May 2022 ReCOGnition

Page 1

Vol.45 | Issue 1 May 2022

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 Derek Roberts, Mayor, Newland Gunther Jöchl, Mayor, Sugar Mountain

Officers Chair Todd McNeill Vice Chair Doug Matheson Secretary Dennis Aldridge Treasurer Larry Fontaine

Mitchell County

Steve Pitman, Chair, Commissioner Charles Vines, Mayor, Bakersville Rocky Buchanan, Council Member, Spruce Pine

Watauga County

Larry Turnbow, Commissioner Doug Matheson, Mayor Pro Tem, Blowing Rock Tim Futrelle, Mayor, Boone Larry Fontaine, Mayor, Seven Devils

Wilkes County

Eddie Settle, Commissioner Kevin Reece, Commissioner, Ronda Otis Church, Mayor Pro Tem, North Wilkesboro Mike Inscore, Mayor, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Jeff Whitson, Chair, Commissioner Bill Wheeler, Council Member, Burnsville

Advisory Committee Dennis Aldridge Wes Brinegar Larry Fontaine Tim Futrelle Tom Hartman Mike Inscore Brenda Lyerly Doug Matheson Todd McNeill Eddie Settle Charles Vines Jeff Whitson

What’s Inside

New Executive Board Officers 4 The Executive Board of the High Country Council of Governments installed new officers at their February 2022 meeting. Ashe County Commissioner Chairman, Todd McNeill will serve as Chair; Town of Blowing Rock Mayor Pro Tem, Doug Matheson will serve as Vice Chair; Avery County Commissioner, Dennis Aldridge will serve as Secretary; and Town of Seven Devils Mayor, Larry Fontaine will serve as Treasurer.

HCCOG Hires New Director of Recovery and Resilience........................... 5 Visit NC Invites Travelers to Dream Big in Small Towns............................ 5 High Country Food Hub Reaches Milestone of $2 Million in Sales........ 6 Mitchell County Transportation Earns Pair of NCPTA Honors............... 7 High Country Clerks Gathering....................................................................... 8 Regional Highlights............................................................................................. 9 Robert L. Johnson Receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine Town of Seven Devils Clerk Appointed as NCAMC District 10 Director New Hires for the Region Updates from the Town of Beech Mountain Area Agency on Aging Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 13 Learning to “Age My Way” for Older Americans Month............................ 16 Addressing Pandemic-Related Social Isolation with 21st Century Technology........................................................................... 17

Planning and Development Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 18 Burnsville Stormwater.............................................................................20 Watch for Me NC Announces 2022 Partners........................................... 21 Workforce Development Department Highlights and Projects............................................................... 22 Getting Back to In-Person Hiring Events................................................ 27 Work Based Learning Success..................................................................28 Home Grown Business in Burnsville.........................................................29 Recovery Friendly Workplaces.................................................................30

New Executive Board Officers Get to Know Our Chair, Todd McNeill Todd McNeill currently serves as chairman of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. He began his tenure as commissioner in January 2018, being appointed to fill a vacancy, then was elected for his first 4 year term the following November. He has served as chairman of the Ashe County Board since December 2018. Todd has served on the High Country Council of Governments Executive Board for 3.5 years. Todd, a small business owner and entrepreneur, and his wife Maggie live in the Grassy Creek community of Ashe County. They have 5 children; Henry, Libby Jean, Sarah Lane, Beau, and Will. Todd grew up in Ashe County, attending Ashe Central High School and later graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in public relations. “The collaboration of local governments throughout the High Country region continues to make our corner of North Carolina an even better place to live and work. Serving Ashe County and the High Country is one of the greatest honors of my life!” Executive Board Chairman, Todd McNeill.

Also Serving for the 2022-23 Term: Town of Blowing Rock Mayor Pro Tem, Doug Matheson will serve as Vice Chair, and has served on the Executive Board for 4.5 years. Avery County Commissioner, Dennis Aldridge will serve as Secretary, and has served on the Executive Board for almost 3.5 years. Town of Seven Devils Mayor, Larry Fontaine will serve as Treasurer, and has served on the Executive Board for 10.5 years. Learn more about these three officers here:

Vice Chair, Doug Matheson.


Secretary, Dennis Aldridge.

Treasurer, Larry Fontaine.

HCCOG Hires Director of Recovery and Resilience Cory Osborne re-joined the High Country COG team on Monday, April 11th as the Director of Recovery and Resilience. Originally from Abingdon, Virginia, he is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and the Appalachian State University Master of Public Administration program. Cory has previously worked as a Regional Planner for the High Country Council of Governments, as Assistant Director of Economic Development in Ashe County, and as Planning Program Manager for First Tennessee Development District in Johnson City, Tennessee. In his role as Planning Program Manager, Cory was responsible for a department that provided local planning assistance to 16 communities ranging in population from 434 to 56,000 residents. During his time with High Country COG, he helped secure numerous grants for the region and led several long-range planning efforts. He brings experience in economic development, land use, grant administration, long-range planning, and GIS analysis. During his free time, Cory enjoys running, reading, woodworking, and traveling. He is excited to return to the High Country Cory Osborne, Director of Recovery and COG and assist the region’s communities in his new role. Resilience.

“I am looking forward to stepping into this unique role and working alongside the COG team and their local government partners once again. Beyond providing technical assistance, I hope to collaborate with communities to develop long-term resiliency strategies at both the local and regional level.”

Cory Osborne, Director of Recovery and Resilience (828) 265-5434 ext.142

Visit NC Invites Travelers to Dream Big in Small Towns Funded with $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the pilot program designates Graham, Haywood, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties in the Scenic Mountains; Edgecombe, Halifax, Vance and Warren in the Northeast Lakes & Rivers; and Chowan, Gates, Hertford, Martin, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington in the Inner Banks. Dream Big will also have a dedicated presence on, complete with links for job postings, as well as program partner Airbnb’s website.


