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Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge Holds Grantee Luncheon at Blowing Rock Conference Center

It was a time for talking, a time for tears, a time for thanks. The Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge held its 2017 Grantee Luncheon at the Blowing Rock Conference Center on Wednesday. The annual event, sponsored this year by the LifeStore Bank in Boone, brought together the board and members of the Women’s Fund with various non-profit agencies benefitting from grants provided by the Fund.

Representatives from non-profit agencies receiving 2016 grants. Photos by Jan Todd

Danielle Thuot, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund, said, “This is probably the most rewarding event that we have all year, because we get to hear moving stories from the all of the recipients of our fundraising efforts, how they’ve used the money to make a difference in the lives of women and in the community. The agencies that receive our grants are an amazing group of non-profits, and this is their time to shine.”

The Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge raises money each year to fund non-profit programs targeted to help women and children. Providing grants to programs such as A.S.H.E. (A Safe Home for Everyone), aiding domestic violence survivors, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, funding enterprise for female farmers, Girls on the Run, Hospitality House, and the Western Youth Network fulfills the group’s mission to create positive change and economic justice for women and girls in a five-county area.

“We provided a total of $110,000 in grants to twenty-one agencies this past year,” said Jan Rienerth, the Board Chairman of WFBR. “We accept applications in the summer, and our Grant Committee selects the recipients for that year. Each year the list of recipients is different. Some agencies may be repeat recipients, but they have to apply and be selected each year.”

Grants are made to non-profit organizations serving women and girls in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina. Each agency receiving grants was represented at the luncheon, and was given two minutes to report how funds were used to make a difference.

Some shared stories of individuals helped by the contributions from WFBR, such as Penny Souther of the Children’s Hope Alliance. “We were able to help provide special medical equipment and tools for a child with Down Syndrome, so that now she’ll be able to eat on her own.”

Kathy Parham, executive director of the Children’s Playhouse in Boone, shared a story about a scholarship recipient, a disabled mother with a small toddler. “They were feeling very isolated, and the toddler didn’t have the opportunity to be around other children and was extremely scared and withdrawn. After receiving a free membership and coming to the Children’s Playhouse on a weekly basis, we saw a huge change in both mother and child, with other parents supporting her and connecting.”

Several Grantees read letters from their clients who had benefitted from programs funded by the WFBR grants. In a couple of cases, final beneficiaries were able to attend the luncheon along with the agency representatives. “Isabel” accompanied Beth Sorrel of the Ashe Family Literacy program. Isabel came to Ashe County to work, and knew no English. The grant from WFBR provided money to pay for child care while Isabel went to school, learned to speak English, and got a job to help support her family. Isabel was able to express her personal thanks as part of Sorrell’s two-minute presentation.

Networking and sharing were encouraged among all of the luncheon guests with a seating plan that included a WFBR board member, representatives from Grantee agencies, and donors at each table.

“We’re a community here,” explained Christina Howe, a member of the WFBR Grant Committee. “Events like these give us an chance to collaborate with one another, see how we can work together. Non-profits benefit everyone in a community.”

Executive Director Danielle Thuot summed up the efforts when addressing the non-profit agencies. “We’re here to help you. When you’re exhausted after a day at work, taking care of your day-to-day business, know that you have a group of women who wake up every day, ready to work for you and help provide funds and resources. These women care and are committed to your cause, and will work to see that women and children in the High Country have quality lives and the opportunity to be successful.”

Representatives from non-profit agencies receiving 2016 grants
WBRF Board Members and Staff
Ashley Cook – WAMY
Beth Marsh – ACCESS
Beth Sorrell of Ashe Family Literacy and Isabel
Carol Coulter – Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture
Chrystal Kelly – Childrens Council
Deanna Stoker – A.S.H.E. A Safe Home for Everyone
Girls on the Run
Graham Doege – WeCan
Heather Canipe – Western Youth Network
Jennie Harpold – New Opportunity for Women at Less McRae
Jennifer Newman and Leslie Icenhour
Katy Parham – Children’s Playhouse
Kelly Biggs – Mitchell County Safe Place
Kyle Moss- Hunger and Health Coalition
Lee Cornett – DANA, Domestic Abuse Not Acceptable
Melissa Selby – Community Care Clinic
Penny Souther – Childrens Hope Alliance
Reneé Bowman- Executive Chef, F.A.R.M. Café
Ryan Robinson – Two Rivers Community School and She Hikes Alone Program
Tina Krause – Hospitality House
Zack Green – Mountain Alliance
Board Members, non-profit representatives and donors shared tables at the luncheon