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Vol.42 | Issue 2 October 2019


Newsletter of the High Country Council of Governments

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

Alleghany County

Mark Evans, Chair, Commissioner Chris Jones, Council Member, Sparta

Ashe County

Todd McNeill, Chair, Commissioner Mark Johnston, Alderman, Jefferson Jim Blevins, Alderman, Lansing Dale Baldwin, Mayor, West Jefferson

Avery County

Dennis Aldridge, Commissioner Brenda Lyerly, Mayor, Banner Elk Renee Castiglione, Mayor, Beech Mountain Jesse C. Smith, Mayor, Crossnore Joel Whitley, Mayor Pro Tem, Elk Park Valerie Jaynes, Mayor, Newland Gunther Jรถchl, Mayor Pro Tem, Sugar Mountain

Officers Chair Johnny Riddle Vice Chair Valerie Jaynes Secretary Mark Evans Treasurer Chris Jones

Mitchell County

Vern Grindstaff, Chair, Commissioner Charles Vines, Mayor, Bakersville Darla Harding, Mayor, Spruce Pine

Watauga County

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

Wilkes County

Gary D. Blevins, Commissioner Sandra P. Simmons, Commissioner, Ronda Robert L. Johnson, Mayor, North Wilkesboro Russell Ferree, Mayor Pro Tem, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Johnny Riddle, Commissioner Theresa Coletta, Mayor, Burnsville

Advisory Committee Dale Baldwin Gary D. Blevins Rennie Brantz Mark Evans Valerie Jaynes Robert L. Johnson Chris Jones Brenda Lyerly Johnny Riddle Charles Vines

What’s Inside 45th Annual Banquet 4 The 45th Annual Banquet was a time to celebrate service, dedication, consensus, relationships, and cooperation among local governments and stakeholders. During the event, local elected officials, government employees, and board members were recognized for exemplary leadership and service.

Town of Blowing Rock Infrastructure Projects 2019................................ 9 Seven Devils Town Hall Relocation............................................................... 10 Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Projects............... 10 Regional Highlights............................................................................................ 11 ŒŒ New Hire for Town of Blowing Rock ŒŒ New Hires for Town of North Wilkesboro Area Agency on Aging ŠŠ Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 12 ŠŠ National Emergency Preparedness Month.............................................. 17 ŠŠ Long-Term Ombudsmen Advocates and Beyond Falls Prevention.......... 18 ŠŠ Current Trends in Caregiving and Alternatives for Caregiver Burnout.... 19 Planning and Development ŠŠ Department Highlights and Projects................................................................ 21 ŠŠ Town of Banner Elk Updates Pedestrian Plan.......................................... 24 ŠŠ Avery County Chamber of Commerce Broadband Expansion Project..... 25 ŠŠ Mitchell County Comprehensive Transportation Plan............................ 26 Workforce Development ŠŠ Department Highlights and Projects............................................................... 28 ŠŠ Learning and Earning on the Job............................................................. 32 ŠŠ NCWorks in Wilkes Going Back to School/How Can NCWorks Help........ 33 ŠŠ High Country WDB Formally Endorses myFutureNC............................... 34

45th Annual Banquet

On September 6, 2019, High Country Council of Governments held its annual awards banquet to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions by elected officials, local government employees, and advisory committee members. High Country Council of Governments (HCCOG) is a planning and development agency serving local governments in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties. Award winners were selected by elected and appointed officials from the seven-county region. HCCOG Planning & Development Director, Phil Trew, presented the first award. Avery County Commissioner, Wood Hall Young Jr. was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Rural Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) Member by his fellow board members. This award recognizes an individual’s contribution to the region as a whole and their knowledge of the region’s transportation needs. Mr. Young has served on the High Country Rural Outstanding RPO RTAC Member: Wood Hall Young Jr. Planning Organization (RPO) since January 2017 with (pictured with Planning & Development Director Phil Trew) excellent attendance. He is a very engaged member of the committee, tries to learn more about the region’s transportation needs and issues at every meeting and routinely inquires about transportation projects outside of regular meetings of the RTAC. Mr. Young works effectively with other RTAC members, NCDOT staff, RPO staff and supports the efforts of the High Country RPO to plan for and improve the region’s transportation network. Workforce Development Board Director, Keith Deveraux presented the next award of the evening. Jeff Dryer, Director of Manufacturing at American Emergency Vehicles was selected by fellow board members as this year’s Outstanding Regional Workforce Development Board Member. This award Outstanding WDB Board Member: Jeff Dryer (pictured recognizes service and effort given to the region with WDB Director Keith Deveraux) 4 and its citizens in workforce development.

Mr. Dreyer currently serves as Vice Chair and has served the board’s Executive Committee which reviews grant applications and Request for Proposal submissions among other regional workforce issues. In addition, he helped shape the region’s Manufacturing Career Pathway certification, which documented the engagement and collaboration of employers and educators with the goal of creating a pipeline of trained workers with the necessary credentials to work in manufacturing. Written by his fellow board members in their nominations of him, “Jeff has served the board, and the citizens that we serve, faithfully. Plus, he is just a great guy, adding levity and thoughtful considerations to every meeting.” Plus, “Jeff makes a tremendous contribution to the success of AEV.” Nicole Hiegl, Area Agency on Aging Director presented the next award. Wilkes County resident Kenneth Foster was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Senior Tar Heel Legislature member. This award honors remarkable service and contributions to the older adults in the region. This year’s recipient is a native of Wilkes County. He graduated from Wilkes Central High School, earned a B.A. degree at UNC Chapel Hill, and later a M.A. degree and an Ed.S. degree at Appalachian State University. He has worked for Wilkes County Schools for 34 years, where his last assignment was a counselor at North Wilkes High School. Outstanding STHL Member: Kenneth Foster (pictured with

Being civic-minded, he served as president of Wilkes AAA Director Nicole Hiegl) County Retired School Personnel for four years as well as being active in several community organizations. Four years ago, he took his first Tai Chi class at the Wilkes Senior Center seeking relief for chronic back pain. He loved Tai Chi so much he continued taking classes and earned his instructor’s certification. Currently he teaches Tai Chi four mornings each week. He has represented Wilkes County in the Senior Tar Heel Legislature for three years and served on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging for two years. He thoroughly enjoys being an advocate for our senior citizens. HCCOG Executive Director, Julie Wiggins presented the next two awards. Banner Elk Town Manager, Rick Owen was recognized by the region’s managers/administrators, and local elected officials, as this year’s Outstanding Local Government Manager in the High Country region. The award acknowledges the contributions a manager has made to local government through his/her professionalism, leadership, and accomplishments as manager or chief administrator. Mr. Owen is known to have a calm, cool and collected leadership style. His leadership has translated into 9 years of growth, along with development and prosperity for the town he serves. Under his leadership and guidance, the town has made infrastructure Outstanding Local Government Manager: Rick Owen improvements that will secure future development. (pictured with Executive Director Julie Wiggins) He worked with County Commissioners to secure the purchase of an old school, the staple center piece of his town. His foresight and leadership on this


project preserved the landscape of this charming town. The old school was turned into a Cultural Art Complex under his leadership and guidance and is now home to a Theatre Company, Yoga Studio, Art Studio, Mayland Community College classrooms and much more. Mr. Owen maintains positive relationships with the local college, businesses, elected officials, neighboring towns, and the county as a whole. He has the utmost respect for his employees, Town Council members, visitors and residents and often goes above and beyond for their needs. He is the first one to town hall every day and the last one to leave. Having never allowed Town Hall to be closed for snow days, he will tell his staff to stay home, but he is always there. Mr. Owen was a local elected official for the Town of Beech Mountain for 22 years, serving as Mayor for 16 of those years. He has been awarded Banner Elk Chamber Person of the Year, Lees McRae College Alumni of the Year, and was the Past President of NC Resort Towns and Convention Cities. Watauga County resident Kathy Combs was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Staff Member at High Country Council of Governments. This award recognizes an individual’s willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, contributing to a positive work environment, and promoting a healthy image of the COG in our region. Mrs. Combs has contributed to the COG in various capacities for nearly 15 years. During those 15 years, she has repeatedly demonstrated her willingness to take on additional roles and responsibilities to support the organization and her colleagues.

