The culmination of this year’s WNC Honors Program occurred on Saturday, November 12th with nearly 200 community leaders and volunteers from 15 Western North Carolina counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Sixty-four member communities received a total of $50,000 in cash awards.  Each community development club received $600 each. Twenty-two of these communities received additional monetary or recognition awards for their admirable work to improve quality of life for their residents. 

WNC Communities awarded Best in Class awards at each Honors Level, two President’s Awards, the Calico Cats, and our first ever Impact Award.

Otto community accepting Presidents award

President’s Awards

The President’s Award it presented to communities at 25, 50, and 75 years of participation in the WNC Honors Program. This year, we had two awardees to recognize for their long-term dedication to improving community wellbeing.

Otto Community Development Organization of Macon County. 50 Years. Pictured are Tom Young, President of Otto CDO, receiving the award from Ray Bailey, WNC Communities’ Board President.

Sandy Mush Community Center of Buncombe County. 25 Years. Pictured from left to right are Bruce Larson, Treasurer; Cheryl Frisbee and her children Victoria and Julianna Frisbee; Amy Sue Moore, VP; Keith Wells; Barbara Wells; and WNC Communities’ Board President, Ray Bailey.

Calico Cats

The Calico Cat award is given annually to the clubs which through their volunteer and fundraising efforts make the most significant improvements and renovations to their community center over the past year.  

Calico Jr.

Glenville Community Club in Jackson County

When the local VFW was about to lose their charter and therefore their building and property located next door to the Glenville Community Development Club, they came together to form a collaborative solution. Under a new a strategic plan approved by the state board of VFW, the local VFW gave the Glenville CDC the building and property and the community club will provide an ongoing place for the Veterans to have their events for free. 

Glenville CDC has completely remodeled the VFW building, with upgrades to the electrical, water system, and HVAC, as well as new ceilings, kitchen, flooring, equipment, handicap accessibility, fiber optic internet, and remodeled “Veterans’ Lounge.” They now have approximately 2,000 square feet available to the community for events and were able to expand their Thrift Store.

All of the work was done by local labor and volunteers, including 600 volunteer hours. Pictured from left to right are Tracy Morea, Ralph Campbell, President of Glenville CDC, Dean Kanipe, WNC Communities’ Board Immediate Past Chair, and Anita Eggleston.

Laurel accepting Calico Cat award

Calico Sr.

Laurel Community Center Organization in Madison County

The Laurel Community Center Organization’s 6-acre campus and approximately 29,000 square-foot building complex was deeded to them in April 2019 by Madison County and the Board of Education.  With full ownership in place, Laurel Community made over $100,000 of long-lasting renovations and improvements with grant funds from various sources. 

Laurel CCO renovated the 748 square-foot, creekfront, Laurel River Room, now serving as their Ecology STEM classroom, with an 80 square-foot observation deck, mini-split, and a bulletin board. They also restored their 829 square-foot Center of Rural Innovation computer lab for classes and workshops with an electronics closet, new paint, mini-split, classroom furniture, laptops, printer, and modern teaching equipment.  After the discovery of sewage leaking pipes in the 1950s, 1,000 square-foot basement, Laurel CCO made repairs to clean and restore function to inoperable plumbing.  Additionally, the Madison County TDA supported $18,000 in improvements to create a 250 square-foot Welcome Center for the county. 

As for outdoor improvements, Phase 1 of their walking trail is complete. Community members are extremely excited to have a safe place to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. While they are in a rural area with several local hiking trails, many, especially older folks, are just not comfortable getting all the way out in the woods, with no phone service or internet. Their center offers Wi-Fi campus-wide and gives folks a sense of security. 

The Laurel Community worked with more than 35 contractors and Laurel community volunteers conducted approximately 500 hours of volunteer work on these improvements and upgrades.  Pictured receiving the award are Dean Turville, Barbara Zimmerman, Treasurer of LCCO, Keith Ray, President of LCCO, Dean Kanipe of WNC Communities’ Board, and Cheoah Landis

Bethel receiving impact award

Impact Award and White Oak Best in Class Award

Bethel Rural Community Organization in Haywood County took home our first ever 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.

WNC Communities also gives out Best in Class Awards to the stand-out communities at each level.  Bethel was the first and only community to reach the White Oak level and were awarded the White Oak Best in Class Award. They took home this additional $2000 award based on their impressive efforts to help Haywood County communities recover from flooding, and their volunteer assistance in restoring eroded stream banks and replanting native River Cane on the Pigeon River in the wake of Tropical Storm Fred. 

Pictured receiving the Impact Award are Stephanie Quis-Garrett, Eleanor Porter, Director of BRCO Board, Don Brown,  Glenn Garrett, Carol Litchfield, President of BRCO, Evelyn Coltman, Patricia Carr, BRCO Board Chair, Jennifer Ferre, Executive Director of WNC Communities, Ted Carr, and Susan Mims, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust.