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‘Tis the Season! High Country Charitable Foundation Brings Cheer to Avery County Families

Banner Elk Elementary School counselor Katherine Jones prepares Christmas gifts for children associated with Avery Project Christmas.

Santa’s elves could take a lesson! The elves at High Country Charitable Foundation have been busy so that as many families as possible could experience some happiness during this Christmas season.

Avery County’s elves hauled and toted heavy loads—loads of surprises for Avery residents who needed some extra cheer this year.

Gifts galore for families and kids, coordinated by elves through Reaching Avery Ministry and Avery Project Christmas. Groceries galore, collected and distributed by the elves at Feeding Avery Families. And elves with sheriff’s badges from Cops for Kids, armed with gifts, friendly smiles and very special friendships.

All of these happy activities have taken place for a number of years—but this year the elves had to repack the sleigh and route the reindeer around the COVID grinch lurking in the shadows.

The well-oiled machine that delivered Avery Project Christmas formerly brought parents into a well-stocked Christmas store, allowing them to choose gifts and wrapping for their children. This year, school counselors worked with families to create wish lists. The counselors and staff members then shopped the lists and prepared to deliver gift bags to the families.

“Imagine in your mind the smiling joy of children who might have been anxious about what would arrive at their house for Christmas,” commented Avery Project Christmas volunteer Susan Carter. “Create in your mind the faces and appreciation of parents, and grandparents serving as parents, as they feel the excitement of being able to give the children they love a few gifts from their wish list.”

Feeding Avery Families (FAF)continues to feed growing numbers of folks: 600 families or 1,500 individuals a month, plus school backpacks and in-school pantries, plus six Community Pantries.

In addition to ramping up the numbers, FAF has volunteers who deliver to families who are unable to get to the outdoor distributions. “Families and friends become lifelines, just as High Country Charitable Foundation has been, in helping us provide these special meals,” according to FAF director Dick Larson.

“How wonderful it is to be able to celebrate over a special meal together,” Larson said. “What a blessing it is to be able to help.”

Sometimes changes are especially hard on elves. “Cops for Kids,” a special creation of the Avery County Sheriff’s Office, had to postpone a great mentoring experience, in exchange for a distant substitute. In previous years, a sheriff’s officer would go shopping with a child, purchase family gifts, have lunch together, and get to know each other. This year, according to the Great Elf, Sheriff Kevin Frye, officers collected wish lists and purchased gifts—then distributed them through drive-in delivery. The mentoring or bonding between officer and child was mostly lost.

The High Country Charitable elves know that changes are hard, and COVID and its problems and prohibitions are harder. But knowing that the Avery County elves are really hard workers, improvising to make it all worthwhile—they provided the funds to keep the Christmas joy alive in many Avery County homes.

Since 2015. The High Country Charitable Foundation has awarded financial grants to local public charities and other private foundations whose mission is to provide for needy Avery County residents and animals. Selected nonprofit organizations must be appropriately recognized by the IRS. Grants are not given to individuals and other restrictions apply. For more information visit highcountryfoundation.org.

Kali Sullins picks up food for family members, a couple with two young children. “At Feeding Avery Families, we have many instances like this, where the people needing assistance aren’t able to get to our facility by themselves,” according to director Dick Larson. “Families and friends become lifelines, just as HCCF has been, in helping us provide these special meals,” he said.
Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye (left) and Lauren Mauney of the EAC Employee Action Committee stand side-by-side as they accept the High Country Charitable Foundation grant for the 2020 Cops for Kids program.