More than half a million dollars changed hands in Banner Elk Monday morning, as some 34 non-profit representatives of agencies serving Avery County stepped forward to accept a grant check from the High Country Charitable Foundation (HCCF).

A child of Banner Elk’s Elk River Club, founder Jim Ward and multiple other members of the local club Monday blessed needy animals and people across the county.

The largest number of recipients and the biggest number of dollars ever were counted, as the 8-year total donation from the foundation approached $4 million “since we started,” Ward said. “I never thought we’d be able to help do all the things you do,” he noted.

As residents and agencies continue to recoup all they lost during the dark days of COVID, the checks were greeted with sincere thanks in all cases, surprise and relief in many cases.

‘The program has changed,” Sheriff Mike Henley noted, referring to DARE, the anti-drug Sheriff’s office lessons geared to elementary students in Avery County. “There’s vaping, alcohol and other drug abuse, all things that negatively affect children.  The new funds “are integral to our strategy to combat drug abuse in Avery County, with a newer focus to reach young children, Henley said.

HCCF founder Jim Ward

“The beauty of the High Country Charitable Foundation gift is the flexibility it gives us to serve survivors in Avery County,” according to OASIS outreach coordinator Sarah Crouch. “Domestic violence is the biggest reason for homelessness,” she noted. Founded in 1978, OASIS is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual abuse in both Avery and Watauga Counties.

One of the changes made this year by the board of HCCF was to make challenge grants available to agencies.  A successful agency that followed this path was AMOREM, a not-for-profit hospice care provider serving the High Country.  HCCF put up a challenge grant that needed to be matched with funds from Avery County individuals, companies or governments.   “We met and exceeded the challenge,” according to AMOREM’s Carol Smith, “and now we’re more than half way to our goal of building our own care facility.”

From animals–$450 to care for an animal at the Avery Humane Society—to the arts—children creating, producing and acting in their own stage productions with Ensemble Stage, HCCF has helped.

Feeding people, building houses, home repair, mentoring children across multiple available programs, fire and rescue, age 0-5 help for children and families, kids staying with grandparents, kids playing soccer or kids going to camp–kids earning leadership and reading skills, kids workforce training and at-risk kids—HCCF is helping.

HCCF is there for exceptional citizens, thirsty elk at Grandfather Mountain, Wildcat Lake restoration and lifeguards, volunteer medical care, education supports, aid for battered women and children.

There is therapeutic horseback riding for learning and medical issues, low-income housing, legal resources, emergency funding of necessities—all benefiting from the sharing of resources by members of the Elk River Club and the High Country Charitable Foundation.

“The idea of the High Country Charitable Foundation was conceived by a small group of local residents who recognize the importance of giving back to the community,” according to the HCCF mission and purpose statements.  “The vision of our foundation is to provide for needy Avery County residents and animals by supporting local public charities and other private foundations,” the statements say.

“I’m proud to be a member of Elk River, and proud to be a member of this very successful fouondaation,” board member Bob Moss commented.