Lee King presents to Kiwanis

Weekly gas price update…

Average retail gasoline prices in North Carolina increased eight cents from last week to $2.19 as of Monday, Jan. 11. This compares with the national average which increased six cents to $2.31 per gallon, according to www.northcarolinagasprices.com.

National, state debt update…

As of Monday, Jan. 11, the United States’ national debt was $27,776,558,304,477 according to www.usdebtclock.org. That debt figure breaks down to $83,946 in debt per person and $222,191 in debt per taxpayer. Also as of Monday, Jan. 11, North Carolina’s state debt was $49,453,541,007774, which breaks down to $4,699 in debt per citizen.

State unemployment and food stamp update…

As of Monday, Jan. 11, 1,071,667 state residents were registered as unemployed, according to www.usdebtclock.org, and 770,143 North Carolinians were registered as food stamp recipients out of a total state population of 10,641,043.

We want to hear from you…

The AJT prides itself in investment in our community. We make an effort to cover everything we possibly can, and want the help of our readers to continue to represent what is happening in Avery County. We want your submissions, but they need to meet a few criteria to be considered for publication:

  • Submissions may include a photograph with everyone in the photo identified.
  • All submissions must include contact information, including an active phone number.
  • All submissions must include basic information.

Submissions are not free advertising. No submission that directly benefits a private individual or for-profit organization, either monetarily or for political gain, will be printed. Some good examples of acceptable submissions are philanthropic events, religious events, community events and any events or occurrences of special interest.

The AJT reserves the right to edit submissions to fit publication guidelines and reserves the right to not publish any submission for any reason.

All submissions may be sent to news@averyjournal.com.

Avery County Historical

Museum is open…

“The Avery County Museum is open with COVID 19 regulations in place. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, weather permitting.

Visitors can also tour the ET&WNC Railroad and Depot located behind the museum. The current family exhibit is that of Tyre and Margaret Coffey Webb.

The museum has available for sale our new 2021 Avery Museum Calendar showcasing different museum displays. Also “The Story of Newland” by Jimmie Daniels and “The Life and Times of Alexander Wiseman” by Tense Franklin Banks and Marie White Bost can be purchased. Stop and check out these new books. The museum is located next to the Avery County Courthouse.

COVID-19 vaccines now

available through local

health department…

NEWLAND — Avery County and the Avery County Health Department are proud to announce COVID-19 vaccines are now available for anyone 75 years or older at the Agriculture Extension Center (661 Vale Road above Ingles in Newland), from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, Jan. 12 to 15, and again from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, Jan. 20 to 22.

No appointments are necessary. Please bring your insurance card and wear appropriate clothing for easy access to have the vaccination in your upper arm. Masks are required. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners, patients are asked to contact their physician for written documentation to receive the vaccine. For questions concerning the vaccine, call (828) 733-8273.

Sugar Mountain Resort unveils winter special events…

Sugar Mountain Resort recently released its schedule of special events through the winter of 2020 and into 2021.

Snowshoe Guided Tours (opening to end of season). A great way to stay fit during the winter months! Snowshoe tours are offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Based on instructor availability, additional tours are given on demand for groups of four to 15. The program includes a one-hour tour and snowshoe rental. Adult tours are for those who are 12 years or older. Children’s tours are for those ages 8 to 11. Sign up at least fifteen minutes prior to your tour time at the Snowsports School building.

NASTAR (through March). NASTAR is a public racing program that provides recreational racers with the opportunity to compare their ability to the fastest member of the US Ski Team. Nastar races are held every Saturday and Sunday at noon on Oma’s Meadow.

With guidance from the CDC, state and local public health officials and the National Ski Areas Association, Sugar Mountain Ski Resort will be following “Ski Well, Be Well” principles, North Carolina Ski Areas Association’s Operating Best Practices created in response to COVID-19.

American Red Cross reminds residents

to prepare for

winter weather…

Winter weather poses unique challenges to people faced with bitter cold, snow and ice. The American Red Cross has steps you should take to stay safe if you are in the path of winter storms.

“Winter weather is headed to this region and we have safety tips everyone can follow to stay safe,” said Allison Taylor, Regional CEO for the American Red Cross of the Greater Carolinas. “Whether trying to keep your home warm or having to be outside in the cold, you can follow these helpful tips.”

