In 2021, WNC Communities (WNCC) honored 66 communities that were active in the WNC Honors Program. WNCC
congratulated all participating communities with a monetary award to celebrate their accomplishments and support their ongoing efforts to serve their residents. Twenty-one communities were selected by the Honors Committee as being Best in Class at the the Trillium, Mountain Laurel, Redbud, or White Oak level, and received special recognition at the WNC Honors Awards as well as additional cash prizes.
WNC Communities also gave out Special Awards the the event, including the President’s Award, and the juried Youth Leadership Award, Calico Cat Senior, and Calico Cat Junior Awards.
Leicester Community Center received the President’s Award for 50 years of active participation in the WNC Honors Program. Pictured are Fred Myers, Vice President, and Marie Whitener, President of Leicester Community Center (LCC).
From its inception in 1961, LCC provided recreation and social space for youth, community service groups, and the Leicester Grange. Little League games, livestock competitions, scout meetings, Grange dinners, holiday celebrations, community suppers and family get-togethers kept the place busy.
Today LCC provides a 4,000 sq ft space for meetings, groups, a weekly welcome table, art night, clubs, and classes, and is rented out as a gathering space. Additionally, there are 6.5 acres dedicated to walking tracks, a very popular playground, sports fields, and relaxation space. In 2021, LCC also served as host to Leicester’s first Farmers Market, which enjoyed strong community support.
Ryleigh Stevens (R) won the Youth Leadership Award for Caney Fork Community Development Council. She was recognized for her work leading a team of seven youth, including Gage Stevens (L), in an effort to purchase meat to supplement food boxes for neighbors in need during COVID.
Caney Fork gave their youth $500 from a grant and let them decide how to spend it. Ryleigh spearheaded the effort to make a budget for a few of their top choices. The team evaluated their options, then voted to buy meat to supplement the food boxes. Ryleigh led the team to research vendors and prices, purchase meat, and distribute it to grateful residents who would have otherwise gone without any meat for months.
To promote her leadership development, Ryleigh has been awarded a tuition-free North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS) course. WNC Communities is thrilled to be able to offer youth opportunities to grow through our wonderful partnership with NCOBS.
Pictured at left are Secretary Suzanne Williams (L) and President Brenda Elliott (R) of Carson Community Development Association proudly holding their Calico Cat, Sr. Award.
Carson Community collaborated with Arise and Shine Women’s Recovery Center to upgrade their building into a thrift store
to support the nonprofit’s cause of helping women recover from addiction. Volunteers removed a rickety stage and old carpet, scraped walls, painted, put in new flooring, added beadboard and murals, and built a workroom and office. Carson also replaced their plumbing system with a Dogwood Health Trust grant and installed new toilets, a water heater, and a cabinet sink.
This wonderful collaboration brought people together in support of a worthy cause.
Caney Fork Community Development Council won the Calico Cat Jr award. Pictured are Terri Wells of WNC Communities presenting the award to Caney Fork’s president, Kristin Stevens.
With grants from Dogwood Health Trust and Nantahala Health Foundation, Caney Fork Community made their building more beautiful and energy efficient while expanding their capacity to feed neighbors in need. They upgraded the old tile ceiling and electrical wiring, replaced fluorescent lights with new, efficient can lighting, and hung four ceiling fans. Caney Fork replaced their old wall-mounted propane heater with a new mini-split which is saving them money.
They also added new appliances. They replaced a 1998 stove with a more efficient four-burner cooktop stove for preparing meals, and replaced a 1993 refrigerator with a 23 cubic foot French door refrigerator, which now stores meat and perishable food they distribute. They got new pantry cabinetry to expand storage for dry goods to be given away.
Portions of this article were adapted from speeches from Marie Whitener and Karen Hammett that were given at the 2021 WNC Honors Awards.