Weekly gas price update…

Average retail gasoline prices in North Carolina increased by five cents from last week at $2.66 as of Monday, May 3. This compares with the national average which increased one cent to $2.89 per gallon, according to www.northcarolinagasprices.com.

National, state debt update…

As of Monday, May 3, the United States’ national debt was $28,239,580,426,170, according to www.usdebtclock.org. That debt figure breaks down to $85,795 in debt per person and $225,309 in debt per taxpayer. Also as of Monday, May 3, North Carolina’s state debt was $49,729,169,176, which breaks down to $4,725 in debt per citizen.

State unemployment

and food stamp update…

As of Monday, May 3, 1,196,122 state residents were registered as unemployed, according to www.usdebtclock.org, and 752,704 North Carolinians were registered as food stamp recipients out of a total state population of 10,675,573.

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.

Crossnore Jam this Friday…

Come join the fun at the Crossnore Jam! Play your instrument, sing and tell stories. It’s Friday, May 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Tudor Vance Meeting House in Crossnore. The jam is held every first Friday of each month, year round. Don’t miss it! All are invited.

New hours at Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce…

As spring emerges, the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce has extended its open hours to 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday thru Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call (828) 898-8395.

Solid Waste Department to collect latex paint Saturdays during May…

The Avery County Solid Waste Department will start collecting latex paint every Saturday starting on May 1, 2021. We will only accept latex paint! This is for Avery County taxpayers only! We will not take any contractors paint during our collection. The hours of operation will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays at 269 Old Vale Rd., behind the Avery Board of Education. This is to help with the volume we receive on our annual Hazardous Waste Day. If you have any pesticides, the Avery County Extension office will accept these items during the week.

For more information, call Eric Foster at Avery County Solid Waste at (828) 737-5420.

Benefit singing at Ivey Heights FWB Church…

Ivey Heights Freewill Baptist Church will be hosting a benefit singing for Chris Howell’s medical expenses at 6 p.m. on May 16 at the church. Pastor Barry Sheppard and the church invites everyone to attend.

Caldwell Hospice offers

Virtual Volunteer Training…

Are you looking for an opportunity to make a difference? Do you have the compassionate spirit needed to be a companion for someone’s journey? In partnership with Caldwell Hospice staff, volunteers serve an essential role in patient and family support, administrative and community support.

Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care is hosting a two-day virtual training in June for adults who are interested in becoming hospice volunteers. This training will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, and from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, via Zoom video conferencing. To reserve a spot in the Zoom training, participants must complete an application at www.caldwellhospice.org/give-volunteer.

An array of topics will be covered to help prepare attendees to become successful volunteers. Participants will learn about the strong community history and commitment of Caldwell Hospice, the physical, spiritual, and psychosocial issues hospice patients face, and much more from Caldwell Hospice’s staff of end-of-life care experts.

Currently, there is a need for volunteers to provide patient and family support in Alexander, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Watauga, and Wilkes counties. Other specific needs include veteran volunteers to support and make Veterans Honoring Veterans presentations to patients who are veterans.

Attendance is required at each session. For more information or to register for the June 2021 adult volunteer training opportunity, click to www.caldwellhospice.org/give-volunteer or contact Volunteer Coordinator Cyndi Akins at (828) 754-0101 or cakins@caldwellhospice.org.

On May 1, 2021, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care and Burke Hospice and Palliative Care integrated to form one organization. The vision of the two like-minded community-owned hospice and palliative medicine providers is to have a greater impact on serious illness and end-of-life care in the communities served. They couldn’t be more excited to reveal their new name on June 1, 2021.

Avery Arts Council

interest meeting…

An open meeting regarding the reformation of the Avery Arts Council will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12, at the Avery County Cooperative Extension and Conference Center, located at 661 Vale Road in Newland. This meeting will also cover the nominations of board members. Please spread the word.

‘How Quilting Makes You Smarter’ by Kathy McNeil…

Mountain Piecemakers Quilt Guild will be having international award-winning quilt artist, teacher, author and judge Kathy McNeil, whose topic will be “How Quilting Makes You Smarter (also Healthier, Richer, and More Fun)” at 6:30 p.m. on May 11. By putting little scraps of fabric together by hand, she creates quilts that look like paintings. Often using more than 100 different fabrics in one composition, she revels in adding small details and surprises for the viewers to find. Her award-winning quilts are featured in museums, magazines, calendars, and international shows.