It’s that time of year when many people resort to space heaters and other sources to keep their homes warm. Home heating is the second leading cause of fires in the U.S. To reduce the risk of heating related fires, the Red Cross recommends these steps (More home fire safety information available here):

  • All heaters need space. Keep children, pets and things that can burn (paper, matches, bedding, furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs) at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and non-flammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs, carpets or near bedding or drapes. Plug power cords directly into outlets — never into an extension cord.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended and use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire and embers in the fireplace.
  • Never use a cooking range, oven, charcoal or gas grill to heat your home.
  • Turn off portable space heaters every time you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Wear layers of clothing, a hat, mittens and waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Be careful when tackling strenuous tasks like shoveling snow in cold temperatures.
  • Check on your neighbors, especially elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and children.
  • Bring pets indoors. If they can’t come inside, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion, and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin.

Winter travel safety

Stay off the road if possible, during severe weather. If you must drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

  • Make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snowplows.
  • Ramps, bridges and overpasses freeze before roadways.

People can download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for their area and where loved ones live. Expert medical guidance and a hospital locator are included in the First Aid App in case travelers encounter any mishaps. Both apps are available to download for free in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Local students invited to join JAM program…

Avery students are invited to join the Avery Junior Appalachian Musicians program. The program accommodates musicians at all levels. If you’re an accomplished player or wishing to learn or improve your skills this program is for you! One of our initial goals is to form a JAM band. We’ll help guide you to reach the playing level you will enjoy. For more information, contact Bobby Willard, Extension Agent with 4-H Youth Development at (828) 733-8270, or bobbie_willard@ncsu.edu.

ECU School of Medicine sponsoring ‘Give Kids a Smile’ event

February 5…

SPRUCE PINE — ECU School of Dental Medicine will be sponsoring their annual Give Kids A Smile® event on Feb. 5, 2021, at its office in Spruce Pine to provide underserved children with free dental services. We will be serving ages 1 to 8 years old.

Services provided include an exam, cleaning, X-rays and a treatment plan. All services are free on this day, and your child will need an appointment. A parent or guardian does have to be present and we cannot provide transportation.

Children need to be pre-registered and you can call (828) 765-0110 to register your child and get more information.

Caregiver Haven at Avery Senior Center…

Caregiver Haven is a project of the Avery County Senior Center that seeks to give family caregivers of dementia and memory loss loved ones a break by offering respite care every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Your loved one will be attended by our caring staff and stimulated with a variety of activities, programs and games. Often we take clients on field trips and out to lunch. Lunch and snacks are provided as part of the program.

Currently there is space available for new clients. We would love to help you in your caregiving journey. While we do encourage cost sharing through donation, no one is turned away because of not making cost sharing donations. Also, transportation through Avery County Transportation can be arranged at little to no cost. If this is a program you are interested in please contact the Avery County Senior Center at (828) 733-8220.

This program is currently operating. Let us assist you in your caregiving journey.

Four-Year Golden LEAF Scholarship applications due March 1, 2021…

The four-year Golden LEAF Scholarship information and applications for 2021-2022 school year are now available at CFNC.org. A total of 215 awards will be offered to first-time recipients from qualifying counties for the 2021-2022 academic year. Applications are due March 1, 2021.

Scholarships are valued at $12,000 ($3,000 per year for up to four years) for high school seniors attending a participating four-year North Carolina college or university in the fall. Community college transfer students can receive $3,000 per year for up to three years for attending a participating college or university.

Recipients are selected based upon multiple factors including an interest in returning to a rural county after graduation. Applicants must also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and demonstrate financial need as determined by the application process; have a GPA of no less than 3.0; and be a resident of a rural county that is economically distressed and/or tobacco dependent for at least 10 years. The full list of eligible counties include Alamance, Alexander, Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Avery, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Camden,Carteret, Caswell, Catawba, Cherokee, Chowan, Clay, Cleveland, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Graham, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Haywood, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Jackson, Johnston, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Macon, Madison, Martin, McDowell, Mitchell, Montgomery, Nash, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Polk, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rockingham, Rowan, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Swain, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson, Yadkin and Yancey counties.