High Country Food Hub Reaches Milestone of $2 Million in Sales The High Country Food Hub announced it has reached a milestone of $2 million in sales since the online marketplace’s establishment in April 2017. More than 100 local food producers, 4750 consumers and scores of partner organizations came together to create a model resilience strategy. Operated by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the High Country Food Hub provides an online year-round market for High Country consumers to purchase local food products from the comfort of their homes and pick them up at convenient locations in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties. Caroline Stahlschmidt, a Food Hub customer and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture board member, spoke of why buying local is important to her. “I love cooking nutritious meals for myself and my family,” Stahlschmidt said. “Starting with locally grown, in-season vegetables, and locally raised meat and eggs makes every meal delicious. Locally grown food always tastes better and it’s more nutritious. It’s a win all around.” How It Began The Food Hub grew out of a need by farmers to sell more of their vegetables and pasture-raised meats. Through a collaboration with Watauga County government, Watauga County Cooperative Extension and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the Food Hub started in 2016 with a walk-in freezer and small walk-in cooler at the Watauga Agricultural Center. By the spring of 2017, the Hub launched its online marketplace with a few dozen meat and value-added products from a handful of farms. Consumers can now find over 3,000 products from 85+ food producers throughout the year. “For several farmers, the Food Hub was their first exposure to direct sales. After diving in and working with the Food Hub, many have expanded the produce and products they offer and are growing their farm businesses. In this way, the Hub has been an incubator for new ag-business,” said Jim Hamilton, Watauga County Cooperative Extension Director. A Resilience Strategy Reaching $2 million in sales means as much for the local community as it does for the High Country Food Hub. Dollars spent at the Hub are dollars that go back into the hands of the more than 85 farmers and food producers who sell through the online market. “Money spent at the Food Hub is money that would have otherwise left our community and gone to national corporations,” said Liz Whiteman, Operations Director for Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. “Instead, those resources stay here in the High Country, are invested in our neighbors and make the local economy more resilient.” For every dollar spent at the Food Hub, 84 cents goes directly to producers in the community. Those producers then use their dollars to buy feed and farm supplies from locally-owned stores and hire local accountants, mechanics and other businesses in the community — keeping food dollars in the region. 6

The Food Hub as a resilience strategy came into focus at the onset of the pandemic. As grocery store shelves emptied and consumers sought socially-distanced ways to support their neighbors, the Food

High Country Food Hub Reaches Milestone of $2 Million in Sales (cont.) Hub’s revenues increased by 6.71 times from Jan-Feb to April-May, 2020. Since then, the Hub and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture have worked to establish additional ways to make shopping for local food even more accessible by adding convenient pickup locations throughout the region, expanding its Double Up Food Bucks program, and partnering with food pantries to provide free healthy food boxes to neighbors. This has had real impacts on area growers. “The Food Hub’s growth has helped us maintain revenue streams and cash flow during traditionally slower times of the year for farm goods,” said James Wilkes from Faith Mountain Farms. “We look forward to continued growth as the public continues to shift a portion of their weekly consumption to local products.” None of the Hub’s success could have been possible without support from Watauga County government, Watauga County Cooperative Extension, the Town of Boone, Heifer USA, Carolina Farm Credit, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Watauga County Economic Development Commission, Resourceful Communities, Appalachian State University’s Catering Services, Dr. Pepper of West Jefferson, and the Golden LEAF Foundation as well as over 100 local food producers and 4750 consumers and partnerships with F.A.R.M. Cafe, Hunger & Health Coalition, Casting Bread Ministries, AppHealthCare, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Watauga Food Council, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. “We all want and need our local farms to do well. Supporting them through the Food Hub is one way to help them succeed,” said customers Kathy and Wade Reece. “The Food Hub unites local growers and makers with the public, giving us an awesome opportunity to experience high quality, super fresh, handmade, and organic foods every week.” The High Country Food Hub is expanding its reach and customers can pick up their orders in Blowing Rock, Banner Elk, Vilas/Zionville, West Jefferson, and Boone. To learn more about the High Country Food Hub, please visit Facebook @HighCountryFoodHub, Instagram @highcountryfoodhub, or Article by Watauga Democrat.

Mitchell County Transportation Earns Pair of NCPTA Honors

Mitchell County Transportation is standing out among its peers in the state.

MCT recently earned a pair of awards via the North Carolina Public Transportation Association— a safety award and the honor of Transit System of the Year. MCT recently introduced a new route in Spruce Pine. Dubbed “The Pine Line,” MCT Director Sheila Blalock said the route has exploded in popularity, adding that 692 riders utilized it in March. MCT has operated the new route in addition to its usual offerings with zero accidents over the past year, thus earning the NCPTA safety award. The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners during its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 19 recognized Blalock and her department.

Mitchell County Transportation Director Sheila Blalock stands with Mitchell County Board of Commissioners Chair Steve Pitman and receives a plaque from the NCPTA. (Submitted) 7

Mitchell County Transportation Earns Pair of NCPTA Honors (cont.) “When I think of going beyond the call of duty, I think of you,” board chair Steve Pitman said while looking at Blalock. “You’re doing exactly what a director should.” Pitman cited Blalock’s willingness to pursue grants and other funding to help MCT grow and thrive. The safety award, he added, is no easy feat. “This isn’t driving on a Florida highway,” Pitman said. “It’s curves. It’s hills. It’s ice. It’s snow.” After receiving plaques commemorating the honors, Blalock briefly addressed the board and meeting attendees. “I did not receive these awards,” she said. “Mitchell County Transportation received these awards.” Blalock said the safety award is a testament to the hard work of the more than dozen drivers she employs. Drivers go through continued regular training throughout the year, which Blalock said is paying off. Blalock also thanked the commissioners, county staff and the Town of Spruce Pine for their cooperation. Her team, she added, makes everything possible. “I couldn’t do my job and what I do if I didn’t have an awesome staff surrounding me,” Blalock said. “I have good people around me that I want to make sure get credit.” Article by Cory Spiers, Mitchell News-Journal

High Country Clerks Gathering

On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, fifteen Clerks from the High Country region met for the First Annual High Country Clerks Gathering at the High Country COG office in Boone. HCCOG Communications Manager, Victoria Potter and Town of Seven Devils Clerk, Hillary Gropp coplanned the event to celebrate the 53rd Annual Professional Municipal Clerks Week. Hillary Gropp now serves as the District 10 Director for the North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks. The High Country Clerks Gathering was a fun meet and greet event for all county and town clerks in the High Country COG region.

Larry Fontaine, Mayor of Seven Devils and HCCOG Executive Board Treasurer read a proclamation to commemorate May 4, 2022 as High Country COG Clerks Day.


Regional Highlights

Robert L. Johnson Receives Order of the Long Leaf Pine Former North Wikesboro Mayor Robert Johnson was recognized for his years of service to the town during an event at town hall on March 24, 2022. Johnson walked into town hall not knowing what was planned and was greeted by a crowd of about 50 people clapping. He then was presented with another surprise, the news that he had been approved by Gov. Roy Cooper for induction into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an honor recognizing outstanding and longtime service to the State of North Carolina. Johnson was nominated for this honor by Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, North Wilkesboro Commissioner Bert Hall and Terri Parsons. Johnson has worked with Parsons on efforts to reopen the North Wilkesboro Speedway, filming projects and more for betterment of the community.

