By Sherrie Norris
Three local Ruritan Clubs were honored recently during the annual WNC Honors Recognition Ceremony hosted by WNC Communities in Asheville. Celebrated during a virtual event, the December 3 program highlighted the success of community involvement across Western North Carolina, as it has done for seven decades.
Among the 70 communities participating in this year’s program, and recognized for their service and accomplishments, include Deep Gap Ruritan, Foscoe Ruritan and Todd Ruritan clubs.
According to Terri Wells, Director of Community and Agricultural Programs/WNC Communities, these area clubs were among those making a $3 million investment of volunteer time, talent and effort in our Western North Carolina Communities — with more than 4,500 volunteers investing more than 112,180 hours of their time in outreach programs dedicated to conservation, education, beautification, health, wellness and economic development.
“During this challenging year, many of the clubs focused their efforts on much-needed food distribution,” Wells shared. “At least 22 of the clubs, along with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, participated in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program, our WNC Communities partnership with Baptists on Mission, getting food to those most in need in their communities. More than 50,000 boxes of food were delivered over the past eight months. Additionally, 42 clubs, including eight of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, participated in the WNC Communities Get Counted census program in partnership with Dogwood Health Trust. The clubs ensured that an additional 2907 persons were counted; thus, helping our region surpass its 2010 response rate.”
According to Wells, the clubs representing the High Country were honored based on the following acts of community service:
Foscoe Ruritan Club has held several fundraiser meals that helped with medical expenses for numerous community residents; the club helped with monthly breakfasts hosted by Foscoe Grandfather Community Center, and provided additional help to community residents from funds raised during the club’s 2019 6th Annual Homegrown Music Festival and raffle. Some of that assistance included distributing 16 food boxes for Christmas dinner, helping with heating, electric and phone bills and travel expenses for residents with medical needs. Several members helped with cleanup of the Community Center and grounds, in addition to the club’s $900 donation to the center.
A donation of $1400 was given to Valle Crucis Elementary School for its classroom supply closet needs; three scholarships, $500 each, were given to three high school graduates from the Foscoe community.
Like most others, Deep Gap Ruritan has faced challenges this year with forced cancellation of meetings since March, as well as its annual June fundraiser. However, community service continued in the safest ways possible with support to those needing help with medical bills, utilities, fuel, etc. A September trash yielded 12 bags of trash along a designated route in one hour.
The club sponsored five students at Parkway School for Christmas, purchasing gifts with money received from the WNC Communities award. Club members shopped and delivered gifts to the school for parents to pick up.
The club contributed $150 in quarters to residents of the Mountain Care Rest Home residents for personal vending machine use.
The club continues its support and maintenance of the Little Free Libraries that it earlier installed in the community, as well as one in a neighboring community.
Delivering a total of 170 boxes of produce, Deep Gap Ruritan was one of the aforementioned organizations to distribute food boxes to members of the community through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program.
Two club members helped remodel a bathroom to make it handicapped accessible for a community member, installing a new shower, toilet, grab bars and sink. The club donated $300 to help with the cost, with several club members making individual donations.
Several members partnered with Laurel Springs Baptist Church to pack over 500 shoe boxes for this year’s Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.
Several members participate in a local food pantry program, known as Simple Gesture, by filling a large green grocery bag with groceries each month. The club also made a $100 monthly contribution to the Hunger Coalition, with some members also donating to provide food boxes to local families through their church.
The club gave two $1000 scholarships to Watauga High seniors this year in addition to one $2500 scholarship.
The club has endorsed an effort to provide internet service to some underserved areas of the Deep Gap community thru Skyline/Skybest. One member distributed 25 interest packets to community members in the Stony Fork area asking about their internet service and gathering input on how many families would be interested in signing up with Skybest. The forms were then returned to Skybest.
Deep Gap Ruritan has partnered with several businesses to become associate members of Ruritan.
Despite limited funds this year, Deep Gap Ruritan continues to reach out the community and offer assistance when needed.
Specific information was not available at press time, but data provided by WNC Communities indicated that Todd Ruritan has also made significant impacts in the area regarding its efforts to meet the needs of its community members, while taking necessary precautions and promoting social distancing during the pandemic.
This year, Todd Ruritan has also provided scholarships to high school seniors, participated in the Adopt-A-Highway project by taking care of Railroad Grade Road that runs through historic Todd, as well as supplying food and helping with other needs of community residents. Its fundraising efforts have also been impacted this year due to the Covid-19 restrictions, but the club continues to stay aware of needs and help as they arise.
Other Notable Recognition Across WNC
The WNC Honors Awards, built on a 71-year tradition of recognizing rural community development clubs for their innovative ideas and grassroots solutions, has recently been renamed the George H.V. Cecil Honors. Cecil, who died recently, was instrumental in the creation and guidance of the WNC Honors Awards program. The competition for these awards is always strong, Wells described.
Receiving this year’s top awards included the Golden Valley Community Club in Rutherford County, claiming the Calico Cat Jr. award; the Glenville Community Development Club in Jackson County received the Calico Cat Sr. award. Both clubs were honored for their significant efforts toward the improvement and upkeep of their existing community centers over the past year, Wells added.
Additionally, Walnut Community Center Foundation and Spring Creek Community Center, both of Madison County, received the President’s Award for 25 years of participating in the WNC Honors Awards.
“These centers and clubs are the backbone running through our beloved mountains,” Wells described. “The culmination of this year’s program occurred at a virtual event held on Thursday, December 3 with community leaders from 14 Western North Carolina Counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It was live streamed and is archived for viewing on the WNC Communities Video YouTube channel accessible at: https://wnccommunities.org.
Generous sponsorships from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Valley River Casino & Hotel, Biltmore Farms, Inc., Duke Energy, The McClure Fund, First Citizens Bank, Buncombe County Farm Bureau, Carolina Farm Credit and Wells Fargo brought in $35,000 to award the 70 community centers and clubs participating in the 2020 WNC Honors Awards.
For more information on how your community club might be able to participate in this annual recognition in the future, contact Terri Wells, Director of Community and Agricultural Programs at WNC Communities in Asheville by calling 828-252-4783.