“The Golden LEAF Scholarship program has helped more than 5,600 rural students attend the state’s colleges and universities since it began 20 years ago,” said Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton. “This scholarship program is a component of the Foundation’s strategy to help rural communities grow by creating a future generation of skilled, educated workers to come back home to live, work and raise families.”

The Golden LEAF Scholarship Program is administered by North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority and funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation. A complete list of program requirements, participating campuses and qualifying counties can be viewed at CFNC.org. Contact the College Foundation of North Carolina toll-free at (866) 866-CFNC for more information.

Scholarship recipients also may apply for the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program. This program, offered through the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro provides two leadership-building conferences, a summer internship, and a stipend. Students completing all four years of the leadership program can receive up to $8,830 in stipends in addition to the Golden LEAF Scholarship award.

Red Cross teams with NFL to urge blood,

plasma donation during National Blood

Donor Month…

ASHEVILLE — The American Red Cross and the National Football League are teaming up this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage. Right now, more donors are needed to help hospital patients.

During this critical time, the Red Cross and NFL are thrilled to offer all those who come to donate an opportunity to receive a special thank you this month. Those who come to donate blood or platelets this January will be automatically entered to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. In addition, those who come to give January 1 to 20, will also be automatically entered to win the Big Game at Home package for an awesome viewing experience safely at home, with a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card to put toward food and fun.

Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood today with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“Blood and plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may have the power to help critically ill patients currently battling the virus,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, Red Cross medical director of clinical services. “With hospital distributions for convalescent plasma increasing about 250% since October, these generous donations are vital in helping to save lives throughout the winter – a time that is often challenging to collect enough blood products for those in need.”

As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product. Like “special teams” units on the field, COVID-19 survivors have a unique ability to make a game-changing difference in the lives of COVID-19 patients. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that could provide a patient’s immune system the boost it needs to beat the virus.

There are two ways COVID-19 survivors can help – through a convalescent plasma donation or by simply giving whole blood. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness.

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

The next local blood drive will take place from 1:30 to 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Spruce Pine, located at 125 Tappan Street.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

SBA Extends COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Application

Deadline through

Dec. 31, 2021…

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the deadline to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for the COVID-19 Pandemic disaster declaration is extended to Dec. 31, 2021. The deadline extension comes as a result of the recent bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress and enacted by President Trump on Dec. 27, 2020.

To date, the SBA has approved $197 billion in low-interest loans which provides working capital funds to small businesses, nonprofits and agricultural businesses make it through this challenging time.

“Following the President’s declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the SBA has approved over 3.6 million loans through our Economic Injury Disaster Loan program nationwide,” Administrator Jovita Carranza said. “The EIDL program has assisted millions of small businesses, including nonprofit organizations, sole proprietors and independent contractors, from a wide array of industries and business sectors, to survive this very difficult economic environment.”

EIDL loan applications will continue to be accepted through December 2021, pending the availability of funds. Loans are offered at very affordable terms, with a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% interest rate for nonprofit organizations, a 30-year maturity, and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Every eligible small business and nonprofit are encouraged to apply to get the resources they need.

Wildlife Commission seeking Mudpuppy


RALEIGH — Biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are asking the public, particularly anglers, to submit any sightings of mudpuppies to the agency.

The mudpuppy is a relatively rare salamander that shares a similar appearance and habitat to its larger cousin, the eastern hellbender. Like the hellbender, the mudpuppy is an entirely aquatic salamander found in western North Carolina. While it lives in many of the same waters as hellbenders — fast moving, clean mountain streams — the mudpuppy also lives in deep river reaches, lakes, large ponds, and reservoirs.

As with the hellbender, biologists want to learn more about the mudpuppy’s distribution in North Carolina. Reported sightings are critical to biologists who know relatively little about this state-listed amphibian.

“We really know less about mudpuppies in the state than we do hellbenders,” said Lori Williams, a Wildlife Diversity biologist with the Commission. “We’ve not done any surveys in lake systems because of the challenging logistics to do so, but mudpuppies do like those habitats, which could be population hot-spots for them. We just need anyone who fishes these deep river sites and impounded waters who finds one to let us know.”

