

The event also featured a special sendoff for outgoing director Dr. Gary Childers and welcoming for the newest director, Marti Phillips.

The High Country United Way serves five counties in northwest North Carolina including Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey.

“The mission has always been to unite people and resources to improve lives. That’s the way it was then, that’s what we’re still about 40 years later, and what we will be about for the future,” said Dr. Childers. “The High Country United Way has never backed away from helping meet emergency and basic needs. We’re always going to have people who have a helping hand, but we also want to give people a hand up.”

Over the past 40 years, High Country United Way invested over $5.5 million back into the High Country through numerous programs that have received funding over the years.

Johnny Carson, a board member with the HCUW, had nothing but praise for Dr. Childers for his work with the organization for many years and his work in the education system where he was a teacher and is still currently a member of the Watauga County Board of Education.

“The impact that he had on me, the impact that he has had on my children through the education system is still felt and will be felt. The impact that he had on this community through United Way will be felt for a long time,” said Carson.

Dr. Childers took over as director on an interim basis but ended up serving as the director for the last five years.

During the event Tuesday, Gary was presented with a special handcrafted bowl, something that has always fascinated him throughout the years.

“I do love good craftsmanship,” Gary joked. “Thank you all. It has been a privilege and honor to serve the community this way with such a wonderful group of people that are likeminded and I am so excited about our future.”

Phillips spoke briefly to the crowd about taking over as the director and thanked Dr. Childers, the board of directors and the service providers for all that they do in the community.

“I spent several years working as a service provider in this community before I came to United Way so I know how challenging it can be on a daily basis and I want you to know that United Way exists, and we do what we do every day, because of what you do and your commitment to this community,” she said. “As executive director, I will do everything that I can to empower your work, to ensure that you have sufficient resources and to make sure that we are all successful for the future of not only this organization and your organization, but for the future of the High Country. That’s why we’re all here and that’s what we all do.”

Four special Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards were given to their recipients as part of the celebration. Teddy Watson received a certificate and a pin for his work with the Hunger & Health Coalition and Maggie Christenbury also received a certificate and a pin for her work with the Children’s Playhouse. Angela McMann (Western Youth Network) and Shannon Carrol (Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture) were medallion winners for their volunteering efforts and will be presented with their awards in a special ceremony with Governor Roy Coopers.

Dr. Gary Childers
Dr. Gary Childers was presented with a special hand-crafted bowl as a gift for his years of service to the High Country United here. Gary is pictured here with board members Jenny Stultz and Johnny Carson.
Dr. Childers and High Country United Way board member Jenny Stultz.
Dr. Gary Childers and Johnny Carson

High Country United Way’s new executive director, Marti Phillips
Jenny Stultz, Teddy Watson and Marti Phillips
Jenny Stultz, Maggie Christenbury and Marti Phillips
Jenny Stultz and Angela McMann
Jenny Stultz and Shannon Carrol