“Don’t allow yourself, or anyone else to make judgments about your work. It is a process!” McNeil said. “That process requires that we break rules, not make assumptions, and try things in a whole new way. Creativity is closely associated with how open we are to new experiences. You cannot be creative if you hold on to perfection!! Give yourself one challenge for every quilt. Pick something you want to work on, such as your quilting, depth and perspective. Push yourself out of your comfort zone in that one area. It is only fabric. If you screw it up you will have learned something along the way. More often than not, a happy accident will occur and you have figured out something new. Make time for that creative process. It is proven to reduce stress.”

Join us for this fun evening by contacting President@mountainpiecemakersquiltguild.org for an invite to Zoom.

Troxler announces

reimbursement program

for expenses associated with quarantined farmworkers…

RALEIGH – Employers that have farmworkers with valid H2A visas who must be quarantined during the 2021 growing season due to COVID-19 will be able to apply for assistance to offset quarantine expenses.

A total of $2 million will be available through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services COVID-19 Farmworker Quarantine Reimbursement program. The N.C. General Assembly approved the funding for this aid program, which comes from federal COVID-19 funds earmarked for North Carolina.

“Farmworkers have always been critical to agriculture, but the pandemic has shown how essential a healthy workforce is to agriculture and our food supply,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “While it is a priority for all farmworkers to get vaccinated, this program will enable employers to safely quarantine workers who test positive for COVID-19 and hopefully minimize spread to their coworkers and others.”

Under this program, employers that have farmworkers with valid H2A visas will be eligible for reimbursement of the cost of meals and lodging for the duration of the quarantine period, not to exceed the per diem rates for federal employees. The employer on record for the farmworker with a valid H2A visa may submit reimbursement request on behalf of any farmworker requiring to be quarantined following a positive test for COVID-19, provided the employer covered the initial eligible expenses out-of-pocket on behalf of the farmworker. The program will be for expenses incurred from March 11, 2021 through the 2021 growing season.

The application period opened on April 14 and will continue through Dec. 15, 2021, or until program funds are exhausted. These funds are provided through CARES Act funding and subject to any changes to the federal legislation.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in serious and substantial impacts on the food supply chain, including migrant farm labor in North Carolina. The H2A program is a critical component in planting and harvesting of North Carolina commodities. This program will help offset the financial burden of quarantine accommodations for workers that test positive for COVID-19 in off-site locations.

Details regarding the NCDA&CS COVID-19 Farmworker Quarantine Reimbursement Program will be available at www.ncagr.gov/QuarantineReimbursementProgram.htm. Contact H2Acovidprogram2021@ncagr.gov with any questions regarding this program.

Community Foundation

and Dogwood Health Trust partner to support regional

vaccine efforts…

Dogwood Heath Trust has awarded $100,000 to The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to be distributed through its Janirve Sudden and Urgent Needs Grant program to support nonprofits in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine across Western North Carolina.

The SUN program awards grants of up to $10,000 to assist human service nonprofit organizations experiencing an unforeseen crisis that diminishes their ability to provide critical services. In this case, DHT and CFWNC want to remove barriers for nonprofit COVID-19 vaccine efforts in 18 western counties, including the Qualla Boundary, a service area the two funders share. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis with grants awarded within two weeks. Nonprofits can apply at https://cfwnc.org/grants/janirve-sudden-and-urgent-needs-sun.

“Our goal is to help community-based organizations with vaccine events, outreach and other activities,” said CFWNC President Elizabeth Brazas. “These small grants can remove barriers for our nonprofit partners that operate on thin budgets. We will consider requests for food for volunteers, water, PPE, tent rentals, fan rentals, whatever is essential to getting more people vaccinated in the coming months.”

“Moving past COVID-19 means getting as many people vaccinated as possible, and that requires that we work together to make sure that community-based organizations can get the support they need to move quickly and creatively,” said Dogwood Health Trust Interim CEO Dr. Susan Mims. “Our partnership with CFWNC is just one example of the kind of collaboration our region will need to get past this pandemic and on to the work of rebuilding better and stronger than before.”

The pandemic has affected marginalized communities at disproportionately higher rates. These grants will support organizations serving diverse communities and reaching rural areas. With more than 40 years of service to WNC, CFWNC’s nonprofit network is broad, and trusted relationships allow for ease of communication. SUN’s streamlined grant application and approval processes mean that funds from DHT can quickly reach and organizations of all sizes working in their communities.

ETSU’s Roan Scholars

Program to accept direct

applications in fall 2021…

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – High school seniors throughout the region will have the opportunity to apply directly for the Roan Scholars Leadership Program at East Tennessee State University beginning in fall 2021.