Robert Johnson, right, former North Wilkesboro mayor, stands beside Town Manager Wilson Hooper during event at town hall honoring him. WJP Staff Photo — Jule Hubbard

In an interview, Johnson said one of the greatest accomplishments during his 30-plus years as mayor was securing funds for estabishing the Yadkin Valley Market Place on the CBD Loop and starting live music concerts there.

Johnson served three four-year terms as a North Wikesboro commissioner (1982-1994) and two four-terms (2000-2008). He served as North Wilkesboro mayor from 2009 until 2021. Article and photo from Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

Town of Seven Devils Clerk Appointed as NCAMC District 10 Director Hillary Gropp, CMC, NCCMC was appointed to and administered an oath for the Board of Directors for the NC Association of Municipal Clerks – District 10 in December 2021. District 10 includes the counties of Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Iredell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes & Yadkin. NCAMC awards the NCCMC certification – NC Certified Municipal Clerk CMC is awarded by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Hillary has said, “I didn’t find this profession, but it found me, however, it’s a perfect fit. Even though much of my job runs in a cycle…always another agenda, set of minutes, calendar, there is also tremendous variety in each day, and allows for interaction with citizens at a local level. Equally important is the knowledge Hillary Gropp, Town of Seven Devils Clerk.


Town of Seven Devils Clerk Appointed as NCAMC District 10 Director (cont.) and contributing with confidence to our governing board and administration.” Hillary stated, “Every day I witness citizens serving our community and towns, and in this same spirit, I feel honored and privileged to serve on NCAMC. It is an organization that has allowed me to grow professionally, while offering educational opportunities with the UNC SOG, which were imperative to earning my two certifications. Education is a primary focus for the NCAMC.”

New Hires for the Region The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners confirmed Bakersville resident Allen Cook as the county’s newest manager. Cook takes over for Lloyd Hise, who has been serving in an interim capacity since the retirement of the previous manager Tim Greene on Dec. 31, 2021. Cook began in the position on April 4. Cook holds a pair of bachelor’s degrees from North Carolina State University— one in business management and another in animal science. He also has a diverse background in helping the county. From 1999 to 2008, he worked at the NC Employment Security Commission (ESC). As an agricultural employment consultant, he helped farmers procure legal migrant and seasonal labor.

Mitchell County Manager, Allen Cook. Photo courtesy, Our Local Community Online

When out of harvest season, he spent time at the Mitchell ESC office where he helped locals affected by plant layoffs. He’s also made significant contributions to the community via Mayland Community College. From 2008 to 2015, he was Mayland’s career development facilitator and program manager under the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act. In that position, he helped dislocated workers build career readiness. In 2015, he began work as Mayland’s Small Business Center director. In that role, he worked with business owners and startups in the tri-counties and counseled them on best practices to grow and sustain their businesses. He will leave his role at Mayland to take the manager job. “I am very excited to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Mitchell County,” Cook said. “I count it an honor to work on behalf of the commissioners and the top-notch folks employed in our county departments.” In terms of plans and goals? Cook already has ideas. “There are some impactful projects in the works,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with the commission board on initiatives that will benefit our future generations is really exciting.” Article By Cory Spiers, Mitchell News Journal 10

New Hires for the Region (cont.) During the March 9th, 2022, Town Council Meeting, Amy Davis, the Finance Director for the Town of Boone was named interim Town Manager for the Town of Boone. Amy Davis will be the Town’s first female Town Manager and the transition is effective immediately. John Ward will continue to work with the Town until his departure on April 1st, and will work closely with Amy to ensure a smooth transition. Amy has been the Finance Director for the Town of Boone since 2004 and has worked with the town for almost 22 years. “My plan for the upcoming months is to work closely with department directors to facilitate as smooth of a transition as possible. In the short term, developing the FY 2022-2023 budget will be a priority.” Amy Davis stated. The Town of Boone Town Council recently hosted a budget retreat March 7th and 8th to learn more about the budget process and start highlighting Town Council priorities. The fiscal year for the town begins in June.

Interim Boone Town Manager, Amy Davis. Photo courtesy, Town of Boone.

“Amy’s dedication to the Town of Boone and her gift of working well with all town staff is evident in her daily actions. Amy is an excellent choice to serve as interim Town Manager and I’m excited for her as she starts this new challenge.” commented John Ward. “This is an exciting time for the Town of Boone! Amy Davis has the full faith and confidence of the council and staff. We feel at ease that Ms. Davis will lead the town through a smooth transition. Not only has she been a vital part of how well our town has functioned through her tenure thus far; she will serve as the first woman town manager in Boone history! So appropriate for our celebration and recognition of Women’s History month and our efforts to make new strides in our 150th year! Amy, thank you so much for your willingness to serve and congratulations!” Mayor Futrelle stated. Article from High Country Press

Halee Ratcliff has replaced former Finance Director Bob Urness in the Town of Wilkesboro. As finance director she manages several on-going capital projects, prepares the annual budget, and oversees the general finances of the Town. Halee is a two-time graduate of Appalachian State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration. For the last two years she served as the Assistant to the Town Manager in Laurel Park, NC. Halee is currently working toward her Certified Budget Officer and Certified Finance Officer designations. She enjoys golf, spending time outdoors with her dog, Ruby, and cheering on Mountaineer football.

Town of Wilkesboro Finance Director , Halee Ratcliff.

The Town of Newland has recently hired Sandy Lewis as Finance Officer/Town Administrator and Jessica Buchanan as the Town Clerk/Tax Collector.


Updates from the Town of Beech Mountain The Town of Beech Mountain moved more milestones forward. Two new water wells sites are producing and will become part of the town’s water system. Engineer plans for the possible combination of Santis and Coffey lake are moving forward. The annual budget retreat netted more improvements. Council approved repainting the water tanks on Bark Park way. A completed bathroom now finalizes the recreation area across from town hall. A free sledding hill now includes a new playground and two bark parks for small and large dogs during the winter. The addition of the bathrooms takes traffic from crossing busy Beech Mountain Park to the visitor center. With the new public works complex opening, the old Convenience Center is now part of our greenway project. This new addition includes grass, grills, and other amenities for town residents and visitors. Shane Park opens for the season with primitive campsites, a ropes course, and full shower/bath facilities. Fred Phol Recreation center offers summer camps, sign up is currently open. Beech Mountain has signed another lease for the Emerald Outback Trail System.

