WNC Communities announces the winners of the 63rd Annual Honors Awards Program. A luncheon was held at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville on Saturday, Nov. 17, with more than 200 community leaders from 14 counties and the Eastern Band of Cherokee to recognize and reward exceptional community development programs across the mountains.
WNC Communities is dedicated to providing a unique forum for leaders in the mountain region to convene, collaborate and carry out innovative programs to improve the quality of life for rural communities and the agricultural sector. The WNC Honors Awards is a program built on the tradition of recognizing achievements in communities for their work on behalf of their residents. The awards are designed to serve as an inspiration for replicating community success.
‘Communities of Distinction’
“Communities of Distinction” is the highest honor with a cash award of $2,000. Cowee Community Development Organization of Macon County was a recipient of this year’s prestigious award. Cowee was chosen because of their ability to work together in assessing, developing, and implementing strategies to address community issues.
A few of the highlights from Cowee’s year include litter sweeps, replacing entry signs, working with the Friends of the Rickman Store to provide gardening education to establish a seed bank for local home growers, installing 200 feet of split rail fencing at the Cowee West Mill Heritage Historic District, as well as creating historical and educational films to depict the importance of the district to visitors. Cowee’s largest accomplishment came after working tirelessly for seven years with the Macon County Commissioners to retain the retired Cowee School to begin transitioning the property into a community heritage center. They reached out to all members in the county to obtain the input needed to understand how the Cowee School could benefit the region. The input received was consolidated into a business plan that was adopted by the County Commissioners. In addition, Cowee aggressively raised $10,000 through a letter campaign and events for this project. The facility will be the hub of activity in Northern Macon County thanks to Cowee’s hard work and determination.
“Participating Communities” receive a cash award of $250 each for their successful projects implemented during the past year. The communities from Macon County that received this honor were Carson, Clark’s Chapel, Cullasaja, Holly Springs, Nantahala, Otto, Pine Grove School and Upper Cartoogechaye.
The ‘Calico Cat’ award
The “Calico Cat” award is a time-honored tradition that has been a part of the WNC Honors Awards for more than 25 years. Fired Up Pottery in Asheville paints these pieces of art each year to reward communities for their work in improving their existing community centers. This year’s “Calico Cat Jr.” was awarded to Carson Community in Macon County.
“We are honored to recognize community development clubs for their innovative programs and hard work.” shared Linda Lamp, Executive Director of WNC Communities. “These groups are the key to successful rural life in our mountains and will be for many years to come.”
Generous sponsorships from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel, Mission Health Systems, Buncombe County Farm Bureau, Carolina Farm Credit, Duke Energy, First Citizens Bank, HomeTrust Bank, and Wells Fargo made it possible to award more than $28,000 to 61 communities throughout Western North Carolina for their innovative approaches to addressing community needs.
Community programs range from addressing basic needs such as a food pantry, an emergency shelter, thrift stores, or litter sweeps to significant programs focused on education, heritage, economic development, farmland preservation or health and wellness.
Communities voluntarily participate in the WNC Honors Awards Program by submitting an application to WNC Communities in September. Communities are judged on projects, fund raising efforts, collaboration with local organizations or businesses, economic development and sustainability, as well as their community future and vision.