Banner Elk Town Seal

BANNER ELK — The Banner Elk Town Council held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 10, and began with an uplifting presentation by Madison Cornwell, Development Officer at the Grandfather Home for Children.

Cornwell shared her story with the council members about how she and her husband began working at the children’s home, which helps rehabilitate children who have experienced trauma early in life.

Cornwell said that after her husband, who is a former Army Ranger, left the military, they moved out to western North Carolina where they soon felt a unique calling on their lives.

“He got his master’s in social work and started doing outpatient treatment with teenage boys,” she said. “Sadly, he had to bring one of the kids he was working with to [GHC]. When he was there that day, he had a very moving experience. He felt like it was a magical place and felt an overwhelming call to serve there.”

Cornwell soon followed in her husband’s footsteps and left her job teaching history in order to become a part of the organization alongside her husband, who works as the clinical director and oversees the center’s therapists, case coordinators, case management as well as individual therapy for the center’s most serious cases.

According to Cornwell, the center served 89 children in 2019. While each child has experienced some form of trauma — including abusive homes, family drug addiction or poverty— the severity of the child’s case is classified into tiers, with five being the most severe and two being the least. Cornwell recognizes that each case is unique, and different children have different responses to the various types of mental health counseling provided.

“One of our kids who started in a [higher tier facility] made it all the way down to a tier-three facility, and he made a very special bond with our program manager, who used to play football at UNC [Chapel Hill] and now plays indoor football. He said that if he wanted to play football, then he needed to get into our level two home. So they got him in, he went into ninth grade at Avery High, he tried out for the football team, made it to varsity as a freshman and now he is being fostered to adopt by a local family. It is one of the most successful stories I’ve seen and it has given a lot of other boys hope,” she said.

Apart from the positive reactions Cornwell received form the council members and receives from the community as a whole, she says that there are still plenty of misconceptions about the children’s home.

“One of things that we always have a shortage of are jackets, luggage and clothing. People used to bring these by all of time, but those are things we are still looking for,” she said.

According to Cornwell, The Grandfather Home for Children receives 55 percent of its funding from the state and the remaining 45 percent must be fundraised.

In other news from the meeting, council approved three motions with unanimous support. The first motion effectively waives requests for proposals from outside engineering consultants to work with the town. The Town of Banner Elk currently has a contract with McGill Associates, who are based out of Hickory. According to town manager Rick Owen, the partnership is part of a system development fee study to ensure that the fees the town charges are aligned with rules laid out by state statute. The town also has a list of capital improvement projects but lacks the calculated cost of these projects and the detail that the town desires. McGill Associates will help the town prepare a detailed capital improvement plan in conjunction with the system development fee study.

The second motion will enable the town manager to use $11,200 in budget funds to complete a town codification project. The project, which will be completed by American Legal, will compile all of the town’s zoning and other ordinances into one succinct volume. The new project will also make the ordinances more accessible to the public by putting them in a searchable format online.

In its last motion of the night, the town reappointed several members to its planning board, board of adjustment and tourism development authority. The motion also set all board appointments to occur in January of the year that the given term expires. Term limits on the tourism development authority board were also removed.

The next meeting of Banner Elk Town Council will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 2, at Banner Elk Town Hall.

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