Outstanding HCCOG Staff Member: Kathy Combs

Staff nominations stated that she is not only highly responsive, very helpful, a team player, and makes everyone feel appreciated, but she does so with a positive attitude and smile on her face. Executive Board Chair and Yancey County Commissioner, Johnny Riddle, presented the final two awards. Alleghany County Commissioner/Chair, Mark Evans was selected as this year’s Outstanding Local Elected Official in the High Country Region. This award honors outstanding service and leadership to the community. Mr. Evans became a County Commissioner in 2014, and he has served as his county’s representative on the HCCOG Executive Board since 2016. He has been County Commissioner Board Chairman for 3 years. He is a true Alleghany local, small business owner and family man. Mr. Evans has been involved in several important projects that had positive impacts on his county, including: a new library, a new county maintenance garage, a new Senior Center in progress and a Disc Golf Course in progress. He has also supported the Sparta Streetscape, Veteran’s Memorial Park and the Haven of Hope Child Advocacy Center, helped update 2way radio communication, initiated annual board retreats, attends the NCACC annual conference, and has shown support for an Alleghany Memorial Hospital partnership with Hugh Chatham and Wake Forest Baptist Medical to sustain the county’s rural hospital. Outstanding Local Elected Official: Mr. Evans serves on many more Boards and Committees that are Mark Evans 6 too numerous to list both in the County in which he serves, and

across the entire region. He truly cares about the citizens and employees of the county he serves, and he’s always willing to help out in any way--he is currently serving as Interim County Manager. He is considered a great asset to the county as well as a friend. The High Country Council of Governments’ Executive Board chose Gary D. Blevins, Wilkes County Commissioner, as their Outstanding Executive Board Member. This award honors service and effort in promoting cooperation among local governments in the region and the state. Mr. Blevins is passionate, determined, has boundless energy, and is a very dedicated public servant. He has served on the High Country Council of Government’s Executive Board since 2008, serving as Chairman twice. He is currently a County Commissioner, a role in-which he has served in for the past 11 years, also serving as Board Chairman 3 of those years; as well as Outstanding HCCOG Executive Board Member: Gary D. Vice Chairman for 3 years. Blevins (pictured with HCCOG Board Chair Johnny Riddle) He has also served on many Boards and Committees with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and in 2016 was awarded the coveted Most Outstanding County Commissioner Award from a field of over 600 County Commissioners across the State. Mr. Blevins was appointed by the Governor to the North Carolina Arboretum Board of Directors. He currently serves as Chairman of the North Carolina Association of Regional Councils of Governments and has been a part of this Forum since 2014. He is a graduate and Alumni of the UNC School of Government Local Elected Leaders Academy Mr. Blevins serves on many more Boards and Committees that are too numerous to list both in the County in which he serves, and across the entire state. His leadership and vision are invaluable. He is well known for his collaboration, partnership, and consensus building. He has been instrumental in working with both local Officials, Legislatures, and State Government Leadership to make sure Wilkes County and the entire High Country Region continue to gown and prosper. Chairman Riddle also recognized Mayor of West Jefferson, Dale Baldwin for his many years of service to his town and the region as a whole. Dale Baldwin was elected and served as an Alderman from 1968-1977, then again from 1985-1989 and appointed for 9 months of a term in 1997. Dale was elected Mayor and served from 1997-2003 and again in 2011-to present. In 2008, he received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the Governor and in 2015 he received the Outstanding Local Government Elected Official in the High Country region. He has served on the HCCOG Executive Board and Advisory Committee for seven years. HCCOG would like to congratulate all award recipients and thank them for their dedicated service to High Country citizens.

Special Recognition: Mayor of West Jefferson, Dale Baldwin, 25+ Years of Service in Local Government 7

45th Annual Banquet Photo Gallery click here


Town of Blowing Rock Infrastructure Projects 2019 Calendar year 2019 has seen the Town of Blowing Rock’s focus place a tremendous emphasis on water and sewer infrastructure improvements. A total of three projects this year have demonstrated the planning and commitment that the Town is putting towards upgrading water and sewer lines, storm water, and finally streetscape. These three projects will result in a total of approximately 6,800 linear feet of water line replacement and approximately 1,200 linear feet of sewer line replacement. The largest of the three projects is the Sunset Drive Infrastructure and Streetscape Project. This $2.6M project consists of street and utility improvements along Sunset Drive from Main Street to Valley Boulevard. Iron Mountain Construction Company, Inc. of Mountain City, TN is acting as the general contractor. Work began on April 1st and has included 1,500 linear feet of 6-inch and 8-inch water line and 1,200 linear feet of 8-inch sewer line replacement. The replacement of fire hydrants and all new service taps are included. The replacement of these main lines and taps are crucial to functionality of one of the main business corridors in the Town. The existing water and sewer lines date back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. The project also includes replacement of the storm grates and manholes along Sunset Drive. The streetscape phase of the project will include the removal of existing surfaces and asphalt paving the entire length of Sunset Drive. New concrete drive aprons, new sidewalks, and traffic stripping the entire length of Sunset Drive will complete the project. The project is currently on schedule and has a completion date of November 27, 2019. The second infrastructure project that the Town of Blowing Rock is undergoing this year is the Sourwood Lane water line replacement. This is a commitment of $850,000 towards the replacement of approximately 5,000 linear feet of 6-inch and 2-inch water lines which are the crucial portion of the project. The replacement of 12 stack stone manholes and widening of the street in certain locations is also included. The final portion of the project will see new asphalt and ditch work. The project is scheduled to be complete the first of October. The general contractor for this project is Iron Mountain Construction Company, Inc. The third infrastructure project that the Town of Blowing Rock has seen this year is the water line replacement on Heather Ridge Lane. Unlike the other two infrastructure projects, the water line replacement on Heather Ridge was completely conducted by Town staff. The project consisted of the replacement of approximately 300 linear feet of water line. This project marks the first time in recent memory that the Town Public Works department has installed a complete water line replacement to a residential service area. As the Town of Blowing Rock moves into the year 2020, further importance of planning and prioritizing the infrastructure needs will continue. The Town of Blowing Rock is fully committed to providing the very best in service to all of its residents, business owners and stakeholders.


Seven Devils Town Hall Relocation The Town of Seven Devils is pleased to announce the relocation of our Town Hall to 157 Seven Devils Road (previously the Skyline/Skybest building) as of September 19th! In conjunction with our 40th Anniversary Celebration (1979-2019), we held a Ribbon Cutting ceremony on August 23rd, as well as a BBQ lunch, and Music by the Lake by Dixie Dawn and the Kruger Brothers, all sponsored by the Seven Devils TDA.

