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Vol.44 | Issue 1 May 2021

ReC Re COGnition

Newsletter of the High Country Council of Governments

Executive Board Members Minority Representative Paul L. Robinson, Jr.

Alleghany County

Bill Osborne, Chair, Commissioner Wes Brinegar, Mayor, Sparta

Ashe County

Todd McNeill, Chair, Commissioner Mark Johnston, Alderman, Jefferson Jim Blevins, Alderman, Lansing Tom Hartman, Mayor, West Jefferson

Avery County

Dennis Aldridge, Commissioner Brenda Lyerly, Mayor, Banner Elk Kelly Melang, Council Member, Beech Mountain Eddie Yarber, Mayor, Crossnore Joel Whitley, Mayor Pro Tem, Elk Park Valerie Jaynes, Mayor, Newland Gunther Jöchl, Mayor, Sugar Mountain

Officers Chair Valerie Jaynes Vice Chair Todd McNeill Secretary Doug Matheson Treasurer Dennis Aldridge

Mitchell County

Vern Grindstaff, Chair, Commissioner Charles Vines, Mayor, Bakersville Rocky Buchanan, Council Member, Spruce Pine

Watauga County

Larry Turnbow, Commissioner Doug Matheson, Council Member, Blowing Rock Rennie Brantz, Mayor, Boone Larry Fontaine, Mayor, Seven Devils

Wilkes County

Eddie Settle, Chair, Commissioner Kevin Reece, Commissioner, Ronda Robert L. Johnson, Mayor, North Wilkesboro Andrew Soots, Council Member, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Johnny Riddle, Commissioner Theresa Coletta, Mayor, Burnsville

Advisory Committee Dennis Aldridge Rennie Brantz Wes Brinegar Valerie Jaynes Robert L. Johnson Brenda Lyerly Doug Matheson Todd McNeill Johnny Riddle Eddie Settle Charles Vines

What’s Inside

HCCOG Virtual Legislative Day 4 The Executive Board of the High Country Council of Governments hosted its second annual (Virtual) Legislative Day on Monday, March 22, 2021. We want to extend a special thank you to all the panelists for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us and to all those that were able to attend and participate in Q&A! The event ran very smoothly and produced engaging legislative discussion.

Avery County Welcomes Two Mobile Health Care Units.......................... 5 Watauga County Recreation Center Grand Opening............................... 6 Wilkes County Invests $1 Million to Increase Students’ Access to College.....................................................................................................................7 Regional Highlights............................................................................................. 8 Œ Town of Beech Mountain Celebrates 40th Birthday Œ Town of Wilkesboro AWOP Award Œ Bass Lake Sidewalk and Main Street Crosswalks Œ New Hires for the Region Œ Notable Retirements Area Agency on Aging Š Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 13 Š World Elder Abuse Awareness Day......................................................... 17 Š Older Americans Month......................................................................... 18 Š HC Senior Centers Overcoming Pandemic Challenges........................... 19 Š Getting the High Country in ‘SHIIP’ Shape............................................. 19 Planning and Developmen Š Department Highlights and Projects............................................................... 20 Š 2020 CDBG-CV Awards........................................................................... 23 Š Town of Burnsville Receives CDBG-I Grant............................................. 24 Š Numerous Awards Announced by Golden LEAF...................................... 25 Workforce Development Š Department Highlights and Projects............................................................... 26 Š High Country Partners Tour PRC.............................................................. 31 Š HCWDB Director & NCWorks Career Center Manager Graduate from Leadership Wilkes.................................................................................... 32 Š Success for Kaitlyn................................................................................... 33 Š NCWorks Providing Virtual Workshops...................................................34

HCCOG Virtual Legislative Day Special thanks to our HCCOG Executive Board Chair, Valerie Jaynes and Vice-Chair, Todd McNeill for moderating the event! Check out some behind the scenes action photos captured by Executive Director, Julie Wiggins, below! If you missed the Zoom Webinar, you can rewatch it on our HCCOG YouTube Channel.

Executive Board Vice-Chair, Todd McNeill and Chairwoman, Valerie Jaynes with videographer from White Blaze Marketing.


Avery County Welcomes Two Mobile Health Care Units

Article by Tim Gardner, High Country Press

Avery County is prepared to continue the fight against COVID-19 out into the various communities the county encompasses via two mobile units where vaccines will be administered and setting up mobile vaccination clinics wherever they are needed. The county’s first vaccination clinic was held on Saturday, February 20th at Riverside School. Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. cautioned that the suc cess of the initiative largely depends on how many vaccines the county receives and when the state plans on increasing the Photo Courtesy High Country Press. county’s allotment. Initially, the two mobile units will be used to go out into the county’s communities and vaccinate Avery residents. As the State of North Carolina continues with its vaccination phases system, Avery County will be setting up the mobile trailers at important sites for ease of access for teachers, farmers and more. “One of the mobile unit trailers is designated strictly for the health department. It’s going to be our vaccination and immunization trailer where they can actually go out and do vaccinations now. We can go to all the schools and do them. Later on, when COVID-19 is over, we can send the trailers out for flu shots and take them to various parts of the county of for other health-related purposes,” Barrier, Jr. added. The second trailer is currently prioritized to be the county’s second mobile vaccination unit. But Barrier, Jr. said in the near future, the mobile trailer will function as the county emergency services department’s new mobile command unit. “Anything that is going on at the vaccination site goes through that mobile command unit first. And anything that the vaccination people need, it goes through command, no matter what that may be” Barrier, Jr. declared. “After Covid-19 comes to an end, it will become our mobile command center for emergency and related happenings in the county. It will be a tremendous plus for our county.” Barrier, Jr. said the county first ordered the two units in November 2020 and they were paid for through grant money obtained through the Federal CARES Act. But the county was delayed in getting the mobile units due to MO GreatDane, the company that built the trailers, experienced a backlog in air conditioning and heating units being installed in the trailers due to the pandemic.


Watauga Community Recreation Center Grand Opening

Article by Tim Gardner, High Country Press.

After years of planning, construction and delays, a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Watauga Community Recreation Center signaled its long-awaited introduction to the community on Friday, April 23. The recreation center will serve as not only an office for the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Department, but will also give access to a gym, basketball courts, pools and other recreational facilities. Watauga County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Welch welcomed everyone to the event, which included state legislators, parks and recreation staff, families, former commissioners and those involved County Mgr. Deron Geouque, Commissioners Charlie Wallin, Billy Kennedy, Carrington Pertalion & Larry Turnbow, with the facility’s design and construction.

former Commissioners Perry Yates & Jimmy Hodges, Wat. “We have gathered, quite distantly, to mark an Co. Recreation Commission Chairman Denny Norris & Wat. Parks & Rec. Director Stephen Poulos help as Chairman unbelievable occasion,” Welch said. “An occasion that John Welch cuts the ribbon at the April 23 ceremony.

has been 30-to-40 years in the making and it’s just really exciting.”