Beech Sewer line repair in trench box. Photo courtesy Town of Beech.

Town of Beech Mountain Council approved a budget that included more infrastructure projects like SRF water and sewer pipe replacement and sewer lift station replacement and two water well sites validated by the state as acceptable volume capacity and to proceed as water source for the town. In addition, the new public parking lot has eased parking for events in town and includes two electric vehicle charging stations.

Beech EV Charging Station. Photo Courtesy Town of Beech Mountain.


Area Agency on Aging Staff Zack Green

Stevie John

Director ext.122

Long Term Care Ombudsman ext.126

Sarah Price

Lola Benfield

Caregiver Program Coordinator ext.139

Amber Chapman

Special Projects Coordinator ext.141

Tim Price

Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist ext.113

Aging Programs Compliance Officer ext.140

Department Highlights | |

Welcome, Lola Benfield! As the newest member of the High Country Area Agency on Aging team, Lola helps to administer the North Carolina Lifespan Respite Project as the Caregiver Program Coordinator. She holds a master’s degree in Political Science from Appalachian State University, with a focus on nonprofit management and public policy. Lola loves exploring the many wonders of the NC mountains (especially all the delicious food), hanging out with her cats, and spending time with her family. With experience in community organizing and program administration, Lola is thrilled to join the AAA team and aid in the statewide Lifespan Respite Project’s efforts to support caregivers. Lola Benfield, Caregiver Program Coordinator


NC Lifespan Respite Program: Welcoming Our New Program Coordinator & Extending the Opportunity to Learn More About Accessing Respite Funds High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) welcomed the new Caregiver Program Coordinator, Lola Benfield, in December of 2021. We continue to extend gratitude to Pat Guarnieri, who retired in December, and whose impact will be felt for years to come. Our AAA is honored to administer the statewide North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program. The program provides respite vouchers to eligible unpaid caregivers across the state of North Carolina. About the Program Respite is a temporary break from caregiving, and a key component in protecting the health and well-being of a family caregiver and their care recipient. Unpaid caregivers often give of themselves so much that they have little time to do many things most of us take for granted. Caregivers who take care of loved ones around the clock can particularly feel the negative impact of loss of daily activities – most of us take some of these activities for granted. The NC Lifespan Respite Program offers $500 reimbursement-based vouchers that help a caregiver pay for their loved one’s care – while they take care of themselves. The program is typically considered the “respite of last resort” and is for those who are not receiving other publicly funded -in home care, day care or respite care. (See our website below for other eligibility information and a list of examples of publicly funded respite.) As of May 2022, the High Country AAA has allocated over $90,000 to serve caregivers with 187 respite voucher awards in the current fiscal year. With referrals from 82 different agencies, we issued awards to caregivers from 47 counties across the state. The program served caregivers between the ages of 28 and 89, caring for care recipients between the ages of 3 months and 103. Eligibility, guidelines, and the process to apply can be found on our website: a. A referring agent must complete our online application on behalf of the unpaid caregiver. b. Once submitted, the caregiver receives a “Caregiver Certification” (which includes program guidelines) form by e-mail (if the referring agent has listed it on the application) which must be completed, signed, and returned to complete the application for review. (If no e mail address is on the application, the “Caregiver Certification” form will be postal mailed to the caregiver- which will delay review of the application) c. When the application is complete - with no further questions, the application will be reviewed, and a decision for award will be made in approximately one to two weeks. d. Our website provides more information regarding the process AND eligibility guidelines, so check it out! Investing in Outreach With the goal of targeted outreach to underserved communities, we are pleased to announce that we are now offering virtual or in-person respite workshops for organizations and community groups that work with caregivers across the lifespan. We are available to host sessions regarding the importance of respite for caregivers and how to access respite funds in North Carolina. Sessions are tailored to the needs of the population your organization serves. If you work with caregivers who may benefit from learning more about the resources available to them, we encourage you to reach out to the Caregiver Program Coordinator to schedule a workshop for your group.


NC Lifespan Respite Program: Welcoming Our New Program Coordinator & Extending the Opportunity to Learn More About Accessing Respite Funds (cont.) Register for our open Statewide Workshop! Join us for a virtual workshop to learn about the sources of respite available to caregivers in North Carolina. This session is open to the public and will offer a broad overview of respite fund sources available to caregivers across the lifespan. Caregivers and professionals who work with caregivers will especially benefit from this information. Everyone is welcome to attend. Rest and Reset: Accessing Respite Funds in North Carolina June 15, 11 AM – 12 PM This is a virtual event held on Zoom. Register here: Lifespan Respite vouchers are brought to you by the NC Lifespan Respite Project and administered by High Country Area Agency on Aging. Funding is made possible by a grant to the NC Department of Health and Human Services from the U.S. Administration for Community Living. Contact Lola Benfield, Caregiver Program Coordinator for further information at (828) 264-3592;

Contact: Caregiver Program Coordinator

(828) 265-5434 ext.139

Driver Safety Tips With warmer weather slowly arriving, many are getting the urge to get back outside and on the road. If you plan to drive more in the coming months, please consider these safety tips before hitting the road:

• • • • • • • • • • •

Get an annual eye exam and wear contact lenses or glasses as recommended Discuss your medication and its effects on driving with your doctor or pharmacist Ensure that your mirrors and seat are properly adjusted for optimal viewing Plan to go over your route ahead of time Pay attention to road conditions Keep car windows clean inside and out Add larger mirrors to increase your range of visibility Eliminate distractions like playing music, eating food, or talking on a phone Leave more distance between you and the car in front of you Limit driving to daytime if you have trouble seeing at night Carpool or take public transportation whenever possible

For more information about how you can increase your safety on the road, check out these helpful resources: National Center on Senior Transportation AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety


Learning to “Age My Way” for Older Americans Month Each May we take the time to recognize the annual celebration of Older Americans Month. At the time of its inception in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached the age of 65. Nearly one-third of all older adults at the time were living in poverty and aging services were few and far between. Today there are over 54 million Americans who are aged 65 or older and the country is aging more each day. Just as every person is unique, so too is how they age and how they choose to pursue aging services – there is no “right” way. The theme for Older Americans Month (OAM) 2022 is Age My Way, to encourage each older adult to make decisions that work best for them. Each year the Administration for Community Living (ACL) provides resources and expertise to help older adults stay healthy, age in place, and support their communities in ways they choose. ACL believes that “all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live independently and participate fully in their communities, and have the right to make choices and control the decisions in and about their lives”. While Age My Way will take a different path for everyone, here are some common themes that everyone can consider as they age:

• Planning: Think about what you will need and want in the future, from your living arrangements to the community-based services you utilize, and the activities you want to continue to do.