Mudpuppies and hellbenders are often mistaken for one another; however, the mudpuppy typically has spots and is smaller than the hellbender, averaging 12 inches in length as an adult, while the hellbender, the largest salamander in North America is about 16 to 17 inches in length. In addition to being smaller, the mudpuppy has external, red feathery gills on either side of its head and smooth skin; whereas hellbenders have an inconspicuous gill slit and wrinkly skin.

Mudpuppies, like hellbenders, eat crayfish mainly, but also will eat minnows, snails, tadpoles, worms, discarded bait or other injured or dead animals, so it’s possible they may occasionally go after a trout on a line or stringer. However, game fish like trout and bass will eat young or larval hellbenders and mudpuppies. In lakes and deep river sections, mudpuppies are often attracted to baited hooks, so bass anglers, in particular, may catch one.

Neither the mudpuppy nor the hellbender is poisonous, venomous, toxic or harmful to humans, although they may try to bite as a defensive reaction if someone tries to pick them up. Leaving them alone is not only good for them, but it is also the law. Like the hellbender, mudpuppies are listed as a species of special concern in North Carolina, which makes it illegal to harm, collect, possess, transport, or sell one or attempt to do so.

Anyone who finds a mudpuppy is asked to leave it alone but to note the location (physical location or GPS coordinates) and take a photo, if possible, and email that information to Williams at lori.williams@ncwildlife.org. If anglers happen to catch one on hook and line, they should carefully remove the hook if it is safe to do so without harming the animal or cut the line as close as possible and return it back to the water. People can also call the Commission’s Wildlife Interaction Helpline (866) 318-2401 and provide details of the observation.

COVID-19 testing available at pool complex…

NEWLAND — Free COVID-19 testing is taking place at the Avery County Pool Complex, “The Dive In,” located at 220 Shady Street in Newland from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Anyone who meets the testing criteria can be tested at the community testing site, including uninsured, underinsured, undocumented and homeless individuals. OptumServe will generate a unique identification number for individuals who do not have a driver’s license. To schedule an appointment, click to lhi.care/covidtesting. Call (877) 562-4850 if you do not have internet or are registering for a minor.

USDA Forest Service Southern Region supports youth education with Fish Art Contest…

ASHEVILLE — Wildlife Forever is proud to recognize the USDA Forest Service, Southern Region for their support of the 2021 Fish Art Contest. By teaching youth the Art of Conservation®, the national partnership reaches thousands of young people each year and is used by educators as an introduction to outdoor recreation.

The award-winning Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest connects young people to fish, fishing, and aquatic conservation through art, writing, and science. To enter, contestants create an original illustration of any species from the Official Fish List and a one-page writing entry. Entries are due postmarked by March 31 each year. For details on contest rules, entry forms, and to view past winners, click to www.FishArt.org.

Amy Commens-Carson, Regional Fisheries Program Manager at the USDA Forest Service Southern Region, said, “The Fish Art Contest is an exciting and innovative program that allows young people to express connections to the outdoors through their own creativity. The Southern Region is proud to help build the next generation of conservation stewards across the country with the Fish Art Contest.”

“The Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest eliminates many traditional barriers and provides an all-inclusive platform for youth education. The USDA Forest Service is a leader in supporting conservation initiatives and building stewardship. I am grateful for their vision and support. Investing in youth is the key to our future,” said President and CEO of Wildlife Forever, Pat Conzemius.

The 2021 State-Fish Art Contest is now open and accepting entries. The deadline to enter is March 31, 2021 so start creating today! Details available at www.FishArt.org.

The award-winning Wildlife Forever Fish Art™ Contest, with support from Title Sponsor Bass Pro Shops, the USDA Forest Service and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, brings children, art and aquatic conservation together. The annual contest reaches thousands of youth each year. New distance learning resources allow students to participate from home or classroom and complement a wide array of educational programming. To enter, young artists create an original illustration of any fish from the Official Fish list and written words detailing its habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Entries are categorized in four grade levels: K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Educators nationwide utilize Fish On!, the full-color Fish Art Lesson Plan, integrating the disciplines of science and art. Entries are due postmarked or emailed by March 31 each year. For more, click to www.fishart.org.