Each commissioner spoke at the event, as did former commissioners Perry Yates and Jimmy Hodges. “This is a really exciting day, everybody in Watauga County helped make this possible,” Commissioner Billy Kennedy said. Watauga County Parks and Recreation Director Stephen Poulos thanked his staff while noting how much the building means to the department. “Walking in here, it’s unbelievable,” Poulos said. “When you boil it all down, it’s for our community. This is a community center for everyone ... I truly appreciate all the staff and all of the hard work we’ve done. We are absolutely thrilled.” Architect Chad Roberson of Clark Nexsen, who helped design the building, thanked the county and Watauga residents for the trust that was given to them with the project. According to Herper General Contractors Vice-President of Operations Matt Johnson, the building has more than 800 tons of structural steel as its skeleton, with pools that contain more than 236,000 gallons of water. “Sincerely, it has been a true joy,” Johnson said. “I do want to say that we have truly enjoyed working with (County Manager) Deron Geouque and Stephen Poulos, you guys are great at what you do.” Unveiled alongside the ceremony was a commemoration plaque and a quilt celebrating the county. Hanging on the wall next to the entrance, the plaque features one of the shovels used at the ground breaking ceremony in October 2018, and the names of the commissioners at the time, Geouque, Clark Nexsen, Harper General and the Watauga County Recreation Commission. The quilt, which hangs near the stairs to the second floor, was created by the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild and features scenes of local fire districts such as Foscoe and Vilas. Next to it hangs a plaque honoring the quilters who took part in the project, and Kennedy, who built the frame. 6

Wilkes County Invests $1 Million to Increase Students’ Access to College

Donation Supports New Wilkes Community College Education Promise

Wilkes County Board of Commissioners provided a $1 million check to Wilkes Community College Foundation to invest in the new Wilkes Community College (WCC) Education Promise. The Education Promise is a last-dollar scholarship to Wilkes Community College designed to ensure all graduating seniors in Wilkes County can attend WCC tuition-free for two years. “The Wilkes County Board of Commissioners is proud to invest in this critical initiative,” said Chairman Eddie Settle. “The data shows that access to higher education can improve the lives of our residents in many ways, including options for better jobs that lead to higher incomes, better health and higher job satisfaction.”

Pictured left to right: Arnold Lakey, Chairman WCC Foundation Board, Brian S. Minton, Vice Chairman Board of Commissioner, Allison Phillips, VP Institutional Advancement, Eddie Settle, Chairman Board of Commissioners, Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC President, Casey Joe Johnson, Wilkes County Commissioner, G. Keith Elmore, Wilkes County Commissioner. Not Present for photo The WCC Education Promise covers net tuition costs and David Gambill, Wilkes CountyCommissioner.

fees remaining after an eligible student receives other grants and scholarships. Students will receive the scholarship for one year with the opportunity to renew it for an additional year, as long as they follow eligibility requirements. The $1 million from Wilkes County will be earmarked for Wilkes County students, and is part of the fund’s $2.5 million needed in seed money to jumpstart the self-sustaining scholarship program. Vice Chairman Brian S. Minton stated “the Wilkes County Commissioners are proud to investment in our students and our region. The WCC Education Promise program will make a college education more attainable for hundreds more students each year.” Community college opens the door to a living wage. According to the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education, the data shows 75% of people with an associate degree earn more than $20 an hour. Commissioner Keith Elmore said “this will help build a better, more attractive workforce. This will be one of the very best things we can do for economic development in Wilkes County ” “Supporting the WCC Education Promise is a win-win for the community,” said Commissioner David Gambill. “We all benefit when more residents have college degrees, including lower poverty rates, lower crime rates, and less reliance on public assistance.” Wilkes Community College also supports local businesses and industries by creating programs to support their specific workforce needs, which allows local residents to remain in the area and still earn a living wage. Greater access to a higher education is also a critical selling point when attracting new industry to the area. Commissioner Casey Joe Johnson stated “this is a great opportunity for all students who live in Wilkes. Whether they attend public school, private, or home school everyone is eligible to take advantage of this program with meeting a few reasonable and attainable requirements.” Community colleges are also a great value; a two-year degree at Wilkes Community College costs about $5,100. We feel going forward this will brighten our kids’ future, and make our workforce competitive. This is another reason Wilkes is a great place to live, work, and go to school. Find out more about the Wilkes Community College and the WCC Education Promise, including degree options and how to apply here: (https://www.wilkescc.edu/promise/) 7

Regional Highlights

Town of Beech Mountain Celebrates 40th Birthday The Town of Beech Mountain turned 40 years old on May 1st 2021. Beech Mountain celebrated with an afternoon event. The birthday celebration included exhibits from the Police and Volunteer Fire Department, Tourist and Development Association, Chamber of Commerce, Beech Mountain Club, Parks and Recreation, and a craft fair. Brick Oven Pizza and Fred’s General Mercantile provided the food. The ceremony included a moving tribute to Chris Ward and Logan Fox, both part of the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and a big part of the Beech Mountain Police Department. The celebration included: recognizing veterans, the Town Council cutting the cake for residents, and the sealing of a time capsule buried at Fred Pfhol Recreation center for 20 years. Happy 40th birthday to Beech Mountain! Photo Courtesy Beech Parks & Recreation


Town of Wilkesboro AWOP Award Congratulations to the Town of Wilkesboro’s Water Plant on earning the Area Wide Optimization Award (AWOP) for surpassing federal and state drinking water turbidity standards in 2019. The Town of Wilkesboro has been given the “Gold Star” honor for having won the AWOP Award for 10 consecutive years. We are a little late this year in announcing this honor because of delays in getting the awards printed due to the pandemic. Never the less, the Department recently issued a press release honoring the drinking water treatment plants that earned the award. The press release is located here: https://deq.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2020/10/01/north-carolinahonors-55-drinking-water-treatment-plants

Bass Lake Sidewalk and Main Street Crosswalks Over the next several months, the Town of Blowing Rock will further enhance the already wonderful pedestrian experience within the town, and provide some much needed safety additions as well. First up, the highly anticipated Bass Lake Sidewalk Project has broken ground, and great construction progress is being made. The project is a one of a kind project for the High Country, connecting the Town of Blowing Rock’s sidewalk system to the National Park Service trail system, in this case the Bass Lake Trail, Moses Cone Park system and over 25 miles of trails. The projects consists of construction of approximately 3,000 linear feet of curb and gutter along with a 5-foot wide sidewalk along US 221 from Main Street to the gravel parking lot for Bass Lake. A section of approximately 650 feet of the sidewalk will include a retaining wall and a pedestrian handrail. Drainage improvements are also included in the project to facilitate the installation of curb and gutter. The cost of the project is estimated at $1.3M, paid for utilizing an EFLAP Grant for 80% of the cost, with the Town paying the 20% match utilizing 2014 Bond monies. Once complete, later this Summer, a pedestrian in the Town of Blowing Rock will have the ability to access some of the most beautiful trails in the High Country while enjoying the amenities that the Town has to offer in the way of hotel, food, and guest accommodations.


Bass Lake Sidewalk and Main Street Crosswalks (cont.) Next up later this Summer, signalized crosswalks will come to Main Street Blowing Rock. The addition and renovations of crosswalks have been approved, and will be constructed at the intersections of 221 and Main Street, Sunset Drive and Main Street, and Chestnut Drive and Main Street. Currently, the Main Street portion of Blowing Rock is without signalized crosswalks, utilizing just painted pedestrian crosswalks. In addition to adding signalized crosswalks to Main Street, the Town will also add two additional crosswalks to Main Street. The first is a much needed crosswalk at Chestnut Drive and Main Street near Rumble Presbyterian Church and BRAHM. The second added crosswalk will be at the Town’s most congested intersection, the Sunset Drive and Main Street intersection. Currently, only one painted crosswalk exist on the South side of the intersection. After completetion, the Sunset Drive intersection will have two signalized crosswalks, one on the South side and one on the North side. In addition to the crosswalks, the intersection will have all new pedestal traffic signals installed, removing the overhead signals and a majority of the overhead wires within the intersection. This project expects to go to bid during the June and July 2021 timeframe and construction begin this Fall 2021. Funding for this project is expected to utilize TDA monies, ABC monies, and Town funds.