The Administration Department and the Police Department have moved into the new building; the Fire Department remains at the old Town Hall. A Planning Committee has been formed to make recommendations on repurposing the old Town Hall.

Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Projects Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development is a non-profit organization that works with local communities to improve the quality of life and standard of living in our seven county area. Our goal is to address needs and opportunities in the area of water management, land management, community development, and land conservation. We are passionate about improving natural and human resources and making the region a better place to live, work, and play. Some current projects include: Town of West Jefferson and Ashe County Stormwater Management, Middle Fork Greenway Restoration, Mount Calvary Church Stabilization, Crossnore School Restoration, Mayland Community College Innovative Stormwater Management, Grassy Creek Restoration and OVNHT, Todd Island Park Streambank Stabilization, Ray Cort Park Restoration and Stormwater Management, Appalachian RC&D Fire Adapted Communities Coalition, Ward’s Mill Dam Removal, and renewable energy & energy efficiency funding and assistance for small business and farms through the ECAP program. Please contact Jonathan Hartsell if you have any questions about Blue Ridge RC&D or if you need any project assistance. 828.284.9818 or www.blueridgercd.com

Children from Cove Creek School (Watauga County) receiving 35 pairs of Crocs to assist with river exploration. 10

Streambank restoration project at Todd Island Park (Ashe County).

Regional Highlights

New Hire for Town of Blowing Rock Shane Fox, the new town manager started June 3. Fox is originally from Granite Falls, NC but is no stranger to the High Country. While most recently, Fox served as CFO and Assistant County Manager for Cleveland County, NC, prior to that Fox served as the Executive Director of High Country COG. Fox graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Accounting. Fox is a member of the International City/County Managers Association, the Government Finance Officers Association, and has served on numerous boards during the past 18 years. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Blowing Rock with their three children, Ryan, Caroline and Owen.

Blowing Rock Town Manager, Shane Fox

North Wilkesboro Welcomes New Town Manager & Town Planner Wilson Hooper, the new town manager started July 29. A native of Rockingham County, Hooper has worked for the City of Charlotte for a little over 12 years, including the first 10 as assistant to the city manager/business manager. He has a bachelor of arts degree in political science and history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Hooper is married and has two children, ages 6 and 1.

Meredith Detsch, the new town planner started on North Wilkesboro Town August 1. Detsch of Charleston, SC, has worked as town Manager, Wilson Hooper planner for Summerville, SC and for the city of Gastonia, NC. Detsch has a bachelor of science degree in geography and planning and a master of public administration degree in public management from Appalachian State University. She is a North Carolina native and graduated from Rocky Mount High School.

North Wilkesboro Town Planner, Meredith Detsch


Area Agency on Aging Staff Nicole Hiegl

Director nhiegl@regiond.org ext.122

Amber Chapman

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

Pat Guarnieri

Caregiver Program Coordinator pguarnieri@regiond.org ext.139

Stevie John

Regional Ombudsman sjohn@regiond.org ext.126

Tim Price

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

Diane Tilson

Aging Program Assistant dtilson@regiond.org ext.141

Department Highlights | www.highcountryaging.org | Watauga Project on Aging Chosen by Carolina Panthers for “Keep Pounding Day” In May, Carolina Panthers staff, Lowe’s Home Improvement staff, and residents of the High Country joined together to build a new garden area at the Watauga County Project on Aging’s Lois E. Harrill Senior Center. The Center was selected by the Panthers as a part of the organization’s inaugural “Keep Pounding Day.” During the event, volunteers helped build a variety of garden beds, including raised beds for older adults who have limited mobility. With the new garden plots, many older adults who had previously given up gardening can now rekindle their passion by cultivating the vast variety of plants the location has to offer. According to Panthers owner David Tepper, “Community service is… one of the most important things we can do.” Thanks to the generous donations of materials and volunteer hours from both the Panthers and from Lowe’s, participants at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center will have gardening fun for years to come. 12

September 23rd-27th Focuses on Falls Prevention Awareness in North Carolina Thirty million older adults fall each year-resulting in about 30,000 deaths. Falls are common and costly, especially among individuals 65 and older. However, falls are preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging. The High Country Area Agency on Aging is dedicated to preventing falls in our community. We do this by offering Fall Prevention Classes including Tai Chi and Matter of Balance, in our counties, free of charge to adults 60 and older. The High Country AAA can also do home safety assessments for caregivers of adults 60 years of age or older. If you are interested in helping us prevent falls in our communities. Join one of our Fall Prevention Coalitions and discuss ways to prevent falls in older adults. Let us help you prevent falls in your everyday life and at home! If you are interested in learning more about our fall prevention resources, classes or coalitions, please contact: Amber Chapman, Family Caregiver & Health Promotion Specialist


(828) 265-5434 ext.113


National Senior Center Month: The Key to Aging Well National Senior Center Month is celebrated every September as a way to educate the public about the fantastic activities and groups offered at senior centers around the country. Senior centers are important in the mission of helping older adults remain healthy. According to a survey of 7,000 senior center participants around North Carolina, attending and participating in senior center activities led to improved physical well-being, including better management of health and increased physical activity. In addition, respondents who attend and participate in senior center activities report enhanced mental wellbeing, including increased creativity, development of stronger support systems, and learning new information and skills. The survey also found senior centers are positive for community development, as respondents reported that after becoming senior center participants, they feel as though they now have better advocacy skills, they are more likely to volunteer, and they have a better understanding of available services within the community. One important response from the survey showed that participation at senior centers reduces social isolation. Individuals who are socially isolated have increased mortality rates, higher rates of dementia, and overall worse health outcomes when compared to those with regular socialization and more effective support systems. Senior centers have programs that reduce social isolation by expanding support systems and enhancing socialization, so it is important to support these important local resources. In the High Country, we are blessed to have such compassionate senior center staff working to make our senior centers vibrant and welcoming. Not only do the senior center staff work to create lasting memories for older adults, but they are also fierce advocates! The senior centers in our region offer a variety of services, including meal and nutrition services, transportation assistance, health and wellness activities, social events, and much more! For more information on how you can get involved, please reach out to your local senior services organization from the list below:


Alleghany County Breaking Ground to Build the Community a New Senior Center Karon Edwards, Executive Director, of the Alleghany Council on Aging (ACOA) states, “We are excited to announce that Alleghany Council on Aging is getting a new Senior Center! Alleghany County is graciously providing the construction of the new building on property donated by the Alleghany Wellness Center. We are grateful for this county and community support and look forward to utilizing this new space and location for expanded services and programs to the older adults of Alleghany County.” The current Senior Center building was built in the 1940s just after WWII as a Works Progress Administration. It has limited space for senior center activities and two levels, which can be tricky for those with limited mobility. This building will be renovated and turned in a county courthouse annex. The new Senior Center will be a single level, 4,800 square feet building, located on the campus of the Alleghany Wellness Center. It will have suitable space for community-based service administration and senior center activities including congregate meals, health and social activities, and additional meeting space for classes and education, which will enhance our current programs. Alleghany Council on Aging activities should begin to operate out of this new building by the Spring of 2020.

