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Hope Harvey and Friends to Play Toy Drive Benefit Tonight at Painted Fish Cafe

By Jessica Isaacs

Want to make Christmas special for local children in need? Thanks to the High Country Toy Drive, its local concert series and organizer Lynne Lear, you can do just that by simply enjoying some good tunes and a night out on the town.

The performance series began in 2013 and continues to feature some of the area’s favorite groups and artists who take the stage to benefit the toy drive, which makes Christmas gifts possible for children living in private foster care environments through nonprofit agencies like Children’s Hope Alliance in Banner Elk and Hospitality House in Boone.

“I have a friend who was a case worker at Grandfather Home for Children, which is now Children’s Hope Alliance. Through her, I learned that Children’s Hope Alliance had private foster care homes all throughout western North Carolina. A lot of people have been under the impression that the Grandfather Home was just that one campus,” said Lear. “I realized that if I had lived here all these years and never knew that, then most people who live here probably don’t know that either. We talked about the needs of foster kids at Christmas and we decided to do the toy drive. I had already done some benefit work for the Hospitality House in Boone and I didn’t want to leave any of the homeless children out of the loop, or anybody else who had a need.”

The toy drive began with one concert in its inaugural year and has now grown to include five musical performances, the final three of which will take place in the High Country this week.

“You can’t really find a bigger heart than Lynne’s when it comes to giving back,” said Hope Harvey, who will take the stage Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Painted Fish Cafe in Banner Elk. “It is near and dear to her, so I am just glad to be a part of it.”

Harvey said Wednesday night’s show promises a fun environment of folks coming together for a good cause.

“It’s become like an annual Christmas party for all of us who get together,” she said. “It’s going to be the largest in attendance because the Banner Elk area has turned it into a friends and family Christmas party.”

Donations at each concert can be made in the form cash, check or gift card, which allows toy drive organizers to shop for the specific needs of the recipients, who remain anonymous throughout the giving process.

“People also love to buy and bring toys,” Lear said. “That makes them happy and we are so thankful for anything we can get.”

Toys, clothes, winter coats and boots and learning aids are among the gifts made possible by the toy drive, which is now in its fourth year of providing a Christmas for children in need.

The series opened with a performance by Fireside Collective at Lost Province Brewing Co. on Dec. 3 and a show featuring Handlebar Betty at The Gamekeeper on Dec. 7.

“We love supporting the Toy Drive. It’s amazing to know that everything brought in directly supports the people in our own community,” said Meris Gantt of Handlebar Betty. “Lynne Lear does such a fantastic job putting everything together, as well as planning memorable and fun events that bring all kinds of people together for a good cause. We play a lot of fundraisers, but the Toy Drive is one of our favorites!”
Lear says she has been excited to watch the program grow this year as friends in the local restaurant community reached out to host events.
“This year, everybody has just stepped up to the plate,” she said. “The number of restaurant owners, the artists and my tribe of women who help me sort, shop and organize things has just grown exponentially over the years and I am just so blessed by everybody’s generosity.”
All donations to the High Country Toy Drive are tax deductible. Lear and her team hope for an influx of contributions through the final three shows as the need has continued to grow, as well.
“This year, we have a longer list than usual, so we really hope these next music events will bring in some donations so we can get all the shopping done this weekend,” she said.
The team plans to have all gifts purchased and delivered to the appropriate families by Dec. 19, so time is of the essence if you plan to contribute.
If you would like to make a donation or you know a family who needs help from the High Country Toy Drive this Christmas, contact Lear directly at 423-794-8825.
The final concerts of the season will include:
Hope Harvey and Friends at the Painted Fish Cafe
Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.
Banner Elk
Hope will bring a variety of genres together for a show encompassing bluegrass, folk, indie, blues and rock. She’ll be joined on stage by bands including the Blues Ridge Ramblers, Stella and The Collective.
Shelby Rae Moore at Beech Tree Bar and Grille
Friday, Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Beech Mountain
Double D at Murphy’s Bar and Grill
Friday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.
Downtown Boone


Fireside Collective
Handlebar Betty
Hope Harvey
Shelby Rae Moore