By Nathan Ham
Last month, the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk was able to make the lives of many people in Avery County a little bit easier by donating $55,000 in grants to numerous organizations and schools throughout the county. A total of $15,000 of that money went straight to different schools within Avery County for everything from school supplies to music programs.
Missy Waycaster and Tiffany Shell teach second grade at Newland Elementary School and they received a grant to continue using a hand-on learning app through the Reflex Program.
“The students love the game-based learning to strengthen their addition, subtraction and multiplication fluency. This year at the beginning of the year our students had a five percent starting fluency rate and now at mid-year, they have grown to 64 percent,” they said. “We truly appreciate considering us and giving us the grant money to continue the program.
Also at Newland Elementary, fifth-grade teacher, Sharayah Webb received a grant that will find a new wireless speaker for her classroom.
“This has been a need for quite some time and I’m excited it can come to fruition,” Webb said. “I am so thankful for the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and all they do to give back to our community and, more importantly, to our students.
Webb said that she has received other grants from the club over the years that have helped out a great deal in her classroom.
“I’ve been blessed to volunteer at the Woolly Worm Festival for the past couple of years and I have seen the time, dedication and hard work that goes into raising these funds. It’s such a great program and I’m very thankful for everyone involved,” she added.
Avery County High School received four grants for teachers and programs. Kelly Ward received a grant totaling $586 for books and resources for ESL classes. Tara Andrews received $500 for new uniforms for her chorus class. Beverly Gambill received $800 for a library book club trip to Barnes & Noble and art teacher Emily Singleton received $750 for a portable sink.
“The Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk lives up to their motto ‘Serving the Children of the World,’ by being a generous financial supporter of Avery County High School,” said principal Phillip Little. “Kiwanis grants supplement our budget to support teacher initiatives and boost student learning opportunities. The toughest part about being an educator is that we always want to be able to do more for our students. Kiwanis helps us do more, and we are grateful to them for it.”
Banner Elk Elementary received a pair of grants as well, according to principal Justin Carver. “I was awarded a grant for our school musical that I produce each year. The grant helps buy costumes, set designs, license for the production, etc.,” Carver said. “Last year we did Jungle Book and this year we will do Frozen. The grant covers almost all costs for this production that over 750 people come to.
The other grant at Banner Elk Elementary will go to Laura Berryman. Her grant will go to help create a Hispanic cultural day centered around a classroom author study of Yuyi Morales. The cultural events will feature music, drama, arts, food, and history of the Hispanic culture.
Numerous other grants outside the school system were awarded that will still bring positive impacts to young lives in Avery County. One of those went to the local Boy Scout Troop 807 to help them purchase a new covered trailer. The $2,500 grant will allow the troop to replace their old trailer from 1987 that is “unsafe to operate on the road” according to Tim Holloman. The new trailer is a 7-by-16-foot trailer with a side door.
“This will allow the troop to attend long-distance events and serve as storage for cooking and camping equipment. Our scouts are very grateful as, without this contribution, this would not have been possible,” said Holloman. “Our funds are limited even with fundraising as we use some of the money we raise to offset activities and camp costs.”
Sticking with the outdoor theme, Cycle 4 Life, a program that offers a number of different cycling camps in Banner Elk for kids ages 5-18, has received several grants over the years from the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk.
“This year we are holding our first camp specifically designed for high school mountain bike racers to meet and greet college coaches with smaller varsity programs that have scholarships to offer. The money that Kiwanis has been so generous to share with us generates scholarships so we can offer opportunities for kids to attend our camps that might not have been able to afford it otherwise,” said president Doug Owen.
Owen says he works the admission gates each year for the Woolly Worm Festival and gets the opportunity to explain to festival-goers what their admission fees go to support.
Lees-McRae College is another long-time recipient of grants from the Kiwanis club. School president Herbert L. King Jr. said that the college has a “close kinship” with the club and has been very supportive of their two most recent initiatives that are helping give back to the community.
“With the club’s gifts, Lees-McRae students and faculty have helped develop opioid abuse education initiatives to help address this issue in our local community. Their recent support of our new classroom facility at Beech Mountain, where we will house our new Ski Industry Business program, allows us to spread the word about this important High Country economic engine,” said King. “As we work across the world to recruit students to that new program, we are introducing the world to the unique gems of our area. As president, I am immensely grateful for the community-minded generosity of the Banner Elk Kiwanians.”
Kiwanis Club members are more than happy to lend a helping hand to the Avery County community. Roy Krege, who was the face of the annual Woolly Worm Festival for so many years, has seen the benefit these grants have, particularly with educational opportunities.
“I believe the Woolly Worm grants given by the Banner Elk Kiwanis Club to needs in our county for children and other deserving groups have made a significant impact on our county for over 40 years. The festival is also a tremendous public relations event for Banner Elk, Avery County, and Western North Carolina. It has given Banner Elk and the festival national and international notoriety,” Krege said. “Teachers in Avery County who receive these grants are able to do things in their classrooms that they would not otherwise be able to do.”
Jim and Ann Swinkola have both been members of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk for over three decades. It is a very rewarding feeling for both of them to see how these grants help out others in need throughout the county.
“As a 30-year-plus Kiwanian, I am delighted to consider how much money our various fundraising projects have generated and that has gone back into the community. I feel great that we could do such good for so long,” said Ann.
“How exciting it is as a Kiwanian to know that hundreds of local children will benefit from the club’s grants. I had the honor of distributing some of the grant checks to the public schools here in Avery County. What a positive experience to see the smiles on the faces of the third graders at Banner Elk Elementary, the excitement of the girls at Avery Middle and the anticipation of the Avery High students,” Jim said. “I attended an Ensemble Stage Children’s Theater last summer and still recall all the laughter I heard from the youngsters in the audience. I’ve been to Wildcat Lake in July to see the scores of children swimming and building sandcastles. In my opinion, it’s all about improving the well-being of boys and girls. It’s good to be a Kiwanian with the Banner Elk club!”
Below are photos of Kiwanis Club grant recipients
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