Ashe Services for Aging Suicide Prevention Project Suicide rates in Ashe are higher than both NC and national averages, and males over age 65 are disproportionately represented among those who commit suicide. Furthermore, 78% of suicide deaths in Ashe involve the use of a firearm. These staggering statistics have prompted a partnership between Ashe Services for Aging and ASU Psychology professor Dr. JP Jameson. Students from Dr. JP Jameson’s undergraduate honors seminar will be working with staff and volunteers at Ashe Services for Aging to implement a multi-approach project aimed at reducing the incidence of suicide in older adults. A program developed by Dr. Jameson called CARPE Diem will be used. The acronym stands for Connect, Ask about risk, Refer for services, Plan for safety, Encourage hope, and today (diem). The training will also incorporate CALM, or Counseling on Access to Lethal Means. With the assistance and guidance of their professor, students will lead training sessions for assisted living staff, home-delivered meals volunteers, senior center staff and volunteers, nurses, social workers, and CNAs. In addition, students will design supplemental materials for participants, an evaluation of the training, and media materials that will be displayed in the common areas of the Senior Center. 14

For additional information contact Patricia Calloway, Executive Director, Ashe Services for Aging Phone: (336) 246-2461.

Yancey County’s Senior Center Partnership Yancey County’s Senior Center Director, Jackie Thomas, highlights a local partnership to increase the access of locally grown foods for the older adults of Yancey County: “In September The Yancey County Senior Center teamed up with TRACTOR Food and Farms group and DIG IN, in what I call “little red bag operation” and what that entails is on Fridays for the months of September and October they will be bringing us red insulated bags filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables. The point of this is we take the twenty five bags and deliver them with the Meals on Wheels. The allotment is for five weeks at 25+ bags a week. This helps us, help those that may need extra food on the weekends so that family members can fix something fresh for their loved ones. So far the program has been a success and we look forward to advancing with it in the future.” For additional information about the “Little Red Bags,” contact Jackie Thomas at the Yancey County Senior Center (828) 682-6011.

Mental Health and Older Adults It is just as important for an older person with symptoms of depression to seek treatment as it is for someone younger. The impact of depression and mental health issues in older adults can be severe; sometimes more severe than those who are younger. Research has shown that depression is associated with worse health in people with conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Depression can make caregiving difficult and can complicate the treatment of the conditions stated above. Depression can lead to suicide, and this is very dangerous for an older adult. Older adults appear to have a unique set of factors that place them at a high risk of suicide. In order to prevent suicide in older adults, we need to recognize the signs. The signs include: • Depression • Prior suicide attempts • Marked feelings of hopelessness; lack of interest in future plans • Feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose • Medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy • Impulsivity due to cognitive impairment • Social isolation • Family discord or losses (i.e. recent death of a loved one) • Inflexible personality or marked difficulty adapting to change • Access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, other weapons, etc) • Daring or risk-taking behavior • Sudden personality changes It is crucial that friends and family of older adults identify signs of suicidal thoughts and take appropriate follow-up actions to prevent them from acting on these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of depression and should always be taken seriously. If you observe these warning signs, or if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or reach out to your local mental health crisis organization. Day Mark ( Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga, and Wilkes) 24 HR Crisis Hotline: 866.275.9552 Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.8255 Vaya Health (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey) 24/7 Access to Care Line: 800.849.6127 15

Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Health Care Center The Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Daycare is currently in their 11th year of operation and has provided services for over 385 participants and families. They serve families who were struggling with finding/accepting help, struggling with patience and learning how to work with their loved ones behavior or developed habits and struggling with learning what is best for their loved one, all while keeping them at home. Currently they have 54 active enrollees and a 33 average daily attendance. The team at the Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Daycare love what they do each day to serve the community and welcome new participants. For more information about the Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Daycare, call (336) 667-2541.


National Emergency Preparedness Month September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, which means this is a great time for individuals to ensure they are prepared for disasters and emergencies at home, at work, and throughout the community. According to the American Red Cross, the three steps to emergency preparedness include creating an emergency kit, making an emergency plan, and staying informed.

1. Create an Emergency Kit Disasters can happen at any moment. By planning ahead, you can avoid waiting in long lines for critical supplies, such as food, water and medicine and you will also have essential items if you need to evacuate. The American Red Cross suggests that for your safety and comfort, it is best to have a disaster supplies kit packed and ready in one place. The kit should have enough supplies to last for at least three days. In addition, individuals should store supplies in an easy-to-carry container, such as a backpack or duffel bags, and it may be best to invest in a container with wheels. Be sure the emergency supplies bag has an ID tag and all equipment, including wheelchairs and walkers, are marked with your name, address and phone numbers. As a reminder, it is always best to ensure your kit, including food, water and batteries, remain up-to-date at all times.

2. Make an Emergency Plan The next time a disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Prepare now for a sudden emergency and remember to review your plan regularly. The American Red Cross suggests that during this process, it is best to explain your concerns to your family and others in your support network and work with them as a team to prepare. Arrange for someone to check on you at the time of a disaster and be sure to include any caregivers in your meeting and planning efforts. Additionally, assess yourself and your household, including assessing any personal abilities and limitations that may affect your response to a disaster. Think about how you can resolve these or other questions and discuss them with your family and friends. Some additional tips include posting emergency phone numbers near your phones, planning for pets and service animals, understanding how to turn off utilities, and keeping vital records and documents in a safe location.

3. Stay Informed It is best to know what hazards are most likely to happen in your community, specifically where you reside. Preparing for a hazard that is most likely to happen in your area will help you be prepared for any disaster. Remember, disasters can happen at any time. Know how local authorities will warn you of a pending or current disaster situation and how they will provide information to you before, during, and after a disaster. Additionally, before a disaster happens it is a good idea to have a conversation with those in your support network: your friends, family and neighbors. Let them know your needs in an emergency situation and ask them how they could assist with your plan and whether they would be willing to help. For more information on creating an emergency kit, making an emergency plan, and staying informed, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Additional emergency preparedness information from the Department of Homeland Security can be found at www.ready.gov. Remember – be prepared, not scared!


Long-Term Ombudsmen Advocates Seek to Empower Residents in Long-Term Care The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) was established in the Older Americans Act in 1978, following a demonstration project which began in 1972. Each state has a State Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and most states train and designate volunteers to carry out the duties of the program. In 2018, the High Country Area Agency on Aging Community Advisory Committee (CACs) volunteers supported residents living in 11 nursing homes and 15 assisted living facilities. Additionally, CACs provided 1,149 hours of service and drove 6,736 miles to advocate for residents in their communities Community Advisory Committees help inform and empower residents so they can make their own choices. Volunteer ombudsmen visit residents, identify and investigate complaints, and educate the residents, families, and facility staff on maintaining the health, safety, welfare, and rights of individuals living in long-term care settings. The High Country Area Agency on Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is looking for caring individuals to visit long term care facilities in order to make residents aware of their rights. Appointees must be 18 years or older and must reside in the county that they serve. They cannot have an immediate family member residing in or employed by the type of home that their committee covers. Additionally, they cannot be employed by an agency that has direct involvement in the licensing or certification of a long-term care facility, nor can they have a financial interest in a long-term care facility. Previous experience in health care isn’t required, but volunteers must have a strong appreciation for older adults and adults with disabilities.

Contact Person: Stevie John, Regional Long Term Care Ombudsman


(828) 265-5434 ext.126


Beyond Falls Prevention: Strong Body, Strong Mind Strong Body, Strong Mind is a collaboration between the Area Agency on Aging and Appalachian State University to improve physical and cognitive health and wellbeing in older adults. Students and faculty from the Appalachian State University Speech Language Pathology program have partnered with the Area Agency on Aging for the past year to provide a “Strong Mind� supplemental program to accompany to Strong Body, Strong Mind Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention program. In addition to regular exercise and controlling cardiovascular risk factors, research has demonstrated that participation in mentally stimulating and socially engaging activities may help to sustain brain function. Tai chi not only helps to improve balance, strength and flexibility, but is also mentally challenging while also providing a supportive social environment. The Strong Mind portion of the program is a cognitive wellness program focusing on education and cognitive strategies for enhancing functional memory performance. Each session focuses on memory and word finding strategies that participants can use at home. Response to the program has been very positive and participation continues to grow.