221, Chesnut and Main Street Crosswalks

Sunset and Main Street Crosswalks 10

New Hires for the Region Taking over the Spruce Pine Town Manager position is Darlene Butler, who has served as the town clerk for the past 23 years. “She’s made us all look good from time to time,” Harding added. “We feel very confident going into the next phase with Darlene as our new town manager.” Article by Juliana Walker, Mitchell News-Journal. Photo courtesy Town of Spruce Pine. Spruce Pine Town Manager, Darlene Butler

Shelley Buchanan has been hired as the Spruce Pine Town Clerk.

The Town of Bakersville has a new town clerk. Mitchell County native Kelli Beam started in the position Monday, Jan. 4. Beam replaces Abby Garland, who was sworn into office in July of last year. At the Bakersville Town Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 29, Mayor Charles “Chuck” Vines said he was happy to have Beam on board. “I’ve been working and looking and I narrowed it down to the person who I think will be with us for the long haul,” he said. “I feel real comfortable with Mrs. Kelli Beam joining us.” In her new role, Beam will be in charge of billing, payments, meeting minutes and more.

BakersvilleTown Clerk, Kelli Beam

Beam, who previously worked for the Mitchell News-Journal as the Advertisement Representative for a little over two years, said she is excited for the opportunity. “I am very excited about this new adventure,” Beam said. “To all the businesses that I have worked with during my time at the News-Journal, I want you to understand how much I appreciated each and every one of you.” Article by Juliana Walker, Mitchell News-Journal. Photo courtesy Kelli Beam.

The Town of Ronda has hired Tracy Romans as their new Town Clerk. Tracy is a native of Wilkes County, growing up in Roaring River and has always been a part of Ronda, NC. In January 2021, the Ronda Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to hire Tracy as the Town Clerk. Coming from an administrative background, she has found this new chapter to be very exciting. Serving as the Town’s primary point of contact, Tracy enjoys assisting town residents, working closely with the board of commissioners and mayor, and planning the day-to-day functions of the Town Hall. Ronda Town Clerk,

Tracy looks forward to additional roles as The Town of Ronda will be implementing a Tracy Romans Literacy Center for families and a Community Center complete with computers and printers for residents, as well as partnering with Wilkes Fresh Mobile Market to assist low income families afford fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. The Town of Ronda will also be partnering


New Hires for the Region (cont.) with Wilkes Recovery Revolution to help residents who are or know someone who struggles with addiction, and the Wilkesboro VFW Post 1142 to assist our local veterans. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys spending time with her husband Ben and 2 children, Elihu (age 7) and Rhett (age 4). Photo courtesy Tracy Romans.

Notable Retirements After 32 years as Town Manager of Jefferson, Cathy Howell has resigned from her position. Dan McMillan is currently serving as interim town manager. Howell stated that after reporting to the Board of Alderman for the past 32 years, leaving the position has been difficult, but she looks forward to spending more time with her family and letting someone else take the reins. “This is my home away from home,” said Howell. “I’ve made it my life. I’ve dedicated more time to the town than I have my own life.”

Former Jefferson Town Manager, Cathy Howell

She looks forward to being able to connect more with her family and having time to herself. “Now is the time that I let someone else step into my shoes and I can go home and be with my family and enjoy life,” said Howell. “We don’t have any promise of tomorrow, but I have really grown and I hope that I’ve helped the town. I think we’ve made good progress and it has been a wonderful place to work.” Article by Chanda Richardson, Ashe Post & Times. Photo courtesy Ashe Post & Times.

Town Manager of Newland, Keith Hoilman retired on March 17, 2021 after 15 years of service to the town. At his last meeeting, Hoilman expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the town, as did the members of the board who were present, who expressed their appreciation to Hoilman for his work. Photo courtesy The Avery Journal.


Former Newland Town Manager, Keith Hoilman

Area Agency on Aging Staff Nicole Hiegl

Director nhiegl@hccog.org ext.122

Amber Chapman

Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist achapman@hccog.org ext.113

Pat Guarnieri

Caregiver Program Coordinator pguarnieri@hccog.org ext.139

Stevie John

Long Term Care Ombudsman sjohn@hccog.org ext.126

Sarah Price

Special Projects Coordinator sprice@hccog.org ext.141

Tim Price

Aging Programs Compliance Officer tprice@hccog.org ext.140

Department Highlights | www.highcountryaging.org | Services and Support Available Through Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program Since its creation last fall, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program has continued to expand services to older adult caregivers of minor children, as well as older adult caregivers of adults with developmental disabilities. In the United States, 66% of caregivers are women, and more than 37% of family caregivers are providing care for a relative child under 18 years of age. In North Carolina, the Baby Boomer generation is expected to contribute significantly to the aging population, as estimates suggest that by 2030 one in five North Carolinians will be 65 years of age or older. Within this same timeframe, the population of individuals over the age of 60 is expected to outnumber minor children in 95 out of 100 counties. High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) understands the vital importance of these family caregivers as well as the differences in need throughout the region. During the beginning stages of programmatic development, the High Country AAA received tremendous feedback from the Regional Needs Assessment and utilized that information to shape the program. Through review of responses, it was widely identified that many grandfamilies struggle with access to everyday essentials, are concerned about the cost of medications, and must make hard choices about the recreational activities in which they can afford to let their grandchildren participate. High Country AAA has been able to support grandparents with the high cost of youth sport fees, new uniforms, shoes, and travel expenses. Some families have been aided with financial support for the high cost of life-saving medications for their children. Others have been provided with respite vouchers to 13

Services and Support Available Through Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program (cont.) allow grandparents the time to take a break to recharge their batteries, attend doctors’ appointments, and visit with friends. In another couple of cases, some grandfamilies have been supported in expenses that arise throughout the school year such as virtual technology access fees, school photos, and yearbooks. Through the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, our goal is to provide caregivers with the support they need to reduce stress, navigate the complex array of community services available, and provide higher quality care for their grandchildren. We are excited to continue to expand the reach of the program and implement additional supports for families. Sarah Price, Special Projects Coordinator