• Engagement: Consider the way in which you want to remain involved in and contribute to your community, either through your work, volunteering, or civic organizations you assist.

• Access: Begin to determine home improvements and modifications, such as assistive technologies or customized supports, that will help you to better age in place.

• Connection: Think about what changes you can make to combat social isolation as you age. Consider the relationships and social connections you maintain and determine if modifications to transportation or location can help foster these relationships.

High Country Area Agency on Aging oversees the senior and community centers in the seven-county region of the High Country: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties. Diverse communities are strong communities. Ensuring that older adults remain involved in their communities for as long as possible benefits everyone. We want to encourage you to contact your local senior or community center to discover ways to participate and volunteer in the many programs being offered throughout OAM and the rest of the year.

• • • • • • • • •


Alleghany Council on Aging – (336) 372-4640 Generations Ashe – (336) 246-2461 Avery Senior Services – (828) 733-8220 Mitchell Senior Center – (828) 688-3019 Watauga County Project on Aging – (828) 265-8090 Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission (BROC) (Wilkes Co.) – (336) 667-7174 Wilkes Senior Resources – (336) 667-5281 Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Care (Wilkes Co.) – (336) 667-2541 Yancey County Community Center – (828) 682-6011

Addressing Pandemic-Related Social Isolation with 21st Century Technology While there have been many negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to additional federal grant funding has allowed the High Country Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to support residents of long-term care facilities in new and creative ways. High Country AAA was able to purchase 92 animatronic companion pets to help lessen the impact that pandemic-related isolation has had on High Country area long-term care residents. The High Country AAA used CARES funds to purchase “Joy for All Companion Pets” by Ageless Innovation and delivered the pets to 21 nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout the region. These “pets” are robotic dog and cat toys designed specifically to comfort older adults in need of companionship; early studies specifically charted the benefits for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of cognitive decline. The feedback from facility staff has been extremely positive. Aubrey Spurlock from Lifecare Center of Banner Elk stated, “The dogs have been a great comfort to some of our residents. We have had a couple of people who would keep them with them all day. One resident in particular had dramatic improvements to mood and significant reductions in problematic behaviors since having her dog to take care of. Having a backup pet in case something happens to hers is important. She has gone through two already and is on her third. We clean it periodically, but since she has it with her daily, it gets food and other things spilled on it from time to time.”

Ruth and her pet dog, Sweet Pea.

A long-term care provider commented, “…they have been one of the best things for our memory care residents – truly bringers of peace, contentment, and joy!” Another provider enthusiastically said, “…we have seen residents talking and interacting with the animals, some have spoken more words to the cat than they have to us in months, what a true JOY to see their eyes light up and the smiles!”

Kathleen and her pet cat.

Other possible benefits of the companion animals include increases in meaningful interactions between residents, staff, and family members and the facilitation of intergenerational connection. Stimulation of conversation and communication in residents who are more withdrawn, calming anxiety, and soothing those who are agitated are other benefits noticed by providers in long-term care facilities. The animatronic companion pets have generally increased the quality of life for those with dementia or who are socially isolated. Experts believe that these companion pets are a way to gain improvements in behavior without the use of drugs. If you have further questions about the companion animals, please call Stevie John at (828) 265-5434 ext. 126 or Sarah Price ext. 141.


Planning and Development Staff Phil Trew

Kelly Coffey

Director ext.121

Senior Planner ext.114

Michelle Ball

Transportation Planner ext.135

Drew Plettner

Regional Planner ext.118

David Graham

Regional Planner ext.115

Tatiana Magee

Jessica Welborn

GIS Planner ext.134

GIS/Regional Planner ext.138

Department Highlights | HCCOG Presents at the International iConference Jessica Welborn, GIS Planner presented with Dr. Anthony Chow, San Jose State University (former UNCG professor), at the 2022 iConference. Jessica conducted a workshop titled, “GIS Mapping and UserCentered Design: Two Library Case Studies” at the virtual conference last week. The iConference series is presented by the iSchools, a worldwide association of Information Schools dedicated to advancing the information field, and preparing students to meet the information challenges of the 21st Century. Since 2005, the iConference series has provided forums in which information scholars, researchers and professionals share their insights on critical information issues in contemporary society. iConference 2022 was globally hosted by University College Dublin (Ireland), and Kyushu University (Japan) and University of Texas at Austin (USA). Jessica led the workshop to show how tabular U.S. Census statistical datasets are converted into digital geographic data, library cardholders are geocoded, and library drive-time rings are created in GIS to develop interactive, custom map applications in ArcGIS Online. The two library case studies of Appalachian Regional 18

HCCOG Presents at the International iConference (cont.) Library System and Robeson County Library System were projects completed by the High Country Council of Governments in 2020 and 2021. The projects consisted of leveraging GIS to visualize demographic and socioeconomic patterns within each library systems’ service area for analysis and planning efforts in support of developing a five-year strategic plan (FY 2022-2026). To view the Appalachian Regional Library’s web application: webappviewer/index.html?id=630ccd9be2f742ee9e2df4430500d918 To view the Robeson County Library System’s web application: webappviewer/index.html?id=4cec8a8b6fcc4f07bc615befdde317ab

High Country COG Maps Jefferson Cemetary High Country COG completed its fifth cemetery mapping project with the Town of Jefferson’s Cemetery. Jefferson Cemetery is located off William JB Blevins Road in Jefferson. It consists of 2.413 acres. The Town of Jefferson acquired the cemetery in July of 1998 from Trustees of the Jefferson Cemetery. Some monuments in the cemetery date back to the late 1800s. The Town of Jefferson acquired all hardcopy documents from the Trustees at the time of purchase. The COG was tasked with mapping all existing monuments, cemetery plot layout, and ownership records for each plot. All monuments were field collected at high accuracy and attributed with full names, birth dates, death dates, and military veteran status per the monument engravings. Headstones, footstones, family monuments and cornerstones were captured. Plots were attributed with ownership and any deed information available in order to create a digital, interactive and spatial database for the Town staff. Town staff will utilize the database for cemetery management. Final deliverable to the Town is a GIS web-based map. The Town can access the online web map from anywhere and search records. The HCCOG will assist the Town with maintaining the GIS database moving forward as plots are sold and burials occur. Previous municipal cemetery projects were completed for Blowing Rock, Sparta, Spruce Pine and West Jefferson.