Since the Roan selected its first class 20 years ago, students have been required to be nominated by their high school in order to be considered for the prestigious four-year scholarship program. The Roan has expanded to more than 90 high schools in 27 counties across Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina, but has remained limited to nominees from those schools. A new policy approved by the Roan Steering Committee removes that limitation.

“Our existing nomination process has served the program well, and we enjoy working with high school counselors and administrators each fall as they identify some of their top students as Roan nominees,” said Roan Director Scott Jeffress. “But we also recognize that we’re missing some amazing students who aren’t nominated, and we’re hearing from an increasing number of students who would like the chance to be considered. This new policy makes the Roan accessible to even more outstanding students throughout the region and enhances our ability to attract and select exceptional young leaders.”

Eligible high schools will continue to nominate one to two top students for the Roan each fall and, as in past years, those nominees will be invited to participate in regional interviews. Direct applications will be evaluated to determine which of those applicants will move forward to the regional interview stage. Homeschooled students and students attending a virtual academy will also be part of the direct application pool.

For the Roan’s founder, Louie Gump, the new policy marks an important milestone in the program’s history.

“The Roan Program has always focused on attracting, retaining and developing the region’s best leadership talent,” Gump said. “This initiative allows us to continue working with school leaders to identify that talent, and also opens up the process so that even more of these outstanding student-leaders can apply to be Roan Scholars. We are excited about students having this opportunity and look forward to this fall.”

Nominations and direct applications for students entering ETSU fall 2022 will open in early August 2021. Direct applicants must reside in one of the 27 qualifying counties. More information about application requirements and instructions will be provided on the Roan website at www.RoanScholars.org.

The Roan Scholars Leadership Program, which is funded primarily by private donations, empowers students to be leaders of excellence who will positively impact the ETSU campus, our region, and the world. The Roan offers four years of unique, out-of-the-classroom experiences and opportunities designed to challenge and inspire students to grow and develop as leaders. The scholarship also includes a financial award for tuition and fees, room and board, and books.

Questions should be directed to the Roan office at (423) 439-7677 or RoanScholars@etsu.edu.

WGU North Carolina

announces new scholarships for essential workers…

DURHAM — WGU North Carolina, an affiliate of nonprofit online Western Governors University, has announced a new scholarship program specifically designed for essential workers. Valued at up to $3,000 each, the Essential Workers Scholarships were launched to show appreciation for grocery store employees, postal workers, sanitation workers, delivery drivers, transit employees and countless other essential workers who have shown unwavering perseverance and commitment in serving their communities during the pandemic.

The Essential Workers Scholarships are open to new students whose jobs were considered essential throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and who are interested in pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at WGU. Each $3,000 scholarship will be applied to WGU’s already-low, flat-rate tuition and will be credited at the rate of $750 per six-month term, renewable for up to four terms. The deadline to apply is June 30, 2021, and the application can be found at wgu.edu/essential.

“Essential workers throughout North Carolina have demonstrated their commitment to helping their customers and neighbors get through these trying times,” said Kimberly Estep, Vice President of the Southeast Region for Western Governors University. “WGU would like to recognize them with a scholarship designed exclusively for essential workers who wish to advance their education.”

Designed for working adults, WGU offers an asynchronous, competency-based model that allows students to log in and access coursework at a time convenient for them, and to accelerate at their own pace. WGU offers more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, K-12 teacher education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing. Tuition is around $3,750 per six-month term for most undergraduate degree programs, and students can take as many courses as they and their assigned mentors are comfortable with during the term.

More than 3,900 North Carolinians are currently enrolled in WGU. For more information about WGU North Carolina, click to nc.wgu.edu or speak to an enrollment counselor at (866) 903-0109.

CDC Extends Moratorium on Renter Evictions to June 30…

NEWLAND — Just as it was about to expire at the end of March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an extension of the national ban that temporarily halts evictions for millions of renters. The new order extends the moratorium to June 30, 2021. An estimated 435,000 North Carolinians are currently behind on their rent.

The order requires that renters meet certain criteria, including:

  • Have an income of $198,000 or less for couples filing jointly, or up to $99,000 for individuals.
  • Show they have sought government assistance to pay their rent.
  • Declare they are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19.
  • Affirm they are likely to become homeless or will be forced to stay with friends or family if they are evicted.
  • Show they have lost income.

Renters must fill out and submit a copy of the CDC declaration form – available at local courthouses and also www.pisgahlegal.org/federal-eviction-moratorium/. Renters should submit the form in English to their landlords or to their local court. Pisgah Legal advises keeping another dated copy as well.