(828) 278-9126


Music Therapy Offers Support for Family Caregivers The High Country Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Support Program focuses on innovative programming for older adults and caregivers. In the height of the pandemic, we were privileged to partner with App State’s graduate student Wiley Smith, a board certified music therapist, to provide a Virtual Music Therapy Support Group for Caregivers. Music has been proven to calm the nervous system, improve mood, and reduces stress. The initial support group met for one hour every week for 12 weeks. The response from this group was so positive that another graduate student Kelly Frick, Board Certified Music Therapist, was recruited to offer two additional groups in 2021. These groups meet over 8, hour long sessions. The first cohort had 7 participants and we were lucky enough to Wiley Smith, Board have a care-recipient join with their caregiver and they decided to join the second cohort Certified Music Therapist as well. The group has been proven to be beneficial for the participants. Kelly and Wiley have both done an amazing job facilitating creativity and community in these groups. The small group atmosphere created a better sense of togetherness and personalization for each participant. End sessions surveys were administered at the end of each to cohort to document the outcomes of the program. We received several powerful reflections from the group: “It has been so enjoyable it guided and enabled me to have some still and retrospective time for myself. To discuss music in many aspects is an unusual and great joy.” -Participant “It’s been an uplifting time each week to let the music soothe and calm the Covid-19 pandemic. Wiley has been awesome in directing the program and we have enjoyed the fellowship with the group in a time when followship is almost non-existent.” -Participant “It reminded me of how much I enjoy music. Also, I had the opportunity to get to know Kelly Frick, Board Certified Music another caregiver of a person with Parkinson’s disease and she was very encouraging to Therapist me. Plus, this workshop came along when the initial adrenaline from becoming a caregiver is starting wear off and I feel a bit refreshed” – Participant “It has brought my attention to taking better care of myself to take care of others. I have so enjoyed and benefited from meeting others who are also caregivers although we are all providing it for different reasons.” –Participant The High Country Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Support Program would like to thank Kelly Frick and Wiley Smith for leading these groups and making a profound impact on our community. We look forward to continuing to develop of our growing partnerships with Appalachian State University.

Amber Chapman, Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist



(828) 265-5434 ext.113


Long Term Care Visitation During COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life in numerous ways for us all. That is especially true for residents of long-term care facilities. Since older adults have been identified as more vulnerable to the coronavirus, family and friends have been discouraged or prohibited from having close personal contact with their older loved ones. And that can result in a major disconnect between residents in long-term care and the outside world. On March 13, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a lockdown order, banning everyone but essential personnel from entering nursing homes. As a result, nursing home residents began a months long period of isolation - cut off from their families. Those who could, took advantage of electronic visitation, but because of a lack of resources or due to a resident’s medical condition this was not always possible. The lack of family presence severely restricted the ability of families to monitor their loved one’s care. Further compounding isolation was CMS barring state survey agencies and long-term care ombudsmen from entering homes. In September 2020, CMS eased the visitation restrictions and permitted visits under limited circumstances. This was the first time that residents and families could see each other in-person. Advocates began hearing from family members that their loved ones were almost unrecognizable because of physical and mental decline. With limitations on in-person visits, residents, families, facility staff, Ombudsman programs, and other advocates have gotten creative in how they are staying connected. Creating and maintaining connections – to family and friends, to members of the larger community, to other residents and facility staff is an essential component of good health and quality of life for residents. In March 2021, after a year of significant restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, the new CMS guidance allows indoor and outdoor visits for all residents, except in limited circumstances. Infection prevention protocols are still in place and must be followed by all visitors. Visitation is allowed regardless of vaccination status.

Stevie John, Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman


(828) 265-5434 ext.126



North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program The North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program has been administered through the High-Country Area Agency on Aging and is in its 5th year here in the High Country. In 2017 the Division of Aging and Adult Services at the NC Dept of Health and Human Services, contracted with the High Country Area Agency on Aging to administer this respite program which provides respite vouchers for those NC unpaid caregivers providing care to someone of any age with special needs. Since 2017 the program has awarded over 1,000 respite vouchers to caregivers across North Carolina. An award has been made in most NC counties, and the program has helped caregivers with care recipients who have ranged in age this fiscal year from age 2 to age 102! Pat Guarnieri, who has served in the role of Caregiver Coordinator for the Lifespan Respite Program, indicated that most caregivers receiving an award are very grateful for providing them with time away from their role, allowing them to return to some activities they do not have time for. Some caregivers indicate it allows them to have time for activities they use to take for granted every day. Get a haircut Going out for a meal Visiting friends/relatives Going window shopping Attending church, meditating, and walking And many say they get more sleep! Lifespan Respite is flexible and centered around what will meet the needs of the caregiver. It offers a $500 reimbursement-based voucher that “will pay for your loved one’s care while you take care of yourself.” The program still has vouchers. If you know a deserving unpaid caregiver who is not receiving any publicly funded respite, in-home care, or day care, and who has not had publicly funded respite in at least three months, consider suggesting this program. A referring agent must complete the online application on their behalf (typical referring agents might include those at doctor’s office, departments of social services, school administration or guidance counselors’ senior centers, area agencies on aging, etc.) Please see our website: www.highcountryaging.org/services/lifespan-respite-project

Pat Guarnieri, Caregiver Program Coordinator



(828) 265-5434 ext.139


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15, 2021 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, communities in the USA and all over the world will sponsor events to highlight solutions to this systemic social challenge. The High Country Area Agency on Aging is proud to host a virtual social media campaign to participate in this national conversation. As Americans, we believe in justice for all. Yet we fail to live up to this promise when we allow older members of our society to be abused or neglected. Older people are vital, contributing members of American society and their maltreatment diminishes all of us. Just as we have confronted and addressed the social issues of child abuse and domestic violence, so too can we find solutions to address issues like elder abuse, which also threatens the wellbeing of our community. Our policies and practices make it hard for older people to stay involved with and connected to our communities as they age. As a result, older people are more likely to experience social isolation, which increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect. Undeniably, this is a time of challenge and uncertainty in the shadow of COVID-19 which has profoundly impacted all our lives. As a world community we are advised, even mandated, to isolate from those closest to us – family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. For older people living in the community or in long-term care settings, the trials are even greater. Those of us is the aging services community know that social isolation is one of the greatest risk factors for elder abuse. Staying connected, phoning older adults, checking on an older neighbor, writing a card or letter, can all be positive steps to ensure public safety and social justice. We can design stronger societal supports to keep our older people connected and protect them from abuse, whether financial, emotional, physical or sexual. When we address a root cause, like social isolation, we also make it less likely that people will become neglected. Older adults who are socially connected and protected from harm are less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to go into nursing homes and less likely to die. We can and must create healthier and safer living environments for older adults, including their homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Get more information about how to make a difference by visiting the National Center on Elder Abuse https://ncea.acl.gov or by calling Stevie John, Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman at (828) 265-5434 Ext. 126 or sjohn@hccog.org.


Older Americans Month Highlighting “Communities of Strength” for Older Americans Month! Each May, through the recognition of Older Americans Month (OAM), we take the opportunity to highlight the older adults who are making a positive impact in and around the High Country as advocates, volunteers, and mentors, and the benefits they bring to the entire community. Spearheaded each year by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), the recognition of OAM provides resources to help older adults stay happy and healthy with ample community support to continue to thrive. This year, the theme of OAM is Communities of Strength, to focus on the resilience and strength of older adults. Through this celebration, special emphasis will be placed on the power of connection and engagement in building strong communities. It is through the stories and contributions of older adults that connections within communities have been fostered. One way that our communities have been kept together is through the power of the North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature (STHL). Dedicated STHL representatives throughout our seven counties have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to remain connected to each other and to continue to advocate on behalf of older adults in the High Country. We are so proud of their resilience and determination to face this challenge as they always have, with strength, dignity, and a steadfast commitment to advocacy, all with a smiling friendly face. We want to thank our STHL delegates who help make the High Country so great! From finding joy in small things, to looking at the big picture and volunteering in service to others, we hope you will join us in promoting the ways our communities are remaining connected and strengthening the fabric that keeps us together.


