By Hailey Blevins
Tuesday evening, Avery County’s Chamber Meeting was hosted at Highlander’s. Melynda Pepple, the executive director of Avery County Chamber of Commerce, led the meeting, beginning by welcoming everyone before introducing Dave and Karen, the owners of Highlander’s, and awarding them a plaque. Other topics discussed were the Leadership Avery class’s work to support Avery High School’s culinary class, an update on progress to reduce the opioid crisis in Avery and upcoming events and meetings.
Highlander’s has been open for 8 months, and was previously called Nick’s. According to Dave, they received “a bit of a blow back for renaming it Highlanders,” though he shared that the new name is meant to be possessive and inclusive for everyone that visits. “No matter where you’re from, you come here and you’re one of us. That was a crux of Highlander’s in it being an ‘s.”
Dave invited everyone to join Highlander’s each week for fun events. Friday night from 8 to midnight is karaoke, Saturday night there is live music, and Wednesday nights are live trivia. Gift certificates are given out during trivia. Check their Facebook page, @Highlandersbannerelk, for updates on events at Highlander’s.
Melynda then recognized Andrew Roby as the business of the month for February, awarding them a plaque. She noted their work at Eagle Nest, a planned community featuring over 30 homes. On May 4-5, there will be an open house for $40, where you can tour the new homes. This is an all day event both days. All proceeds will be donated to charities within the community. They have selected Spirit Ride in Avery, Avery Feeding Families, Hospitality House in Boone, and Camp Hope in Ashe as charities that the proceeds will go to.
Visit http://eaglesnestatbannerelk.com/ to get tickets and learn more. There will be giveaways and food, so we hope the community will get behind this because it supports a lot of great charities.”
She also recognized the current business of the month, Welter Entertainment with Pete Welter, as well as the new members of the Chamber of Commerce, including a new pet grooming place, Cammy Pittman with Movement Mortgage, and Janna Avery with Callista Designs.
Melynda then invited Leslie, a recent graduate from the Leadership Avery class to share what the class is doing. “At the end of each class, you’re supposed to do a class project, We were trying to figure out what to one, and one of the things we were very impressed with was Avery High School’s culinary arts program. They put together this wonderful meal when we visited, and we thought that was something we would be interested in helped.” Leslie noted that the class’s first goal was to raise awareness about the program, with their other goals being to raise money for the culinary scholarship and for class needs and to give the kids an opportunity to learn from chefs.
The group created a chef speaker series, where once or twice a month chefs will go into the school and teach the students some skills. “We want them to go to culinary schools, but they can also learn a lot from these chefs before then.”
On June 12, the Leadership Avery class is holding a fundraiser dinner and auction at Grandfather Mountain. 10 of the students from Avery High School will team up with chefs at Grandfather Gold and cook a meal. The funds from the auction will go towards the culinary class, with the twist to the auction being that you’re paying for the students to get items like cookbooks and knives to use in their culinary classes instead of buying items for yourself. Currently, the Leadership class is looking at selling 80 tickets for the dinner and auction, but specifics for the event haven’t been announced yet.
Following this, Jim Swinkola shared good news about an issue in Avery County. Last June, there was an awareness forum about the opioid crisis in Avery County, and 110 were at that forum. Kiwanis took that as a charge to take the next steps and make some efforts to reduce opioid misuse in Avery.
“I’ve represented Kiwanis in 2 areas. The first area is with the drug crisis round table. Philip Barrier has gotten together a number of folks from law enforcement, from public nursing. The newest, most pragmatic thing has been the reopening of Avery Cares in Newland. It has been rebirthed to Avery Cares to make sure there is a place for any program that can help reduce opioid and other drug issues in Avery. The second item comes directly through the help of the High Country Charitable Foundation. They funded a grant to be able to increase information to the younger folks within our county about reducing opioid misuse.”
He announced that a panel would be at Evans Auditorium Wednesday to talk with the Lees McRae College students and community members. The panel consisted of two recovering addicts, a mental health counselor, and two members of the May School of Nursing.
“Thanks to Brian Taylor, this panel will be at Avery High School, talking to the entire school population next Wednesday morning. Then, in April, the 8th grade within our county will be impacted with this. We’re hoping to have a couple of people from the high school on that panel.
Jim also reminded everyone that even though the opioid crisis always seems to be somewhere else, it can be anywhere and addiction can happen to anyone.
Melynda ended the Chamber Meeting with reminders of upcoming events and meetings:
- The Economic Development Committee meets every Monday at the end of the month at 5 p.m. in the Commissioner’s office and is looking for help from community members.
- The YMCA’s Golf Tournament is May 3 at Linville Golf Club. Homemade derby hats are being sold at Dande Lion for this event.
- Avery Chamber’s Golf Tournament is May 13 at Linville Golf Club. Teams and Sponsors for the holes are still being accepted. Chick-fil-a is sponsoring the lunch, and Stonewalls is providing a cocktail reception at the end.
Pictures from the Chamber Meeting by Ken Ketchie