ASHE COUNTY — Two community centers from Ashe and one from Watauga were honored with cash awards and recognition by WNC Communities.
The WNC Honors Awards, a program of WNC Communities, is built on a 73-year tradition of recognizing rural community development clubs for their innovative ideas and grassroots solutions. These centers and clubs are the backbone of community cohesion running through our beloved mountains. The culmination of this year’s WNC Honors Program occurred on Saturday, Nov. 12 with nearly 200 community leaders and volunteers from 15 Western North Carolina counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Despite COVID shutting down many of the communities’ usual activities, the 64 communities participating in this year’s program made a $4.7 million investment of time, talent, money and effort in Western North Carolina communities.
A total of more than 7,100 volunteers invested an 96,158 hours of their time in outreach programs dedicated to feeding people during COVID, recovering from Tropical Storm Fred and other benevolence projects, education, beautification, health, wellness, and economic development. These programs impacted more than 100,000 households.
All participating communities received $600 to support their efforts. Additionally, communities were assessed across six different competencies and awarded a designation of Trillium, Mountain Laurel, Redbud, or White Oak level according to their demonstrated capacity to lead and serve.
These competencies include Good Governance, Leadership Excellence, Financial Stewardship, Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, Community Programs and Civic Engagement, and Collaboration.
The Peak Creek Ruritan Club and Todd Ruritan Club of Ashe County and the Deep Gap Ruritan Club of Watauga were recognized for achieving the Mountain Laurel level. Communities at this level have their 501©3 status, offer several impactful programs to assist their communities, seek training for their board, and are actively collaborating with at least five community partners. Peak Creek Ruritan exhibited such excellence at this level that they won a Best in Class Award and received an additional $500.
WNC Communities also awarded the Calico Cat Awards, President’s Awards, and the Impact Award. Laurel Community Center Organization in Madison County received the Calico Cat Sr. award and Glenville Community Club in Jackson County received the Calico Cat Jr. award for their significant efforts toward the improvement and upkeep of their existing community centers over the past year. The competition for these awards is always strong. Additionally, Otto Community Development Organization of Macon County received the President’s Award for 50 years of participating in the WNC Honors Awards, and Sandy Mush Community Center of Buncombe County received the President’s Award for 25 years of participation. Bethel Rural Community Organization in Haywood County took home the Impact Award for their collaboration with local produce stand operators to establish the Fresh Produce Coupon Program. This innovative program enables over 40 families to access fresh produce, which adds nutritional value to family meals while boosting the economic viability of the produce stands.
Generous sponsorships from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Valley River Casino & Hotel, Duke Energy, Biltmore Farms, Inc, First Citizens Bank, The McClure Foundation, Wells Fargo, Buncombe County Farm Bureau, New Belgium Brewing, Carolina Farm Credit, and Haywood Regional Medical Center brought in $50,000 to award to the 64 community centers and clubs participating in the 2022 WNC Honors Awards.