High Country Senior Centers Overcoming Pandemic Challenges Since the start of the pandemic, senior centers around our region have found ways to adapt the ways in which they offer services to safely continue serving participants. Meal providers around the region continue to offer nutrition services through drive-thru pickup and meal delivery. To help keep the community engaged, providers are offering socially distanced outdoor activities, such as drive-through resource fairs and outdoor activities for participants. In addition, centers throughout the region continue to distribute informational and educational materials from trusted sources to ensure community members remain informed during the everchanging year. In the High Country, we are fortunate to have dedicated senior center staff continually working to ensure our community remains involved and engaged. For more information on how you can get involved, please reach out to your local senior services organization:

Getting the High Country in ‘SHIIP’ Shape! The SHIIP program – Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program – provides free counseling about Medicare and can help older adults apply for cost savings programs. SHIIP has trained experts who can provide individuals with free, unbiased information and counseling about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, and long-term care insurance. SHIIP can also help prevent Medicare billing errors, fraud, or abuse against seniors. Each month, the SHIIP program highlights a different topic for their awareness campaigns for the month. May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density that can occur as we age and is responsible for at least 2 million fractures each year. Medicare covers several preventive services, including bone mass measurements. May is also American Stroke Awareness Month. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability. Major risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and atrial fibrillation. Medicare covers a number of preventive services at no cost that can address many of these risk factors and may improve your health. Call 1-800-772-1213 to talk to a SHIIP counselor, or reach out to one of our local providers:

Alleghany County: 336-372-4640

Ashe County: 336-246-4347

Avery County: 828-737-0221

Mitchell County: 828-688-4811

Watauga County: 828-265-8090

Wilkes County: 336-667-5281

Yancey County: 828-682-6186


Planning and Development Staff Phil Trew

Kelly Coffey

Cory Osborne

Michelle Ball

David Graham

Jessica Welborn

Director ptrew@hccog.org ext.121

Regional Planner mball@hccog.org ext.115

Senior Planner kcoffey@hccog.org ext.114

Transportation Planner dgraham@hccog.org ext.135

Regional Planner cosborne@hccog.org ext.118

GIS Planner jwelborn@hccog.org ext.134

Department Highlights | www.hccog.org/planning Town of Burnsville Land Use Plan The Town of Burnsville adopted its first ever comprehensive land use plan in March. Town leaders partnered with High Country Council of Governments to develop the plan over a 12-month period. Its contents include information and analysis on demographic trends, housing, environmental constraints, transportation, parking, utilities, land use, infill development, and more. The planning process involved hundreds of hours of field work and data review as well as creation of an online survey, which allowed residents to provide input on issues affecting land use within the community. The findings and recommendations included within the final document will guide local land use policy and decision-making over the next decade. The plan fulfills North Carolina’s recent requirement set forth in Chapter 160D of the state statutes, which mandates that local governments maintain a comprehensive plan as a condition of adopting or applying zoning regulations. This requirement becomes effective on July 1, 2022. Burnsville’s leaders have already begun implementing recommendations identified in the plan. 20

West Jefferson Salary Study High Country Council of Governments worked with the Town of West Jefferson late last year to conduct a salary study of municipal employees. The study sought to compare the Town’s compensation rates with that of similar communities across the region and state. COG staff conducted a salary survey of municipalities in North Carolina and neighboring states and supplemented the information with data from the North Carolina League of Municipalities. High County COG processed the salary data to account for geographic discrepancies and reconciled salary schedules with actual salaries to ensure an “apples to apples” comparison. Staff used the findings to develop a minimum, midpoint, and maximum salary for common local government job titles. Some of West Jefferson’s job titles could not be directly matched with a job title from the comparison community findings. This is common in settings where government employees often handle multiple roles. In instances where there was ambiguity, COG staff and West Jefferson’s Town Manager worked to identify appropriate comparison job titles or used a hybrid approach that pro-rated salary comparisons by job responsibilities. After establishing a target salary range for each of West Jefferson’s positions, High Country COG developed a pay grade system to assess where within that range each of the Town’s existing employees should fall. The study utilized a framework that factored in years of service, education, credentials, and certifications to determine target compensation. The final document contained a table listing the current salary, target salary, and pay deficit (if any) for each of the Town’s employees. COG staff also analyzed West Jefferson’s history of cost-of-living increases for municipal employees and compared those increases to the regional consumer price index, which is the most reliable measure for inflation. The study concluded with a recommendation to adopt a standard annual cost-of-living increase and two options for addressing salary deficiencies.

Water Quality Planning Grant Funding The NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ ) awards Water Quality Planning Grant Funding pursuant to Section 205( j) of the Clean Water Act. Grant funds are awarded to Regional Commissions and Councils of Governments to do water quality management planning. For the 2020 federal fiscal year, North Carolina has approximately $190,000 to award for water quality planning projects. The High Country Council of Governments received funding for two projects, the Town of Burnsville Stormwater Mapping Project and the Town of West Jefferson Stormwater Management Plan. The Town of Burnsville Stormwater Mapping project will occur from April 2021-March 2022. The project entails mapping all stormwater infrastructure within Burnsville town limits, across private and public property, to build a complete and accurate GIS inventory of the stormwater drainage network. The stormwater database will assist the Town with eliminating known stormwater problems, improve water quality, prioritize stormwater infrastructure improvements, and assist with new development plan reviews. The West Jefferson Stormwater Management Plan started in January 1, 2021 and will be completed by June 30, 2022. West Jefferson is located at the headwaters of Little Buffalo Creek, a stream listed as impaired since 1998. Much of the Town’s stormwater runoff drains into unnamed tributaries via underground piping, bypassing riparian buffer zones that can aid in filtering pollutants before reaching Little Buffalo Creek. The COG previously mapped the Town’s stormwater infrastructure with a 205( j) grant in 2018 inventorying the drainage network. The current project will identify and analyze opportunities for reestablishing riparian buffer zones along streams where possible and for capturing, retaining, and treating (filtering) stormwater runoff before it reaches a stream. Site-specific conceptual drawings for stormwater management features (e.g. bioretention cells, wet/dry detention ponds, underground detention systems, rain gardens, etc.) will be developed and then prioritized based on impact, cost, and feasibility. The resulting plan will provide the Town with information and direction to pursue or earmark funding for effective projects. 21

Town of Burnsville Closes Out CDBG-I Project In June 2018, the Town of Burnsville was awarded $1,100,000 in CDBG-I funds from NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ ) to replace a failing sewer line along Indian Trail and Meadow Road on the east side of town. The project, which officially closed out on April 1, 2021, consisted of the installation of 3,695 lf of sewer line, 210 lf of service lines, 22 new manholes, and 34 service connections serving 37 households and one 34-unit apartment complex. The project came in under budget with the Town only expending $1,039,520.94 of their $1,100,000 award. As a requirement of receiving CDBG-I funding at least 51% of the homes in a defined project area must be low- or moderate-income (LMI) or in other words have household incomes less than 80% of the County’s Median Income as determined by HUD. For Yancey County that is $37,200 for a two-person household. A project benefitting an entire town can use US Census data to determine LMI. For a project confined on one street or neighborhood like the Burnsville Indian Trail/Meadow Road project, door-to-door surveys were conducted. The area was determined to have an LMI of 77.6%, well above the 51% requirement. NC DEQ makes CDBG-I funding available each year to all non- Burnsville - Meadow Road - Sewerline entitlement Towns and Counties in North Carolina. DEQ anticipates Replacement. having $25,500,000 available for the 2021 CDBG-I program. On May 5, 2021 DEQ will hold a virtual “How to Apply” Workshop for the 2021 CDBG-I round. For more information, please visit the DEQ Division of Water Infrastructure’s CDBG-I website: https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/ water-infrastructure/i-need-funding/community-development-block-grant-infrastructure.