Contact Person: Nicole Hiegl, AAA Director



(828) 265-5434 ext.122


Current Trends in Caregiving and Alternatives for Caregiver Burnout: NC Respite Programs may be Able to Assist Unpaid Caregivers

The Aging Population is Increasing The number of Baby Boomers turning 65 is rising annually, causing significant changes in demographics. According to the Social Security Administration the number of baby boomers turning 65 annually beginning in 2011 was one million per year. That equates to 10,000 people turning 65 annually for the next 2 decades. By 2030, 1 in 5 North Carolinians will be 65 or older. Because of this rapidly aging demographic, we continue to see a growing need and impact on the older adult and caregiver community. A significant economic impact of caregiving will be felt as the boomers get older. According to research from the AARP Public Policy Institute, the economic impact is increasing. Though this report covers all unpaid caregivers of adults - not just those over age 65, they note that “In 2013, about 40 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 37 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities. The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $470 billion in 2013, up from an estimated $450 billion in 2009. The contribution both emotionally and financially from unpaid family caregivers often goes unnoticed. Two important considerations are 1) what options are available to aging boomers and who will provide that care? and 2) what is the impact from unpaid caregiver burnout? As the number of baby boomers turn 65 the percent of our population that is in that age range will increase, and so will the need for caregivers - both informal - unpaid caregivers and for paid caregivers. Alternatives for care and other challenges Alternatives for aging boomers may include not only unpaid caregivers, but also care provided through public social services. There are other options for those that can afford to pay someone. Alternatives today may include hiring individuals, adult day care centers, in-home care agencies, or choosing other community living such as independent living, assisted living or skilled care communities. Affecting these alternatives is a recently occurring challenge – that of finding someone willing to help or hiring someone who is qualified. With high employment in the country, and low pay rates for caregivers such as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), these individuals may look for higher wages in a different field limiting staff in both publicly funded services and for profit services at a time when the increased needs are starting to climb. In addition, as some of the baby boomers age and retire, some of the available higher skilled caregivers, such as nurses, may leave a larger gap in the hiring pool for some provider organizations, many of whom are scrambling today for creative ways to hire, train and attract new employees. Staffing is critical. Rising numbers of unpaid caregivers and caregiver burnout According to a 2015 survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the 12 months prior to the survey. * The typical caregiver is a 49 year old female who provides care 24.4 hours a week for an average of 4 years. * She is the primary, unpaid care provider and provides care without the assistance of paid help. She is typically employed and working an average of 34.7 hours per week. * These caregivers typically help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as help with bathing and dressing and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) such as running errands or managing finances, and usually conduct medical or nursing tasks (such as wound care, giving injections, or managing medications) for their loved one. * The care recipient, likely lives either with the caregiver or very close by (within 20 minutes of the caregiver’s home). The care recipient typically has been hospitalized at least once in the past year. 19

Current Trends in Caregiving and Alternatives for Caregiver Burnout: NC Respite Programs may be Able to Assist Unpaid Caregivers (cont.)

The typical caregiver description doesn’t cover those on the end of the spectrum such as a caregiver spending 24 hours a day for 10 years or more who no longer works, or an aged spouse with some health issues who is now taking care of a rapidly declining spouse. Though there are many rewards to caregiving including finding meaning and purpose, being a role model for a family, renewal of a relationship, etc., what may not be considered is the wider impact to not only caregivers but society as well: loss of wages if the caregiver loses their job or decides to leave, costs of rehiring or lost productivity by employer, the significant additional costs the family pays for out of pocket costs, and possible reduced levels of health caused by exhaustion, lack of sleep, depression, neglect of self and strained social relationship. Public Alternative Option for Caregivers These may include contacting your Area Agency on Aging for alternatives including local social services, for transportation, home delivered or congregate meals, or possibly In-Home Aide (I, II, or III - different levels for different levels of care needed and availability.) In addition, they can connect you with Medicaid alternatives, or even other non-profits which may provide solutions depending on the specific circumstances. Providing respite Respite, or a short or intermittent break, may be a way to allow an unpaid caregiver to temporarily benefit from a break in caregiving duties in order to re-energize. Respite is defined as a “short period of rest or relief from something difficult.” The state of NC provides several options. Three NC programs which provide respite care for those caregivers who aren’t already receiving any respite or publicly funded care, might be considered.

1. Project C.A.R.E. – If an unpaid caregiver is providing care

to someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, call a NC Project C.A.R.E at one of the six offices. In the High Country call Karen Phoenix at 828485-4267 and leave a message to set an appointment in the next few weeks. She will typically return your call in a few days. 2. Family Caregiver Support Program – If the care recipient (the individual who is being cared for) is age 60 or older, contact this alternative. In the High Country you may contact Family Caregiver Consultant Amber Chapman at 828-265-5434 X 113. This local program is managed through the High Country AAA. 3. North Carolina Lifespan Respite Program – If the caregiver has explored all options (including the two above, and other options or programs that might provide a break) contact Pat Guarnieri at 828-265-5434 x 139. This statewide program is administered out of the AAA in Boone, NC. This program requires a referring agent in the human services area to complete an online application on behalf of the caregiver. In addition, the program, which is considered the last stop in trying to find respite, will help those caregivers taking care of someone of any age, not just someone who is a Boomer! 20

Planning and Development Staff Phil Trew

Kelly Coffey

Cory Osborne

Michelle Ball

David Graham

Jessica Welborn

Director ptrew@regiond.org ext.121

Regional Planner mball@regiond.org ext.115

Senior Planner kcoffey@regiond.org ext.114

Transportation Planner dgraham@regiond.org ext.135

Regional Planner cosborne@regiond.org ext.118

GIS Planner jwelborn@regiond.org ext.134

Department Highlights | www.regiond.org West Jefferson Police Receive Funding for New Radios The Town of West Jefferson Police Department recently received a Governor’s Crime Commission grant to purchase four interoperable radios, otherwise known by the name “Viper” (Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders). The need for interoperable radios nationwide became evident during a number of emergencies- such as hurricane disasters and the terrorist attacks in 2001- when first responders were unable to communicate with each other because their radios were incompatible. The new radios eliminate this handicap, bringing the Town police department in line with other public safety agencies. The new radios cost approximately $6,000 each. North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission grants finance a wide variety of law enforcement-based projects- including equipment, juvenile justice, and domestic violence programs- with funds from the federal Department of Justice. Eligible project types vary from year to year.


2020 Census Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP) High Country COG GIS staff recently completed the 2020 Census Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP) for all seven counties in the region. The 2020 PSAP enables local governments to review and update selected statistical area boundaries (block groups and census tracts) for 2020 Census data tabulation following U.S. Census Bureau guidelines and criteria. High Country COG staff reviewed the boundaries to ensure they coincided with logical political boundaries, roadways, and natural features. The Census Bureau also will use the statistical areas defined for the 2020 Census to tabulate data for the annual American Community Survey (ACS) estimates and the Economic Census. Previously, the COG had completed the 2010 PSAP for the region.