“This is very good news for many folks across the country and those right here in our mountain region,” Pisgah Legal Services Executive Director Jim Barrett said. “Federal relief is on its way, and we hope this extension will allow for the time that is needed to get these funds to those who are worried about losing their homes. In the meantime, we encourage people to fill out the CDC form and work with their landlords to pay what they can, because the moratorium does not mean that rent is forgiven.”

In addition to the moratorium, renters should also know these basic rights:

  • A tenant cannot be made to move from a rental home without a court order. Tenants have a right to appear in court and defend themselves.
  • Any attempt made to remove a tenant by anyone or any means except the Sheriff’s Department is illegal.
  • In most cases, landlords cannot legally terminate a tenant’s electricity, water, or heat source as a method of forcing them to leave a rental unit.
  • Do not move out without talking to an attorney. Tenants may have rights and defenses that they do not know about. There may be financial resources available tenants are unaware of. Even if a tenant is behind in rent, do not move out without finding out your options. Eviction actions can happen quickly without an attorney, and they can be slowed down to prevent homelessness with the aid of an attorney.

Pisgah Legal Services, a nonprofit that provides free civil legal aid in Western North Carolina, continues to assist people with low incomes. Staff and volunteer attorneys are helping clients and taking new applications for assistance with critical needs that include:

  • evictions and foreclosures
  • domestic violence
  • coping with debts and avoiding scams
  • unemployment and other government benefits and health care.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Pisgah Legal’s main phone lines at (828) 253-0406, or (800) 489-6144. Online applications are also being accepted by clicking to www.pisgahlegal.org/free-legal-assistance. Pisgah Legal staff and volunteer attorneys continue to work remotely and will be in touch via phone and/or email.

PLS has offices in Asheville, Burnsville, Brevard, Hendersonville, Highlands/Cashiers, Marshall, Newland, and Rutherfordton. In addition to the attorneys on staff, Pisgah Legal relies heavily on the pro bono legal services of approximately 300 volunteer attorneys.

North Carolina Tree City USA communities working hard to preserve city trees, improve urban forests…

RALEIGH – In 2020, 83 North Carolina communities earned Tree City USA designations, and 12 college and university campuses earned Tree Campus Higher Education designations. Five utilities earned Tree Line USA designations for 2021, based on activities completed in 2020. The N.C. Forest Service is proud to celebrate these communities, colleges and universities, and public and private utilities that make the commitment to improving care of city trees critical for protecting urban tree canopy cover.

“The urban forestry achievements of our communities are deserving of recognition because the hard work and sweat equity citizens put into planting and caring for trees will ensure our neighborhoods can become even cooler, cleaner and greener in the future,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Tree City USA, Tree Line USA and Tree Campus Higher Education recognitions are achieved by meeting similar program requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

“In addition to our 83 Tree Cities, six communities earned Tree City USA Growth Awards. Achieving any of these significant recognitions reaffirms a community’s commitment to not just healthy urban tree canopy but also to tree preservation, increased property values, clean air and water, management of stormwater runoff, and an overall better quality of life for us and future generations,” said Jennifer Rall, an urban forestry specialist with the N.C. Forest Service. “We thank our Tree City USA communities and are proud to support their efforts.”

The N.C. Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry program oversees the application and award process for Tree City USA, Tree Campus Higher Education, and Tree Line USA which are all under the Arbor Day Foundation umbrella. The Tree City USA program provides a framework for building an urban forestry program within a community and working toward sustainable and proactive management of a community’s tree resources. The Tree Campus Higher Education program supports effective tree management at two- and four-year accredited colleges and universities, encouraging best tree management practices on campuses and engaging the student population in the stewardship of campus tree resources.The Tree Line USA program recognizes best practices in public and private utility arboriculture, demonstrating how trees and utilities can coexist for the benefit of communities and citizens.

To learn more about these programs and how your community can participate, click to www.ncforestservice.gov/Urban/tcusa_programs.htm. For a list of communities, campuses and utilities recognized in 2020/2021, click to www.ncforestservice.gov/Urban/pdf/TCUSA_2020_Participants.pdf.

AG Stein: Don’t fall

for fake vaccine cards…

More than 3 million North Carolinians are now fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. This is a remarkable step forward in our fight against the pandemic, and soon we can begin safely returning to our lives. But scammers have used the pandemic as an excuse to take advantage of people for the past year, and they’re still at it. The next fight against COVID-19 vaccine scams is stopping the spread and use of false vaccine cards.