2020 CDBG-CV Awards In August 2020, the NC Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Division (REDD) announced $27,500,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding had been allocated to North Carolina through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) in response the Coronavirus Pandemic. The funding for the CDBG-Coronavirus (CDBGCV) Program was available to all non-entitlement municipalities and counties in North Carolina to prepare, prevent, or respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The program provided up to $900,000 Future Site of the Yancey County Community Resource for local governments to provide assistance to low- Center. and moderate-income (LMI) households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The application cycle was opened on September 1, 2020 and eligible projects were awarded on a first-come first-served basis. No local matching funds were required. On November 12, 2021, the Department of Commerce announced that they would no longer be accepting applications for the CDBGCV program. Requests for funding had exceeded the $27,500,000 available. Three High County counties applied for the grant before funds were depleted and all three received awards.

• Ashe County received $900,000 to assist with subsistence payments. Funds will be available to assist

eligible households that are up to 6 months in arrears with their utilities including electrical, water, sewer, and gas.

• Watauga County received $900,000 in CDBG-CV funds. The County will be working with five local

non-profits to assist eligible households with food distribution, subsistence payments, and additional mental health opportunities.

• Yancey County received $450,000 to assist eligible households with subsistence payments and access

to food boxes. The project will also include the construction of the Yancey County Community Resource Center. A multi-use, open-air, facility that will be primarily used for safe, socially distancing distribution of food and COVID-19 tests and vaccines as well as community events.

It is anticipated that the CDBG-CV funding will assist 1,500 LMI households affected by COVID-19 in the three Counties. All funds from the CDBG-CV grant must be spent within 2½ years of the State award.


Town of Burnsville Receives CDBG-I Grant The Town of Burnsville was recently awarded a $2.0 million Community Development Block Grant- Infrastructure (CDBG-I) to replace an old and deteriorated main sewer interceptor line (12,999 linear feet) that collects wastewater from the entire town. The CDBG-I program funds water and sewer infrastructure projects where at least 51% of the beneficiaries are low-to-moderate income (LMI) persons, as defined by the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development. This year the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Infrastructure- which administers the program- received 39 CDBG-I applications totaling $70.1 million for $27.3 million in available funding. Applications are funded based on points awarded for LMI percentage, financial situation of the applicant, project purpose, and other factors.


Numerous Awards Announced by Golden LEAF Golden LEAF Foundation recently announced awards for its Northwest Prosperity Zone Community-Based Grants Initiative (CBGI). The CBGI program is structured around eight prosperity zones in North Carolina; the northwest zone consisting of Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, McDowell, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties. The foundation budgeted $11 million for grants in this part of state. Applications were invited for projects that support agriculture, workforce development, education, and capital investment for infrastructure to facilitate economic development and healthcare job creation. Any governmental entity or nonprofit was eligible to apply, but all projects submitted had to be endorsed by the respective county manager (regional projects were considered that did not require county manager endorsement). Applications from each county were limited to four projects totaling $2.0 million, though the foundation was not committed to funding projects in every county. Grants awarded in the High Country Council of Governments region consisted of: • Ashe County - $500,000 For preconstruction and construction costs for an access road, a gas line, a water main, a gravity sewer main, and telecommunications infrastructure to support creation of a new 41.7-acre industrial park to address the county’s lack of suitable sites to market to prospective industrial companies.

• Mayland Community College Foundation - $531,908

To purchase and install an HVAC system in the Three Peaks Enrichment Center at Mayland Community College, where classes and workforce training will be offered.

• Town of Spruce Pine - $775,349.50 For engineering, construction, legal costs, and contingencies to replace an obsolete asbestos and concrete sixinch waterline with an upgraded eight-inch waterline along the US Hwy 226 South corridor, providing higher water pressure to existing businesses such as Buck Stove. It will also serve future business expansion, and new retail, commercial, and industrial development. • Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (Watauga & Ashe Counties) - $108,000

For personnel, equipment, supplies, a vehicle, and marketing costs to help BRWIA expand its delivery and distribution network by developing satellite pick-up locations for BRWIA’s High Country Food Hub online marketplace in Watauga and Ashe Counties.

• Wilkes Economic Development Corporation - $1.5 million For design, site work, and construction of a multi-tenant building for commercial or light industrial use on a 4.8-acre site owned by the EDC. The EDC will also offer ongoing mentoring, legal, accounting, and marketing consultation to tenants. Additional grants are pending. Golden LEAF deferred awarding $1,3744,229 until June.


Keith Deveraux

Workforce Development Staff Rebecca Bloomquist

Director keith.deveraux@highcountrywdb.com ext.130

Communications and Business Services Coordinator rebecca.bloomquist@highcountrywdb.com ext.136

Misty Bishop-Price

Caroline Briggs

NCWorks Operations Manager misty.bishopprice@highcountrywdb.com ext.119

Financial and Compliance Specialist caroline.briggs@highcountrywdb.com ext.120

Department Highlights | www.highcountrywdb.com | Welcome Caroline Briggs! Caroline Briggs was hired as the Financial & Compliance Specialist for the High Country Workforce Development Board in early 2021. Caroline grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Events Management. After graduation, she moved to Asheville to complete an internship with the Lake Lure Inn and Spa, where she met her husband, Josh. Several years after moving to North Carolina, Josh convinced Caroline to move to Boone, where he had previously attended school at Appalachian State. It was not very hard to convince her! They both settled into careers at Chetola Mountain Resort in Blowing Rock, where she transitioned from working directly with guests in the Spa to working in the back Accounting and Administration offices. Caroline quickly developed an affinity for Microsoft Excel and understanding all aspects of business functions. Caroline, her husband, Josh, and three-year old son, Porter live in Boone. Caroline Briggs, Financial & Compliance Caroline says, “I am excited for this next step in my career, and to be Specialist. joining such a wonderful team!”


Funding Still Available for Upskilling Your Workforce The Incumbent Worker Employee Training Grant provides funding to assist employers seeking to “skill up” their existing workforce because of changes to production processes or market demands. Training grants are available in increments up to $10,000 for companies with 12-month residence in North Carolina and for current workers with six (6) months or more on the job. Some of the types of training that have been funded with Incumbent Worker Training Grants:

• BPI Building Analyst; Envelope Professional; Infiltration and Duct Leakage • Grab Robot/EDGE Rapid Improvement Event training/coaching • Fanuc Usage and Maintenance • Customer Service • Green Building and Appraisals • Strategy Improvement • ISO 9000 • Six Sigma • Excavator and Truck Simulator • Leadership and Computer Skills • New software for medical office Contact your local NCWorks Career Center to learn more!