Lansing Adopts First Ever Land Use Plan Despite its small population of just 155 people, the Town of Lansing has established a reputation as one of the region’s most proactive communities. A coalition of local leaders, active volunteers, and a strong non-profit network have spearheaded recent revitalization efforts. Their success is most evident in Lansing’s Creeper Trail Park – a newly expanded recreation destination for the surrounding area featuring walking paths, mountain bike trails, fishing, event space, and a dog park. Seeking to build on that success and keep momentum going, the Town partnered with High Country COG to develop Lansing’s first ever land use plan. Staff from the COG’s Planning and Development Department worked closely with a locally appointed steering committee to guide creation of the document. Following extensive public input, stakeholder interviews, and in-depth analysis of existing conditions, COG staff identified a set of practical recommendations related to land use, infrastructure, and environmental considerations. Each recommendation came with a timetable for implementation, suggestions for how to best achieve them, and possible resources for assistance. The finished plan, adopted in July, provides community leaders with a guidebook for future development and policy decisions.


Sparta Receives PARTF Grant The North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority recently awarded a $194,572 grant to the Town of Sparta to expand and improve Crouse Park. The park is a popular recreation area in the heart of Alleghany County and hosts several community events throughout the year. As part of the project, a local non-profit organization has agreed to donate an adjacent property containing the Alleghany County Farmers Market shelter to the Town. The donated property, which is appraised at a value of $198,000, adds just over an acre of land and will expand the park’s size by nearly 20%. Sparta will use grant funds to add several new features to the park, including a children’s outdoor fitness area, natural play area for toddlers, picnic shelter, water fountains, cornhole sets, new sidewalks, and muchneeded accessible restrooms. The Town will also replace aging playground equipment to enhance safety and incorporate new handicap accessible equipment to enable children of all physical abilities to enjoy the park. High Country COG staff worked with Sparta to develop a master plan for Crouse Park improvements and to write the grant application for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF).

Sparta Streetscape Project Receives Additional Funding The Town of Sparta recently began construction on a multimillion-dollar streetscape project that, when complete, will transform its downtown into a pedestrian friendly hub of commercial activity. The redesign is the result of years of planning and financial maneuvering between several local, state, and federal partners. The project’s future fell under scrutiny last year when construction bids came in significantly higher than the cost estimates outlined in the preliminary engineering report. Sparta worked closely with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Division, Alleghany County, and project engineers to reevaluate costs and secure additional funding. Due to the high construction bids, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) invited Sparta to apply for additional grant funding to supplement the agency’s prior award on the project. The Town reached out to High Country COG’s Planning and Development Department for assistance in preparing the supplemental application. Town and COG staff worked closely to provide ARC and USDA with the detailed information and materials they required as part of the application process. This summer, ARC notified the Town that it had successfully secured an additional $200,000 in grant funds. The long-envisioned streetscape project will soon be a reality thanks to the determination of Sparta and its partners.


Town of Banner Elk Updates Pedestrian Plan The Town of Banner Elk recently updated its Pedestrian Plan. The Town had been implementing both a 1999 Master Streetscape Plan and a 2009 Pedestrian Plan. Updates were needed to reflect accomplishments of recommendations from both plans, as well as recent and proposed development projects. The resulting amended Town of Banner Elk Pedestrian Plan replaces both former documents, and incorporates changes requested by the Banner Elk Planning Board and Town Council. Highlights of the Plan include: • Revised existing sidewalk and greenway inventory based on field verification • More accurate mapping to reflect specific alignment of proposed sidewalks and greenways • Removal of previous recommendations that were redundant or impractical • Consideration of topography and natural features The Plan will be used by the Town to prioritize future pedestrian improvements, guide future capital investments, and pursue grant opportunities. The Pedestrian Plan is also referenced in the Town’s Zoning Ordinance, which requires new commercial development to install sidewalks if they are included in the Plan. High Country COG staff assisted the Town with field work, mapping, and presentation of the Pedestrian Plan Update to the Planning Board and Town Council.


Avery County Chamber of Commerce Broadband Expansion Project On January 24, 2018 Avery County Chamber of Commerce received a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to expand broadband internet access to unserved and underserved areas of the County. A survey conducted in October 2015 identified several areas of Avery County with limited to no broadband service. These areas included the Towns of Crossnore and Elk Park and the communities of Cranberry, Minneapolis, Roaring Creek, Plumtree, Ingalls, Linville Falls, Altamont, Pineola, Pyatte, and Montezuma. The Chamber solicited proposals from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and selected North Carolina Wireless (NCW) to install the infrastructure for the project. A condition of the agreement with NCW required provision of the matching funds for the ARC grant of $100,000. NCW already had a presence in Avery County as LightLeap, Source: NC Wireless, LLC - 2018 AVERY COUNTY so working in this area was not unfamiliar to them. NCW BROADBAND Proposal proposed to focus on the communities of Linville Falls, Altamont, and Pineola/Jonas Ridge. NCW used fixed-wireless broadband technology for the project, as traditional fiber and coax lines can be impractical to install in some areas due to the topography and low concentrations of houses. Fixed-wireless technology seemed to be the best way to get broadband service to the most people in the County with the funding provided by ARC. As of September 2019, over $200,000 in ARC and matching funds have been spent on the project. These funds were used to upgrade NCW’s existing Hawshaw Mountain site, install a new access point in the Pineola/Jonas Ridge area and install residential equipment in 129 homes that previously had inadequate or no internet access. Currently NCW is working on installing a new access point in the Linville Falls area to expand coverage to potentially 1,300 new clients in the area. The Chamber’s ARC grant has increased interest in and the client base of NCW/LightLeap and has given them the sustainability to continue broadband expansion in Avery County well after this project is complete.


Mitchell County Comprehensive Transportation Plan The Mitchell County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) is a long-range multi-modal transportation plan with a 25-30-year planning period. It includes a transportation vision for the county, developed cooperatively between the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), High Country Rural Planning Organization (RPO) staff, and a local stakeholder Steering Committee. Modes of transportation evaluated during the Mitchell CTP planning process include: Highway, Public Transportation, Rail, Bicycle, and Pedestrian. The planning process for the Mitchell County CTP involved regularly scheduled meetings of the Steering Committee, development and distribution of a public input survey, in depth analysis of the highway, bicycle, pedestrian, and public transportation network, existing and future population and employment growth, as well as analysis of commuting patterns, truck traffic, and crash data. In addition, public meetings were held in late April and early May at the Buladean Community Foundation, Bowman Middle School and Harris Middle School to gather public input on the draft plan recommendations and maps. The following recommendations in the Mitchell County CTP include but are not limited to the following: Highway Projects • US 19E – Widen to four-lane divided facility with bicycle accommodations from Beaver Creek Road (SR1143) to Mullin Hill Road (SR 1106) in Avery County • US 19E – Add sidewalks and bicycle accommodations to current multi-lane section through Spruce Pine • NC 226 – Widen to three lanes from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Summit Avenue, a multi-use path is also desired along the limits of the project Other Widening Improvement Projects The following routes are not expected to exceed capacity but were identified as candidates for upgrading to NCDOT design standards for 10-12 foot lanes with a minimum of 4-6 foot paved shoulder:

• • • • • • • • • • • •

NC 80 – From NC 226A to Yancey County line NC 197 – From NC 226 to just west of Pigeon Roost Road (SR 1349) NC 226 – From Tennessee border to NC 261 NC 226A/Mine Creek Road – From NC 226 to NC 80 NC 261 – From Tennessee border to NC 226 Altapass Highway (SR 1121) – From the Blue Ridge Parkway to US 19E Beaver Creek Road (SR 1143) – From US 19E to the end Halltown Road (SR 1114) – From NC 226 to Altapsss Highway Humpback Mountain Road (SR 1128) – From Altapass Highway to Blue Ridge Parkway Roan Road/Attorney John Peterson Road (SR 1403) – From NC 226 to Highland Avenue Sullins Branch Road/Wiseman Quarry Road (SR 1146) – From NC 226 to the end Whitson Branch Road (SR 1305) – From NC 197 to Yancey County

Public Transportation During the development of the CTP, future park and ride lots were identified for Mitchell County Transportation Authority (MCTA). The recommendations are as follows:

• • • •

Off of NC 226 at the old Food Lion grocery store in Spruce Pine In the northeast quadrant of the intersection of NC 226 and Penland Road Off of NC 226 just to the south of Bear Creek Church Road to serve the Bakersville area Across from the intersection of US 19E and Penland Road in the space between US 19E and Old US 19E

Bicycle • US 19E – Four-foot paved shoulders to current multi-lane portion of US 19E through Spruce Pine • NC 80 – Paved shoulders from Yancey County to NC 226 26

Mitchell County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (cont.) Bicycle (cont.) • NC 197 – Four-foot paved shoulders from Yancey County line to NC 226 • NC 226 – Four-foot paved shoulders outside of town limits and four-foot bike lanes within Spruce Pine and Bakersville town limits • NC 261 – From Tennessee State line to NC 226 – Paved shoulders outside of Bakersville town limits and a four-foot bike lane within Bakersville town limits • Altapass Highway – Four-foot paved shoulders and four-foot bike lanes within Spruce Pine town limits Multi-Use Path Facilities

• From the existing off-road pedestrian facility at Riverside Park following the North Toe River and Creed Pitman Road

• Along NC 226 from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Summit Avenue The Town of Bakersville officially adopted the Mitchell County CTP on July 29th. The High Country RPO endorsed the Mitchell County CTP on August 21st. Mitchell County and the Town of Spruce Pine adopted the Mitchell County CTP on September 3rd and September 9 respectively. In addition, the Mitchell County CTP is scheduled to be approved by the North Carolina Board of Transportation in October 2019. For more information on the Mitchell County CTP, the entire document is available on the High Country RPO website at http://www.regiond.org/LONGRANGE.html.


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

Lynda H. Greene

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

Financial and Compliance Specialist lynda.greene@highcountrywdb.com ext.120

Department Highlights | www.highcountrywdb.com | NCWorks and ResCare Academy: Helping Noemi Martinez Make the Grade NCWorks customer, Noemi Martinez, has been struggling immensely with passing the testing required for her adult high school equivalency diploma. She has been enrolled in Wilkes Community College classes, both online and in-class for over a year; has taken the HiSET tests so many times she cannot retest again until 2020; and has put in over 400 hours of studying. However, she has not been successful. Rather than give up, Noemi saw this as an opportunity for more growth. Noemi’s career advisor, Liz Allis, thought ResCare Academy might be a good fit. She asked Noemi about being her first candidate for the program: to try it out and let Liz know what she thinks of the Academy as an adult learner and as an English as a second language learner. Noemi instantly enjoyed the program and was showing great improvement in her scores, her confidence, and her ability to retain information she was learning. After 20 hours of study, and reviewing her progress, Liz asked how she felt about trying a few GED tests. To start off, Noemi signed up for science and language arts to start, her easier and hardest subjects, respectively, and she passed both! Noemi only has social studies and math to complete and is looking forward to finishing them in early October so she can look at courses in the spring for Nursing. 28

Wilkes Innovation Grant is Underway The Wilkes Partnership Group, led by Wilkes Community College and working with consultant AECOM, is exploring rural transportation needs, challenges, and opportunities as it relates to workforce issues. A large component of the study is gathering community data regarding transportation. Surveys will be completed onsite at Wilkes Community College, NCWorks Career Center, community partner locations, employer facilities, and the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. Following the data collection, data will be complied for a Students at Wilkes Community College complete surveys for the Wilkes Innovation Grant that is comprehensive report. studying rural transportation issues.

Keith Deveraux Graduates from Leadership Development Program Keith Deveraux Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board recently graduated from the Homegrown Leaders program, a regional leadership and economic development program that develops and supports highly-motivated leaders who are committed to building regional collaboration across multi-county regions in the state. Homegrown Leaders is a program of the NC Rural Center and is sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) along with corporate, government and philanthropic partners. The training was held in Wilkes County on September 10-12, 2019. Certificates were presented to the program’s 31 graduates on the last day of training. Class participants included economic development professionals, educators, and civic and nonprofit leaders. “Leadership development is at the core of the Rural Center’s work; we know communities thrive when their leaders are equipped with the skills and tools to foster growth and innovation,” said Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. “We’re excited to see the impact our Homegrown Leaders graduates will have in their communities and regions.” “Homegrown Leaders creates a space for rural leaders to train alongside Bronwyn Lucas, NC Rural Center Director of their peers from across their region, building and strengthening Leadership and Keith Deveraux, WDB Director partnerships that reach across county lines and work toward a common vision of a thriving rural North Carolina,” said Rural Center Director of Leadership Bronwyn Lucas. “These graduates will also join the Rural Center’s collaborative leadership alumni network of more than 1,300 rural leaders across the state.” To date, the Rural Center has provided five Homegrown Leaders trainings across the Appalachian Regional Commission’s NC counties with a final convening of alumni from the entire 29-county region to be held in December in Asheville. For more information, visit the Rural Center’s website ncruralcenter.org/leadership/ About the NC Rural Center For 30 years, the NC Rural Center has worked to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The Rural Center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. 29

Year One of Finsh Line Grants Year one of the new Finish Line Grants program yielded great results for High Country community college students. Finish Line Grants were developed to provide financial assistance to community college students who are at least 50% through their training program who are facing financial emergencies that could impact their ability to complete their training program. In the High Country, partnerships between NCWorks and with Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Mayland Community College, and Wilkes Community College have resulted in students receiving emergency funds to assist with expenses such rent, training/travel costs, utilities, etc. Through the first year, 103 students received 123 financial awards addressing some type of financial emergency totaling approximately $69,000 in the High Country.

On September 16, 2019 a Finish Line Grant Symposium was held at Guildford Technical Community College. Thirteen (13) directors of the twenty-three (23) NC workforce development boards were in attendance.

North Carolina has awarded a total of 1,700 grants during the first year of the program.


Hard Work Never Goes Out of Fashion Brianna Hilbert first visited the NCWorks Career Center in Mitchell County in March 2019. At the time, she was 16 years old, had dropped out of high school and had never been employed. She knew the importance of earning her GED but needed some help to get there. Since that time, she has worked faithfully on her education, attending the learning lab at Mayland Community College at least 4 days per week. Even though she is unable to begin testing until her 18th birthday, she shows so much effort by continuing to dedicate this level of time to prepare herself. To help her gain some workplace skills, Brianna was placed on a paid internship at Spruced Boutique in Spruce Pine, which coincides with her interest in cosmetology and fashion. At the beginning of her internship, she was hospitalized for several days and continues to battle health problems. Through these difficult times, she found a mentor and encourager in the owner of Spruced Boutique. The owner shared her experience of being a school-dropout-turned-successful businesswoman with Brianna, showing her that she can accomplish anything with effort. Brianna has learned many skills at her internship including attention to detail, responsibility, time management, and the many skills needed to be an entrepreneur. She works on inventorying all the items, provides customer service, and assists with social media marketing through Instagram. Most importantly, she has found support and the knowledge that she can do, and become anything, she is willing to work at doing.

