By Nathan Ham
The Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk gathered last Tuesday at the Holston Presbytery Camp’s Clemmer Dining Hall for a presentation from Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier and to award financial contributions for scholarships and non-profit programs in the county.
Barrier highlighted some facts and figures from the 2019-20 fiscal year as well as COVID-19 vaccination updates for the county.
“We are doing great. If you go on the state website, you can see that we are leading the way. Alleghany is leading us by just a marginal percentage as far as western North Carolina counties go for the percentage of people vaccinated in our county. We are so proud of that,” said Barrier. “Next, we are going to go into the resorts and some of the towns taking reservations for clinics in certain areas.”
The next thing he touched on was the real estate boom and increased number of residents that are now in Avery County. As of the most recent census, Avery County has a listed population of 17,797.
“The census is going to be incorrect for Avery County for the next eight years,” said Barrier.
Along with the increase in population has come with an increased priority for Avery County to be able to have more reliable and affordable broadband internet access, something that has plagued the High Country for years until recently. Barrier estimated that 30 percent of the homes in Avery County do not have access to broadband internet.
Help is on the way for that soon as the county was awarded a $100,000 matching grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission that will allow for the county to invest $100,000 of its own money and receive that matching total.
The second part of the meeting consisted of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk rewarding students with scholarships and non-profit programs with grants that will help them better assist the needs of Avery County residents.
“When we need something for this family or this child, this is how special Avery County is. I can go to any of the churches, I’ve got individuals, I’ve got resorts, I’ve got the High Country Charitable Foundation, I can call the food bank and I can say we need these things. Avery County will come and meet the need,” said Barrier.
Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk member Jim Swinkola highlighted each of the programs that will receive financial support from the club and the scholarships that they help fund.
“The Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk Foundation is going to stand behind the $1,000 gift for the Peck Hendrickson Scholarship and two $500 gifts for the Lees-McRae College Scholarships,” said Swinkola.
The first award was a $3,000 grant that will go to the Reading is Fundamental program to allow for extra distribution of books to elementary schools this year.
Avery County YMCA, Avery County 4-H, Avery WOW, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are all receiving funding.
“One of the things that have been at the heart of many attendees of our Kiwanis Club are youth programs, so to support youth programs within Avery County, the Avery County Y is receiving a grant for $3,000,” said Swinkola.
Avery County 4-H is another beneficiary of the Kiwanis Club grants. They will receive $2,000.
“There’s a special 4-H program about to happen at the Riverside Elementary School. There’s going to be a greenhouse, gardens and other sorts of things because food insecurity has been one of the primary things recurring throughout the pandemic. This program is going to inspire food security for the children of Avery County by teaching them how to start vegetables from seeds, plant them in a garden, can them, sell them and become young entrepreneurs,” said Swinkola.
Avery 4-H also overseas the Avery WOW summer youth program. Swinkola announced that the Kiwanis would issue them an additional grant for $2,000.
Avery County Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will each receive $500 to help bring in new members.
In total, the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk Foundation will award $13,000 in grants.
In addition to the awards celebration, the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk welcomed East Tennessee State University student Rubi Estrada as a new member. As part of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program, Estrada, a senior political science major, has been registering patients and offering Spanish translation at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Avery County.
Avery County By the Numbers (2019-20)
County population: 17,797
Sheriff’s Office Activity Log: 25,066 calls for service
55 percent recovered property rate (Fifth best in North Carolina)
118 drug seizures
Street value of drugs seized: $532,869
11,794 registered voters
8,100 votes cast in 2016 Presidential Election
5,161 votes cast in the 2020 Primary Election
Top 5 percent of voter turnout in North Carolina
14,867 Senior Center meals served
15,387 Senior Center home delivered meals
Average number of Senior Center meals served daily: 180
Hours served by Volunteer Avery: 5,597
Hours in home aid: 8,772
Total visitors to the Senior Center: 31,209
623 tons of recycling collected
15,329 tons of household waste collected
30 percent increase in recycling since comingled recycling began
43,600 pounds of household hazardous waste collected
35 tons of electronic recycled
2,230 deeds recorded by the Register of Deeds
114 marriage licenses issued
90 percent of county records have been scanned for computer use
5,930 walk-in visits to social services
3 adoptions through social services
60 children per month have daycare service provided
3,364 individuals served through income support programs
121 soil and water quality services provided
4,128 feet of trout stream restoration
237 acres of agriculture land quality enhancements
157 tons of soil saved from entering trout streams
$463,443 in funding through state and federal programs for management practices
307,347 total miles driven by Avery County Transportation
507 veterans served with transportation
3,975 senior served with transportation
1,776 employment trips with transportation
4,828 trips for charitable agencies.
180 fire inspectio
16 emergency preparedness meetings
3 incident command centers setup
65,785 total calls into communications center
8,358 911 Emergency calls into communications center
191 new construction plans permitted
182 new renovation permits
$93,293,919 total estimated project value
97.76 percent tax collection rate for 2019-20
99.39 percent tax collection rate for the past 10 years
$20,712,714 in total property taxes collected
40,642 in total attendance at Avery Parks and Recreation
11,364 adult sports participants
11,282 youth sports participants
3,945 MANNA Food Bank participants
3,482 EMS calls/transports
20 Love in Action participants