Wildlife Forever’s mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage through conservation education, preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife. Wildlife Forever is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to investing resources on the ground. Recent audits reveal that 94% of every dollar supports our award-winning conservation programs. Please, Join Today and learn more about the Fish Art Contest®, Clean Drain Dry Initiative™ and Prairie City USA® at www.WildlifeForever.org.

The USDA Forest Service is a multi-use agency that manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Learn more about the Forest Service fisheries program at: https://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/fish-wildlife-plants/fisheries-program.

Willis Observatory to offer free admission for students, teachers, school employees, artists in Mitchell, Yancey, Avery and McDowell counties…

BAKERSVILLE — Western North Carolina is an astronomer’s paradise. In Willis Observatory, we have one of best observatories (if not the best) in the Southeast United States.

Willis Observatory has five premium telescopes, including two research grade telescopes. There is probably not a better astrograph in North Carolina than the observatory’s PlaneWave 20. A Lunt 152 solar telescope provides close-up views of solar flares and prominences. Demand for Astro-Physics telescopes is legendary. Willis Observatory has an Astro-Physics 175 and an Astro-Physics 140.

The observatory’s professional binoculars with its Leonardo 360 degree mount offers stunning views of the universe. Filters for the binoculars enable us to view the sun, and the moon during daylight. Willis Observatory has two PhD’s on its team, Dr. Andrew Zeidell, PhD, Physics, Wake Forest, and Dr. Naveed Moeed, Astrophysicist. Dr. Zeidell produces educational videos for its YouTube Channel and other media accounts while Dr. Moeed is responsible for university outreach.

Willis Observatory is so much more than an observatory. The observatory includes bocce ball courts with LED balls for night play, LED cornhole for night play, a sandstone fire pit area, stratosphere water bottle rockets 400 feet into the sky, the heavenly sound of a mountain creek nestled between three mountain ridges, as well as a 10-foot Earth ball, bingo, bubbletron, kites, UFO landing pad, UFO detector, 5.1-pound, 4.5-billion-year-old Campo del Cielo meteorite, a slice of moon rock, Higoo Green Laser — a 1.25-mile laser beam for viewing constellations, 6-foot by 6-foot cutout board for photo opportunities, a balloon buster pump game, premium sound projector, outdoor screen, gift shop, refreshment center and much more.

Once the COVID pandemic is passed, the Willis Observatory will reopen for guests. For more information, click to www.willisobservatory.com.

American Red Cross reminds that flu

vaccine, blood

donation both help

save lives…

The American Red Cross is urging healthy donors of all blood types to give blood or platelets to ensure a strong blood supply for patients as the U.S. braces for flu season while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical experts are urging people to get the flu shot to avoid a flu epidemic on top of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Because blood can only be given by those who are feeling well, a severe flu season could create additional challenges to maintaining a sufficient blood supply for hospital patients in need.

Get the flu vaccine this year to help protect the nation from the virus but also to ensure that patients continue to have access to lifesaving blood products. There is no waiting period to give blood or platelets after receiving a flu shot as long as the donor is symptom-free and fever-free. There is no risk of transmitting the influenza virus after receiving a flu vaccination.

For those that have the flu, it is important to wait until they no longer exhibit flu symptoms, have recovered completely and feel well before attempting to donate. Donors must feel healthy and well on the day of donation.

Stay healthy this flu season and make an appointment to donate blood by downloading the Red Cross Blood Donor App, clicking to RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1 (800) RED CROSS (1 (800) 733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Important COVID-19 information for donors: The Red Cross is testing blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The test may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual developed COVID-19 symptoms. Red Cross antibody tests will be helpful to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may now help current coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. Convalescent plasma is a type of blood donation collected from COVID-19 survivors that have antibodies that may help patients who are actively fighting the virus.

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity. The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test. To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, it is important that individuals who do not feel well or believe they may be ill with COVID-19 postpone donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

To make an appointment or to learn more, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, click to RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. Completion of a RapidPass® online health history questionnaire is encouraged to help speed up the donation process. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

Upward Bound college access program now accepting new students…

HIGH COUNTRY — The Upward Bound Program at Appalachian State University is currently seeking to enroll new students in a free, federally funded, college preparatory program for potential first-generation and/or modest-income high school students.