Burnsville Stormwater

High Country Council of Governments GIS completed an eight-month stormwater system mapping project for the Town of Burnsville in December 2021. High Country COG was awarded a 205( j) Water Quality Management Planning Grant from the NC Department of Environmental Quality. 205( j) grants are eligible to regional Councils of Governments.

HCCOG completed a full mapping-grade GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) inventory collection of all the stormwater system infrastructure features within the town limits across private and public properties. The HCCOG received assistance from town’s Public Works staff to locate stormwater features, lift grates, provide traffic control, provide a working knowledge of the system and measure invert depths. The HCCOG mapped stormwater inlets, outfalls and retentions basins while collecting detailed attributes. All stormwater pipes were Screenshot of the Burnsville Stormwater System Network. digitized according to the correct direction of flow. HCCOG also digitized building gutter and drains where they were visible entering inlets (stormwater junction boxes/manholes) and ditch lines. The HCCOG set up the Town with ArcGIS Online for referencing and editing the stormwater data via field apps on mobile devices. The project purpose was to accurately inventory all stormwater system infrastructure and drainage patterns in town limits, provide accurate data for future stormwater management projects, plan future capital investments/stormwater maintenance, and identify possible sewer system infiltration locations.


Watch for Me NC Announces 2022 Partners Twenty-two communities will soon benefit from participation in Watch for Me NC, a comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle safety program aimed at reducing bicycle and pedestrian crashes and fatalities in North Carolina. Now in its ninth year, the Watch for Me NC program provides training for law enforcement officers on ways to improve safety for road users in their areas. Groups also will receive technical assistance, materials and purchased media promotion such as radio advertisements to bring attention to driver awareness and pedestrian and bicycle safety. “We’re pleased to have these 22 communities working with us to keep cyclists, pedestrians and drivers safe in North Carolina,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “The Watch for Me NC program equips these communities with valuable training, partnerships and resources that can be tailored to their unique needs and audiences.” The program leverages the strengths of law enforcement and public education to encourage safe and secure places to walk and bike. The 2022 partner communities and counties are: Apex (Wake) Beaufort (Carteret) Bogue Banks Coalition (Carteret) Carrboro (Orange) Chapel Hill (Orange) Cornelius (Mecklenburg) Creedmoor (Granville) Davidson (Mecklenburg) East Carolina University (Pitt) Elizabeth City (Pasquotank) Forest City (Rutherford) Fuquay-Varina (Wake) Greensboro (Guilford) Greenville (Pitt) Kannapolis (Cabarrus) Kinston (Lenoir) Kill Devil Hills (Dare) Morrisville (Wake) Murphy (Cherokee) Shelby (Cleveland) Sparta (Alleghany) Wendell (Wake) This year’s program is supported by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The UNC Highway Safety Research Center provides technical support with program implementation and evaluation. For more information about the program, visit Watch for Me NC’s website​.


Workforce Development Staff Keith Deveraux

Director ext.130

Misty Bishop-Price

NCWorks Operations Manager ext.119

Rebecca Bloomquist

Communications and Business Services Coordinator ext.136

Debra Foxx

Finance and Compliance Specialist ext.120

Department Highlights | | Veteran Resource Fair NCWorks held a Veteran Resource Fair on November 9, 2021 at the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center. The event was held to honor veterans for their military service by providing breakfast and one-stop access to agencies from the area that could assist them with a variety of needs that they may have. Resource providers were on hand from various agencies in the region including Goodwill Veteran Services, NCWorks, NCWorks Veteran Services, Veteran Services of the Carolinas, Wilkes County Register of Deeds, Wilkes County Veteran Service Office, and Wilkes Recovery Revolution. A local veteran speaks with an agency representative during the Veteran

Veterans who attended were appreciative and were able to connect with Resource Fair. the various agencies to receive much needed assistance.


High Country Workforce Development Board Partners with the Wilkes EDC and Wilkes Chamber of Commerce on Two Big Events Keith Deveraux, Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board, serves as the Vice President of the Government Affairs committee of the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce and facilitated the “Let’s Talk” government affairs session held at the Stone Center on January 26th, 2022. Local government and community leaders gathered for discussion and information sharing on key issues facing Wilkes County. Topics included housing, workforce, infrastructure, and tourism. On Thursday, March 17th at the Stone Family Center in North Wilkesboro the High Country Workforce Development Board and the Wilkes Economic Development Commission presented the Wilkes Workforce Summit. Keynote speaker Dr. Harry Davis, NCBA Professor of Banking; Economist; and Appalachian State University Professor of Banking presented “The Economic Outlook,” an overview of the labor force and economy at the national, state, and local levels.

From L to R Debra Foxx, Misty Bishop-Price, Keith Deveraux, Caroline Bracey-Adams, Robin Hamby, and LeeAnn Nixon.

The more than 100 attendees heard about valuable workforce development resources in the community and participated in break-out groups focusing on removing obstacles in the workforce including Childcare, Housing, Transportation, Poverty, Domestic Violence, Substance Abuse; and Policies, Perks, Pay Scale, and Culture. Attendees will receive a follow-up report on the topics as well as ways to get involved to address obstacles and to move the community forward. Keith Deveraux, Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board facilitates the “Let’s Talk” session for the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome New NCWorks Staff! Kristi Bray, Career Advisor Kristi joins us from the Children’s Developmental Services agency where she was an Administrative Assistant helping people identify resources for children with developmental issues. She was drawn to this position because of her desire to help people and give back to the community. As a single parent to four daughters, Kristi has utilized the various resources in the area and wants to make sure that she can help the next person that is struggling. One of her favorite sayings is, “Don’t forget where you came from. Turn back around and help the next one in line.” Kristi is excited to be working with NCWorks!

Toni Deal.