Experience on the Air Waves Micah Ray came into the WIOA program needing assistance earning his GED in March of 2019. Micah is 17 years old and lives in Yancey County. He has a love for music and even plays in a band. Having never worked before, Micah needed exposure to the workplace and all the skills associated with that responsibility, as well as his GED. Working with NCWorks career advisor, Brent Ramsey, a plan for Micah to earn the education he needed and gain some work experience was put in place. Through WIOA, Micah was placed on a paid internship at WKYK/WTOE radio station. At the station, he is working to reformat songs to another file format that will assist the radio station into switching over to FM radio to reach a wider range of customers. He has learned about the technology that radio stations use, as well as how to process broadcasts that will be on the air. He has worked in almost all areas of the industry, including sales. Micah even began announcing the weather and various community updates, which was a surprise to his family. While listening to the radio one day, Micah’s sister heard him announcing on the radio and was so excited about his success in an area he loves. Who would have thought that Micah, more on the shy side, would be on the radio? This work experience has helped him achieve independence, time management, and customer interaction skills - as well as all other skills learned on a job. He continues to make tremendous progress on earning his GED as well, only lacking a couple of tests until he earns it. 31

Learning and Earning on the Job William “Doug” Moore is a WIOA participant who was laid off in July of 2018 from L3 Communications in Asheville, NC. Doug is an Army veteran and served our country in the mid and late 1970’s. Doug had some varied experience in electronics, and Mountain Electronics in Burnsville, NC was interested in hiring him. However, he needed specific training unique to the industry Mountain Electronics serves. Doug was a great candidate for an Onthe-Job Training (OJT) and was enrolled in March beginning an OJT as an electronics technician at Mountain Electronics. OJT candidates are screened and assessed by NCWorks staff for basic skills, aptitudes, and interests. Work-ready individuals are referred to businesses for an interview. Then the business and NCWorks staff create a realistic training plan based on the needs of the candidate. Once the OJT training contract is signed, the candidate is placed on the employer’s payroll and training begins. The employer may receive up to 50% wage reimbursement during the training period. Doug successfully completed his OJT in July and according to his supervisor, Damien Woody and HR Manager Graham Livengood, Doug is a model employee. His work ethic and dedication are exemplary. They jokingly said they are still trying to figure out if he is human or a machine because he is so productive. Doug is very happy with his job and is thankful for the opportunity to work for such an outstanding company.

Mountain Electronics is also an outstanding partner for NCWorks and has had multiple successful OJT participants. Those participants learn high-tech skills and earn a very good living for their families, while adding to the local economy. The partnership of Doug Moore, Mountain Electronics, and the OJT program is a great example of what NCWorks can do: helping both job seekers and businesses prosper individually and collectively. Mountain Electronics is locally owned by Whitney and George Brasington and has been the industry leader in circuit board repair for the commercial laundry industry since 1999. They provide fast and reliable repair service for commercial laundry control boards domestically and internationally.


NCWorks in Wilkes Going Back to School NCWorks-Wilkes had the opportunity to visit Wilkes Central High School (Sept. 4) and West Wilkes High School (Sept. 17), and speak to juniors and seniors about the many services offered through NCWorks. We presented the NCWorks site, assisted in NCWorks registration and job search. We also introduced the Traitify assessment tool that helps to explore career opportunities and services the NCWorks Career Center can offer. Coming Soon: Wilkes NCWorks staff will be visiting the West Wilkes CTE class on October 1st. On September 20th, CTE students from Wilkes Early College visited NCWorks-Wilkes and received assistance NCWorks registration.

How Can NCWorks Help? How Can NCWorks Help? Take a Look at How the Watauga NCWorks is Impacting Its Community. A customer and his wife have been coming in and looking for employment. His wife has been filling out applications for him. While at the center one day, he asked for something to be read to him. It turns out that he couldn’t read. NCWorks staff referred him to the Watauga Literacy Council and has been working oneon-one with staff there learn to read. The grateful customer calls or comes by the NCWorks center to give a progress report every now and then. In addition, someone from the Literacy Council is working with his wife to improve her computer skills while her husband does his literacy coursework. Her skills are improving, and she completed an online application without assistance with a local employer and got the job! After losing his warehouse job of 18 years, a customer with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) moved from Florida to North Carolina. He spent a few years looking for employment but was unable to find anything. He came into the NCWorks Career Center with his job coach from Daymark and signed up for NCWorks services. Center staff knew of a new local employer that was looking for part-time employees. The NCWorks center facilitated a discussion with the job coach and the employer to get a feel for the employer’s comfort level hiring someone who had been out of the workforce for a while and who also has a TBI. The customer was hired and is doing well – even being nominated for employee of the month! A customer who came into the Center was concerned about her ability to find work due to blemishes in her background. The NCWorks staff assisted her in finding employment at a local fast food restaurant; however, it ultimately didn’t work out due to the hours. Switching gears, NCWorks staff helped her get signed up for the Guest Services Professional class offered by Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC. She completed the class and was able to find employment as a housekeeper at one of the local hotels.

New Initiatives for the Watauga NCWorks Career Center: • Working with local law enforcement agencies to set up a program to work with inmates that will soon be released, to assist in job search and skill building. • Working with Hospitality House to bring basic workshops on-site for their clients, making participants comfortable to later move to the career center for assistance. 33

High Country Workforce Development Board Formally Endorses myFutureNC At its September board meeting, the High Country Workforce Development Board joined other workforce boards, education entities, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and the NC Business Committee for Education to endorse and support the myFutureNC attainment goal of 2 million North Carolinians obtaining a high-quality, post-secondary degree or credential by 2030. The majority of North Carolina’s new jobs require education beyond a high school diploma; however, fewer than half of North Carolinians ages 25-44 have a post-secondary degree or credential. In addition, those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately affected as far fewer earn post-secondary credentials than students with more economic stability. As a result, the education system and economy become unbalanced with job seekers struggling to find jobs and employers struggling to find talent to fill openings. Today, 1.3 million North Carolinians ages 25-44 have a post-secondary degree or credential, and the goal of myFutureNC is increase that number to 2 million by 2030. The myFutureNC Commission is a statewide organization focused on educational attainment and is the result of cross-sector collaboration between North Carolina leaders in business, education, philanthropy, faithbased and non-profit communities, and government. The Board of Directors includes Governor Cooper, State Superintendent Mark Johnson, State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis, and local state Senator Deanna Ballard among others. In addition, local education leaders represented on the statewide committees include Dr. Jeff Cox, President of Wilkes Community College and Appalachian State University Chancellor, Dr. Sheri Everts. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John M. Belk Endowment, and the Goodnight Education Foundation. To learn more, please visit myfuturenc.org.

Infographics Source: myFutureNC




Administrative Staff and Meeting Schedule

www.regiond.org | (828) 265-5434 Administration Staff Julie Page

Julie Wiggins

Executive Director jwiggins@regiond.org ext.125

Finance Officer jpage@regiond.org ext.109

Kathy Combs

Victoria Potter

Finance Technician kcombs@regiond.org ext.103

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

Angie Holman

Receptionist aholman@regiond.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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October 2019 ReCOGnition  

A biyearly newsletter of the High Country Council of Governments

October 2019 ReCOGnition  

A biyearly newsletter of the High Country Council of Governments