The program currently serves 163 students from seven Western North Carolina high schools: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Freedom, McDowell, Watauga and West Wilkes.

Students in the program participate in services such as cultural enrichment opportunities, a program of advising, tutoring and weekend academies during the school year, and an academically intensive six-week summer program. Students are expected to remain with the program until graduation from high school.

Upward Bound students receive individualized assistance that includes locating and applying for scholarships, grants, and other financial aid to make paying for college a reality. All services are provided absolutely free. Program acceptance is currently on an on-going basis due to COVID-19. To apply online, click to upwardbound.appstate.edu.

A recent Upward Bound graduate stated that the program changed their life, and that they could not have gotten this far without going through the program. The graduate also stated that the program teaches beyond what a classroom can, and prepares students for the real world.

“Participating in Upward Bound provides students with the skills and resources necessary for successfully graduating from high school, securing funding for college, and enrolling in college immediately following senior year of high school,” said Aaron Gersonde, director of Upward Bound. “Our participants experience personal growth, academic success, a sense of community, and confidence in their ability to thrive once they are in college.”

Banner Elk Artists Gallery open…

While the Historic Banner Elk School remains closed to the general public, the BE Artists Gallery will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Please call the number on the sign at the front door and we will promptly let you in.

Please note that masks are required, capacity is limited to a maximum of six guests at one time, and that no public restrooms are available at this time. You can also schedule an appointment to visit the gallery by emailing art@beartistsgallery.com, or calling (828) 898-6767.

Avery County Local Food Producers Directory…

The Avery County Cooperative Extension Center is reaching out to all local food producers in Avery County. In an effort to provide our residents with information about fresh local food available in this area, Bill Hoffman, Extension Agent-ANR, is compiling a directory containing local food producers along with contact information and products that are available for purchase.

If you are a local food producer in Avery County and would be interested in having your information listed in the upcoming directory, please contact the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center at (828) 733-8270.

Get outdoor cats fixed and vaccinated at no cost…

If you have strays in your neighborhood, you can get trap-fix-release them for free through a grant with the Avery Humane Society. Call (828) 733-2333 for more information. Offer is valid for residents of Avery County with a valid photo ID.

Celebrate Recovery…

Each Monday at 7 p.m., Heaton Christian Church, located at 221 Curtis Creek Road, offers help for anyone struggling with addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), or other undesirable habits or compulsions, to overcome their battles and find their relationship with Jesus Christ.

No one will be judged. This is a ministry of loving, caring people, some who have experienced the same struggles. Family and friends of those needing help are encouraged to participate and support their efforts. For more information, call Butch or Courtney at (828) 528-5476.

Mentors needed for Avery kids and youth…

Western Youth Network, in partnership with Williams YMCA, is accepting applications for mentors for Avery County youth ages six to 17, who are in need of a positive role model in their lives. Mentors serve a unique role in the life of a child that is different from that of a parent, teacher or friend. After spending time with a mentor (an average of two hours per week for one year), young people show improvements in their academic performance, school attendance and behaviors. Most of all, they know someone cares about them.

Mentoring opportunities are also available through the program’s lunch buddy program at local elementary schools. For more information, or to fill out an application, call or email Avery Mentoring Coordinator Sabena Maiden at (828) 264-5174 or maidens@westernyouthnetwork.org or Williams YMCA Community Outreach Director Sheila Bauer at (828) 737-5500 or sheilab@ymcaavery.org.

Avery County Volunteer Communications Club…

Avery County Volunteer Communications Club (AC4VC) holds meetings on the second Thursday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m., at Linville Land Harbor Mountain View Activity Center (22 Twin Tree Lane, Newland). Any and all who are interested in Amateur Radio are welcome to attend. There will be a general meeting and training. Following training, the group will be conducting testing of all three types of Amateur Radio licenses. For more information, contact Jay Glen, N4HOP and ACVC Club President, at (828) 305-9851, or email AC4VC.Club@gmail.com.

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