Toni Deal, Program Director – Alleghany, Ashe, Kristi Bray. Watauga, and Wilkes Toni has been a Career Advisor for NCWorks and Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina for the last five years and recently earned her Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certification. She has years of experience working with businesses in sales, customer service, business development, and participant recruitment. Spending most of her childhood in the mountains and foothills of NC, Toni understands the struggles that many in rural counties continue to face. She loves working with people, understanding their career needs, identifying the opportunities that are available, and helping put together a plan to help people 23

Welcome New NCWorks Staff (cont.) find a career and not just a job. Toni loves it when a previous person that she helped calls her or comes into the center and tells her she made a difference. To her, it’s all about changing lives for the better and helping people live a happier and more fulfilling life. Cindy Holloman – Career Advisor Cindy’s career began in Pennsylvania as a hairstylist and quickly advanced to management and ownership of several salons. After relocating to NC (following her husband’s career) she began managing a retail store while developing and cultivating relationships throughout the community by serving in various volunteer positions. As a result of her volunteer work, she found a new career serving the homeless population and adults experiencing poverty as an Adult Life Skills Instructor within a large faith-based residential rehabilitation center advancing to become the Director of Adult Education and Careers. After two decades, Cindy relocated to Wilkes County as a business owner; however, due to unforeseen circumstances, she sold the business a few years later putting her career on hold to focus on her family. Back to work, Cindy became a Career Advisor at NCWorks Cindy Holloman. in Caldwell County and was recently transferred to the NCWorks in Wilkes County. Cindy says, “I embrace this season in my life as another opportunity to serve those within my local community, offering hope and new direction in life.”

Congratulations on Retirement Thank you for your many years of service to workforce development in the High Country! Your dedication to the region will be missed.

Anita Lowe.


Chris Eckard.

Jeff Cope.

Liz Tinney.

Wilkes NCWorks in the Community! Second Harvest Food Bank On October 23, 2021, staff from the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center volunteered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina to distribute food and NCWorks information to 425 families in the community.

NCWorks staff volunteer with Second Harvest Food Bank. From L to R: Mary Jolly, Kimberly Anderson, Charity Patterson Hamber, Jessica Greer, and Anabel Hernandez-Rubio.

NCWorks staff Anabel Hernandez-Rubio and Jessica Greer assist with the Second Harvest Food Bank food distribution.

Eckerd Graduates As of November 23, 2021, the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center has completed a total of six Working Smart courses on the Eckerd Connects campus in Boomer, NC. Forty (40) youth have completed the program and earned a certificate. The Working Smart course is a five module, 16 lesson soft skill curriculum taught over a minimum of 24 hours. These lessons teach the following: • Self-Awareness Skills • Self-Management Skills • Work Ethics • Communication Skills • Problem Solving Skills

From L to R: Debra Foxx, Felicia Culbreath-Setzer, Charity Patterson Hamber, Keith Deveraux, NC Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, Kimberly Anderson, Toni Deal, Mary Jolly, Anabel Hernandez-Rubio, Misty Bishop-Price, and Ashley Davis.

NCWorks staff members Charity Patterson Hamber, Kimberly Anderson, and Reggie Torrence present Working Smart certificates to Eckerd Graduates.

Women In Leadership Wilkes Women in Leadership is a woman’s participation only program focused on empowering and inspiring women leaders. Meetings are held quarterly at various Chamber membership locations. Each session features a guest presenter and offers attendees the chance to learn from the experience of others while building relationships through networking. NC Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders was the guest presenter for Wilkes Women In Leadership event on Thursday, March 16, 2022. Staff from the NCWorks Career Center in Wilkes and the High Country Workforce Development Board attended the event.


NCWorks Engaes with Hundreds of Local Students During March and April During the months of March and April, NCWorks staff participated in multiple high school career awareness events across the High Country region where staff had the opportunity to engage with local students sharing information on center services and employment and training opportunities in the area. • March 1: NCWorks participated in the Alleghany County High School Career April Jones with NCWorks presents to students at Tri-County Christian School in Fair. March 1: NCWorks conducted a Mitchell County. Reggie Torrence and Charity • Patterson Hamber from soft skills workshop for all sophomores at Mountain NCWorks attend the West Heritage High School (Yancey County) as part of its Wilkes High School Career College and Career Day event. Discussion included Fair. steps on choosing a career and what employers are looking for in good candidates; NCWorks services and programs and how to use NCWorks Online; and the internship program. The students also toured local industries and attended a college fair with Mayland Community College on programs of study. • March 4: NCWorks staff participated in the Wilkes Central High School Career Fair Pam Wilson and April Jones • March 18: NCWorks staff presented “Success from NCWorks attend the in the Workplace” at Tri-County Christian School of Avery County High School Spruce Pine (Mitchell County). Discussion included Career Fair. the six (6) skills that will help students be successful April Jones from NCWorks speaks with a student at the in the workplace and what employers are looking Avery County High School for in employees; communication, teamwork, Career Fair. networking, enthusiasm and attitude, professionalism, problem-solving, and critical thinking; NCWorks services; and the benefit of participating in the internship program. • March 24: NCWorks staff participated in the West Wilkes High School World of Opportunities conference. • March 25: NCWorks staff presented to April Jones from NCWorks speaks Alleghany County High School students. • March 25: NCWorks staff participated with students at the Yancey in the Avery County High School Career Fair County Gear Up Career Fair. sharing information on employment, training, and career The Yancey County Gear Up related services with all students from the sophomore, Career Fair was held at the junior, and senior classes. Services for businesses were Burnsville Town Center. also shared with those local employers in attendance. • April 8: NCWorks staff participated in the Yancey County Schools Gear Up Career Fair at the Burnsville Town Center. The fair was arranged to give exposure to middle school students on local careers, services, and training options. Many of the county’s employers, along with training programs through Mayland Community College and the NCWorks Career Center services were available for the students. All 7th and 8th graders in Yancey County attended the fair. • April 25: NCWorks staff attended the Wilkes Central High School Job Fair, Toni Deal and Kimberly along with approximately 20 local companies looking fill summer jobs and jobs Anderson attend the after graduation. Staff spoke with the students about on-the-job training job fair held at Wilkes opportunities, career assessments, job placement, resume, and interview skill Central High School. 26 offerings through NCWorks.

Getting Back to In-Person Hiring Events NCWorks Career Centers got back to in-person hiring events over the past few months. Alleghany County The Alleghany NCWorks Career Center hosted a county-wide job fair on November 3, 2021, at the Alleghany Campus of Wilkes Community College. Nine (9) businesses participated in the event and were pleased with the turnout.

NCWorks staff person Chris Eckard presents information to businesses participating in the Alleghany County Job Fair.

From L to R: NCWorks staff Mary Jolly, Veda Johnson, and Jessica Greer at the Alleghany County Job Fair ready to assist job seekers.

Wilkes County The annual Spring Job Fair held in Wilkes County returned as an inperson event on April 12th. The event was held at the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College and was co-sponsored by the High Country Workforce Development Board, NCWorks, Goodwill Career Connections, NC Vocational Rehabilitation, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, Wilkes Community College, Wilkes Economic Development Commission, and Wilkes Recovery Revolution. 140 job seekers attended the Wilkes County Job Fair on April 12th.