NCWorks Partners with Watauga County Library on Digital Skills The Watauga County Library was selected to participate in Libraries Lead with Digital Skills, an initiative of ALA and the Public Library Association (PLA) sponsored by Grow with Google. Through the grant, the Library will use the funding to add books to the collection for the community; to purchase giveaway copies of the classic “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Nelson Bolles; provide resume paper and thumb drives, envelopes and free printing of job search related documents. To address digital skills for job seekers, the library partnered with NCWorks and Goodwill Industries to host a virtual workshop in March for job seekers on employment services and virtual job interviewing. Participants in the session received a free copy of “What Color is Your Parachute?”.


Partners Coming Together for Local Employer Closing its Doors On April 15th NCWorks and its partner Goodwill Industries of NWNC hosted a unique event to address the needs of long-time Boone manufacturing facility, Hospitality Mints. Sadly, notice was received that due to a parent company’s relocation decision, the production facility, which has been located at 213 Candy Lane in Boone for more than 40 years, would be shuttering its doors at the end of May. In order to keep such a uniquely qualified manufacturing talent pool in the High Country, HR manager and High Country Workforce Development Board member, Hayden Gibson as well as the NCWorks team, seized the opportunity to create a reverse Hiring event at Hospitality Mints in Boone. job fair where local employers could meet and pitch open jobs to this talented group of workers. Among those in attendance were representatives from Charleston Forge, Goodnight Brothers Ham, The Hampton Inn, Bernhardt Furniture, PRC Industries, and American Emergency Vehicles, as well as NCWorks Career Center staff and partners. More than 40 of the remaining 63 employees were able to take advantage of extra line coverage provided by HR to come outside to this socially distanced event and talk directly to hiring managers about opportunities and with NCWorks staff about training and upskilling opportunities, unemployment benefits, and getting registered in the job search system. Several employees have had interviews, and it is expected they will placed in new positions soon, with little to no gap in employment. With a focused team effort, NCWorks and its partners were able to creatively address an urgent workforce issue with a key local employer facing challenging times.

Hiring event at Hospitality Mints in Boone.

NCWorks staff assist Hospitality Mints employees with information about services.


Hard Work and Dedication “Dedication is not what others expect of you, it is what you can give to others.” - Henry Miller Dedication is definitely what John Greene has given to the High Country through his many years of service. Before coming to work as a Business Services Representative (BSR) with Mayland Community College and NCWorks, John previously worked at Hampshire Hosiery as the HR Manager. When the plant closure occurred, he, too, found himself in the same situation as the customers staff see every day through the NCWorks John Greene talks with students during a 2018 Advanced Career Center. Manufacturing Day event at Mayland Community Having also previously worked for the NC Employment College campus in Burnsville.

Security Commission, he wanted to return to that line of work and make a difference in the lives of those needing guidance in gaining skills and finding new employment. Soon he began working for Mayland Community College through the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) in Avery County. Through his almost 30-year career in the field of workforce development, John has had a variety of roles. Even though his main role was BSR, that did not stop him from helping with any and every role needed to make a difference in people’s lives. From assisting in youth program events, matching job seekers to the right employer, covering the front desk, and even performing as Elvis Presley during events, John is willing to pitch in anywhere. No matter what is needed, John is always there to help. But this level of commitment is not just with his co-workers, this is also with customers. He takes time to listen to their stories, give encouragement, and set them on the right path to meet their needs. He has dedicated many years to helping others in preparing for their career; guiding them in updating their skills through training and placing them in jobs that provide support for their families. Through his collaborations, he has built reputable partnerships with many businesses in the High Country region. For this level of dedication, we want to give a BIG THANK YOU to John for all that he has done and the lives he has changed through his service.

Pam Wilson and John Greene participate in a 2018 Advanced Manufacturing Day event at Mayland Community College campus in Burnsville.


Success for Alyssia Alyssia Dula was referred to NCWorks Next GEN by Crossnore Schools in 2017. Alyssia was in foster care services through Caldwell DSS and had been at Crossnore Schools for three (3) years and was currently living with house parents in Spruce Pine. She was working part-time at the Miracle Grounds Coffee Shop and Cafe that is owned by Crossnore Schools. Alyssia at the time was 19 years old and was wanting to go back and finish up her Associates in Art at Mayland Community College and then transfer on to a four-year school to major in Social Work. Alyssia has had challenges throughout her life but completed her Associates Degree in Art and transferred to Appalachian State University where she will be completing her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work in Alyssia Dula May 2021. Alyssia is currently finishing up an internship at WAMY Community Action to obtain class credit toward her degree. With it ending soon, NCWorks worked with Alyssia and WAMY to offer her a paid internship and extend it so she could get six (6) additional months of experience in the field. She works as the COVID Relief Coordinator and is responsible for operations of the COVID Relief Program of Watauga County. She verifies resident income; COVID experience; and collaborates with clients, employers, and other resources to better assist the client. She also tracks program expenditures, enrollments, and maintains client files. This a great opportunity for her to learn about area resources and get the experience she needs to be successful in her career pathway. When asked why she decided on social work as her chosen career pathway, Alyssia said, “I want to give back and provide to those in need. I have been in the system and appreciate all that was given to me.” She also had stated she knows what it takes to be a successful social worker and ways that are not. She wants to take the knowledge she learned through her experience and do what she can to help others in need.

NCWorks Staff Have a Day of Team-Building at YMCA Camp Harrison On April 30, 2021, the NCWorks Career Center Staff from Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties visited YMCA Camp Harrison for a day of team building. Staff participated in communication and trust-building activities as well as activities that promote teamwork and asking others for assistance. Staff enjoyed lunch provided by the High Country Workforce Development Board ended the day with ziplining!


High Country Partners Tour PRC High Country NCWorks partners from across the region came together to tour and learn about the recent expansion and exciting new opportunities at PRC in Spruce Pine, NC. PRC, also known as Product Remanufacturing Centers, specializes in the remanufacturing of defective products. It is an industry leader in returned product management, return center services, remanufacturing, reprocessing, repairing and recycling of returned industrial and consumer products. The company works with a variety of manufacturers to troubleshoot malfunctioning consumer goods, such as large appliances. With their new expansion and recent Amazon contract, they anticipate hiring 1,000 employees over the next 18 months. Tori Parrish, Corporate Communications Manager provided NCWorks partners take a moment for a group the High Country partners with an informative tour while photo during their tour of PRC in Spruce Pine. answering questions and assisting in providing a first-hand experience of the process of their product, exhibiting the need for additional employees to help make this expansion feasible and successful. During the tour, the partners were able to meet with Matias Perel, the new President and CEO, who joined PRC Industries in 2019. Mr. Perel expressed how very enthusiastic he is in supporting community organizations, such as schools, youth leagues, sporting events and other local events and organizations. There was a lot of discussion on how NCWorks partners can work together with PRC to assist with their need of employees. PRC employs factory-trained engineers, technicians, machinists, assemblers, material handlers and warehousing personnel, as well as a full staff of mechanical and electrical engineers who manage and operate the engineering and quality assurance departments. The High Country Workforce Development Board and the NCWorks Career Centers, along with other community partners, are excited about assisting PRC with this substantial growth!


High Country WDB Director & NCWorks Career Center Manager Graduate from Leadership Wilkes Keith Deveraux, Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board, and Charity Patterson-Hamber, NCWorks Career Center Manager (Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes) recently graduated from Leadership Wilkes 2020. Leadership Wilkes 2020 is a leadership program sponsored by the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce to develop a group of informed committed and qualified individuals capable of providing visionary and progressive leadership for Wilkes County. The program is an in-depth study of management styles, personalities, Keith Deveraux receives 2020 and involved activities to illustrate positive leadership opportunities. Leadership Wilkes Certificate. Taking place over a four-month period, Leadership Wilkes 2020 participants had a chance to tour facilities, participate in informative seminars and were enlightened to the resources available to them in Wilkes County. Once participants have completed Leadership Wilkes 2020, they will be well-informed and have a foundation for implementing their knowledge and skills to become a progressive citizen and leader. Area leaders in business, government, education, health care, industry, and tourism enlighten participants on the resources available to Wilkes County citizens. During each session, the group looks at topics ranging from non-profits to community infrastructure. The program culminates with a graduation ceremony for participants, their guest, and alumni from previous classes. Charity Patterson-Hamber receives 2020 Leadership Wilkes Certificate.

On November 18, 2020, staff from the NCWorks Career Center in Wilkes had the opportunity to speak to the Leadership Wilkes participants about NCWorks and the many services provided through the career center.

Designed by Kapitosh (Image #11713535 at VectorStock.com)


Success for Kaitlyn

The first time Kaitlyn Gragg heard of NCWorks she was in her nursing assistant orientation. The meeting was held at the NCWorks Career Center in Boone, and a staff person told the group about a scholarship opportunity through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for students who were eligible. Unsure that she would qualify, Kaitlyn filled out the application anyway. Kaitlyn had not received FAFSA or any other scholarships for school since right out of high school. Her college journey had started three years earlier and abruptly ended; dropping out of Appalachian State University after about half a semester so she could begin working full-time to pay her bills. She was surprised to receive a call from NCWorks asking her to come in to discuss the details of the scholarship which included keeping in regular contact with her career advisor to see how school was going, submit her grades each semester, and meet with them before tuition was due to discuss her plan and how much financial assistance they would be able to offer.

Kaitlyn Gragg

The nursing assistant course was the first college class Kaitlyn had taken since dropping out, and she was worried about how to come up with enough money for the class. NCWorks paid for the course and reimbursed her for scrubs, supplies, and books. She successfully completed the course and was able to start a new job as a nursing assistant in 2016. Determined to keep going and ultimately become a registered nurse, Kaitlyn took more classes – only two or three at a time as she was still working full-time. NCWorks stepped in and was able to assist with the cost of these classes. When it came time to apply for the nursing program, NCWorks was able to help Kaitlyn pay for the admission test. Unfortunately, she was not accepted the first time. However, Kaitlyn turned this into a positive by spending the following year taking additional classes to help boost her next application. On her second try, Kaitlyn was accepted into the nursing program at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI). Once Kaitlyn received a cost breakdown of the nursing program, she set up a meeting with her career advisor, and they planned how to pay all the costs associated with the program. Kaitlyn said this was the hardest part of her school journey because there was so much that needed to be purchased and little money on both ends. The program requires 10-15 expensive textbooks, clinical kits and supplies, specific scrubs with printed logo, shoes, as well as tuition and fees. As a result, Kaitlyn had to get a credit card to pay for the books, NCWorks paid for half the tuition each semester with Kaitlyn’s parents helping with the other half. Kaitlyn kept in touch with her career advisor monthly, submitted her grades, and made plans for the upcoming semesters. “Not only did my family want to see me succeed in this program, but so did my advisor and all of the NCWorks family,” Kaitlyn said. Kaitlyn graduated from CCC&TI in May of 2020 as a Registered Nurse and passed her state boards test. NCWorks offered to pay the $200 cost of the test, and so Kaitlyn and her career advisor sat down together again to pay for one last test. She says, “I am forever grateful for the help! I went from a college drop-out, working two jobs to stay afloat to a registered nurse who pays her own bills, lives away from her parents in an apartment, and has her dream job at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. I want to thank the staff who helped me turn my life around. The staff at NCWorks believed in my ability to succeed and pushed me to where I am now! Thank you so much NCWorks staff and the WIOA scholarship!” 33

NCWorks Providing Virtual Workshops

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of daily life went online. From ordering groceries or take-out and even visiting with family, everyone had to learn how to do more activities virtually. NCWorks was no exception. How to Build a Resume in NCWorks Workshop

In October of 2020, Michelle Fenlin with Avery, Mitchell, Yancey NCWorks Career Centers began offering a virtual interactive resume workshop open to job seekers who are seeking services in building a resume. “How to Build a Resume in NCWorks” is a workshop that is designed to assist jobseekers step by step in getting started and creating their own resume. These resumes are designed to highlight their top skills and to showcase what they have to offer to employers; bringing about discussions on current resume best practices and teaching them how to best utilize their information once they have updated their user accounts. This is an open conversation format and often transitions into identifying transferable skills, along with opening up new career opportunities using nccareers.org and similar sites. Many attendees are from all over the state, and each receives a referral back to the local career center and the Workforce Innovative and Opportunities Act (WIOA)/ Wagner-Peyser programs for assistance with training and returning to work. Virtual Workshops with Appalachian State University In partnership with Appalachian State University, NCWorks Career Center has presented a variety of workshops for students. Susan H. Hedges, Ph.D. Director of Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program, considered it beneficial for the students in her program that the topics covered the importance of soft skills, proper resume creation, and best interview practices for students. All workshops were held virtually. Working Smart Goes Virtual with NCWorks NCWorks Career Center began a virtual Working Smart class on March 16, 2021. Working Smart is a 5 module, 16 lesson soft skills curriculum taught over a minimum of 24 hours. Participants receive a certificate after they demonstrate the ability to use self-management, self-awareness, communication, appropriate work ethic and problem-solving skills. Attendees participate in discussions of soft skills, or the intangible personal qualities that employers want in workers, such as dependability, work ethic, positive attitude, flexibility, team-oriented, the ability to work under pressure and the challenging situations that arise when soft skills are not utilized. For information on the next virtual Working Smart course, please contact NCWorks Career Center at 336.838.5164. Expungement Workshop NCWorks Career Centers in the HCWDB region have been partnering with centers in the Western Piedmont WDB region to offer virtual expungement workshops. These sessions help those with criminal records learn if they qualify to have charges removed from their records. Having these charges expunged can potentially open doors to jobs, a home, or an education. For information about the next session, please contact your local NCWorks Career Center.




Administrative Staff and Meeting Schedule

www.hccog.org | (828) 265-5434 Administration Staff Julie Wiggins

Julie Page

Executive Director jwiggins@hccog.org ext.125

Finance Officer jpage@hccog.org ext.109

Kathy Combs

Victoria Potter

Finance Technician kcombs@hccog.org ext.103

Communications & Marketing Manager vpotter@hccog.org ext.101


Receptionist info@hccog.org ext.100

Meeting Schedule High Country Council of Governments

Workforce Development

Executive Board Meeting 7:00pm on the 3rd Monday of the month (except January and September)

Workforce Development Board 2:30pm on the 2nd Thursday in January, March, May, July, September, and November

Area Agency on Aging

Planning & Development

Regional Advisory Council on Aging Meets Quarterly

RPO Rural Transportation Advisory Committee 2:00pm on the 3rd Wednesday in February, May, August, and December

Senior Tar Heel Legislature Meets in March, June, and October AAA Provider Meeting Meets Quarterly

RPO Rural Transportation Coordinating Committee 10:00am on the 3rd Wednesday of February, May, August, and November

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May 2021 ReCOGnition  


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