In response to local business needs, employer registration hit maximum capacity quickly. Sixty-one (61) employers from Wilkes and the surrounding counties represented a variety of sectors, with 140 job seekers visiting throughout the two-and-a-half-hour event. The job fair was highlighted in a report by WSOC-TV Channel 9 from Charlotte that focused on the statewide shortage of state troopers: Highway Patrol tries to bring in recruits as agency sees trooper shortages – WSOC TV. Scan the QR code to visit the WSOC-TV Channel 9 news story and video.

The NC Highway Patrol attends the Wilkes County Job Fair in hopes of helping fill a statewide trooper shortage.

GE Aviation located in West Jefferson (Ashe County) was one of the sixty-one employers that participated in the job fair. 27

Work Based Learning Success

Adam Cannon Builds His Own Success Adam was referred to WIOA by the CTE Coordinator at Mountain Heritage High School (MHHS) in Yancey County. Adam had just graduated and was wanting to go to school for Construction Management. Adam had never worked, but he had helped his dad some in his construction business and really excelled in the Carpentry Class at MHHS. This is where he discovered the love for carpentry. Witnessing his dad struggle with his business, he saw the need to advance in his education. Adam was interested in a work experience to help him in not only experience but also to make sure that carpentry is what he wants to do Adam Cannon installing as a career. hardwood flooring. He started his internship at Buckner Construction in August 2021 and finished up recently at the end of February. While completing this internship, he attended A-B Tech Community College as a full-time student. He maintained an A average while working 20-30 hours a week. After completing his internship, Buckner Construction wanted to hire him part-time, so he can also continue his education. Adam plans to complete his Associate Degree at A-B Tech, with an expected graduation date of May 2023 and then transfer to Western Carolina University to complete his bachelor’s degree. Adam has worked hard to make both his educational and career goals a reality!

On-the-Job Trainings at Yancey County Department of Social Services Katrina Benfield came to the Yancey NCWorks Career Center looking for a job that could support her family and be fulfilling. As a 38-year-old mother of four kids (ranging in age from 1 to 18 years old), she had been underemployed - working part time at a battered women’s shelter as an Overnight Advocate but needed more. She very much wanted to do something more challenging and be a help to her community. NCWorks staff connected her with Yancey County Department of Social Services (DSS) and agreed to provide On-the-Job Training if DSS was Katrina Benfield is dressed for willing to train her. She is now working as a Community Social Service Technician Christmas supervised home with a much-improved hourly wage. Her new work hours are allowing her to have visits. more quality time with her children.

Dylan Ledford had been working as a part time clerk at a local gas station and came to Mitchell NCWorks Career Center because he was interested in starting a career where he could make a difference in his community. NCWorks staff connected 25 year old Dylan with Yancey County DSS and provided On-theJob Training incentives. Dylan began working as an In-home Social Worker and is grateful for the chance to work with helping keep families together. Dylan has found the career he wanted! NCWorks has provided Yancey DSS with a total of 6 OJT’s this year, which both assists individuals job searching and allows DSS funds to go for much needed services. 28

Dylan Ledford training with Yancey County DSS.

Work Based Learning Success (cont.) On-the-Job Training at Dirty’s Diesel and Automotive Lance Royal participated in an On-the-Job Training with Dirty’s Diesel and Automotive in North Wilkesboro over the past six months. As a 23-year-old single father of a 5-year-old, he needed to find a job and career that would support him and his family. Although a graduate of high school, he struggled to find a job in an area that was interesting for him and provide him with a living wage. NCWorks staff worked with Lance and discovered his interest in cars and mechanics, mostly diesel. Dirty’s Diesel and Automotive agreed to do an OJT to start Lance out as a mechanic, and the shop is very happy with his performance - even willing to support Lance in getting his CDL.

Lance Royal works as a mechanic Dirty’s Diesel and Automotive.

Home Grown Business in Burnsville Coffey Tool and Machine is a machine shop that produces everything from aluminum parts for archery, high quality tooling used to produce parts in the automotive industry, to obsolete parts for heavy equipment. They have a focus on producing custom medical devices and instruments for the healthcare and medical industry. Started by many hours of labor in owner Jeremy Coffey’s basement, it is the epitome of a home-grown business in Burnsville. Staff of the NCWorks Career Center and Mayland Community College were given a tour of the business’s new location on Wednesday, March 30th where they were able to witness operations of the advanced CNC equipment the company uses to produce such high-quality parts. From L to R: Pam Wilson, April Jones, The company plans to be growing soon, and NCWorks looks forward Lyndell Duvall, Ted Ollis, Michelle Fenlin, to helping them with their hiring and training needs. You can check and Donna Kelly.

out their website at

Visit the Coffey Tool and Machine website by scanning the QR Code.


Recovery Friendly Workplaces The High Country Workforce Development Board and the Wilkes NCWorks Career Center were two of the early adopters in Wilkes County in becoming Recovery Friendly Workplaces. The goals of the Wilkes Recovery Revolution initiative are to break down the stigma surrounding recovery and substance use in the workplace, to connect employers with resources and resource navigation services for their valued employees, and to help reduce the negative effects of substance use in the workplace. In April, staff from the High Country Workforce Development Board and NCWorks participated in a two-part training as part of their recent designation as Recovery Friendly Workplaces. Training was presented by Ariana Williamson and Jeff Walker and covered topics on recovery, recovery support, self-care, and supporting others in the workplace. Other local employers participating in the training included Tyson and the North Wilkesboro Comprehensive Treatment Center.

High Country WDB and NCWorks Staff attended training as Recovery Friendly Workplaces.

Ariana Williamson leads the Recovery Friendly Workplaces training session.


Early adopters of the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative are pictured receiving materials from Wilkes Recovery Revolution. Pictured from L to R: John Pooler III - Chaplain III – HR Team, Wilkesboro Complex Tyson Foods; Linda Cheek – President, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce; Ariana Williamson – Project Coordinator, Project HOW, Recovery Friendly Workplace Advisor; Charity Patterson Hamber – NCWorks Career Center Manager -Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes; Keith Deveraux – Director, High Country Workforce Development Board; and Misty Bishop-Price – NCWorks Operations Manager, High Country Workforce Development Board.



Administrative Staff and Meeting Schedule | (828) 265-5434 Administration Staff Julie Page

Julie Wiggins

Executive Director ext.125

Finance Officer ext.109

Caroline Briggs

Victoria Potter

Finance Technician ext.103

Communications Manager ext.101

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 November

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

Acknowledgements: Social media icons designed by Freepik from Flaticon. 32

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.