When you get your dose, or doses, of the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re given a vaccination card that includes your personal information, the manufacturer of the vaccine you received, and additional details about the vaccine you received. These cards are currently the best way to track your vaccination progress.

When you get your vaccination card, don’t share pictures of it on social media. Scammers can get your personal details and compromise your identity, and they can also use it to create fake duplicates.

Recently, people have been selling fake vaccine cards online. These fake cards are illegal, and they’re also incredibly dangerous to the work we’ve been doing to fight this pandemic for more than a year. If people rely on fraudulent vaccine cards instead of getting the vaccine, they can’t protect themselves or their loved ones from the virus. And the longer the virus can spread and infect people who haven’t been vaccinated, the longer this pandemic continues and the greater the public health risk to us all.

If you want a vaccine card, you can get a legitimate one for free by signing up to get the vaccine. In North Carolina, everyone 16 and older is eligible to sign up to get their shot, and you can learn more at YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov or call 1 (888) 675-4567 to schedule your vaccine appointment.

These vaccines are safe, tested, and effective. You don’t need to have photo ID or health insurance, and you don’t need to share your bank account, Social Security, or credit card numbers to get one. Please don’t pay for fake vaccine cards – it’s unlawful and it puts people’s health at risk. The faster we all get our shots, the faster we can hug our loved ones, travel, and return fully to our lives.

If you or a loved one has questions about a possible scam or fear you’ve been victimized, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Forest Service shelters

available along the southern Appalachian Trail…

ASHEVILLE— Shelters along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia are now available for use. Hikers are encouraged to bring their own personal tent and face coverings. Earlier in the pandemic these shelters were shut down, along with trailheads.

The shelters are located on national forest land, managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials say there are hundreds of shelters averaging about eight miles apart along the trail, although the intervals vary. Shelters might not be frequently maintained at all locations.

Another overnight option is dispersed camping in designated areas of the national forest. Hikers should be prepared to tent camp if social distancing in shelters is not possible.

Hikers can plan ahead by checking forest websites for site-specific details before their trip. The southern portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through four national forests:

Tennessee: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/cherokee/recreation, Cherokee National Forest

Georgia: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/conf/recreation, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

North Carolina: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/nfsnc/recreation, National Forests in North Carolina

Virginia: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

The Appalachian Trail is a popular hiking path stretching more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. About 100 miles of the trail are in North Carolina and about 226 miles of the trail are along the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Hikers are encouraged to recreate responsibly, maintain a safe social distance and follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities.

At-Home testing

for the SARS-CoV-2 Virus…

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), in partnership with LabCorp, is piloting a program to provide 35,000 no-cost, at-home testing kits to underprivileged and/or disabled North Carolinians experiencing financial barriers to getting tested. FNS recipients are able to order Pixel by LabCorp at-home testing kits to be shipped overnight directly to their homes. The test kits include test supplies (nasal swab, sample container, etc.), detailed instructions and prepaid specimen return shipping materials. Results are typically reported back to the individual within 48 to 72 hours from the time the specimen is received at the lab.

The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 at-home testing kit is a molecular test that detects the presence or absence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. For questions contact The Pixel by LabCorp at website https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/nc or the Pixel’s dedicated support line at (800) 833-3935.

Farmers Tailgate Markets open for Spring in the High Country…

HIGH COUNTRY — Farmers tailgate markets are readying tents for the new season, with openings scheduled in April and May. These early spring markets will offer an array of produce, including colorful root vegetables like carrots and radishes, tender lettuces and salad greens, cold-hardy greens like kale and spinach, mushrooms, spring alliums, and much more. In addition to produce, market vendors will have meats, cheese, eggs, bread, and prepared foods as well as a wide selection of plant starts.

Opening dates for Appalachian Grown farmers markets in the High Country are:

Alleghany County Farmers Market, Sparta: Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ashe County Farmers Market, West Jefferson: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Avery County Farmers Market, Banner Elk: Thursdays, 4 to 6:30 p.m.

Bakersville Main Street Farmer’s Market: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon

Blowing Rock Farmers Market: May 27, Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.

King Street Market, Boone: Tuesdays, 4 to 7 p.m.

Spruce Pine Farmers Market: Wednesdays, noon to 4 p.m.

Watauga County Farmers Market, Boone: Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon

Wilkes County Farmers Market, North Wilkesboro: Tuesdays, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Many COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing, limiting the number of shoppers, and mask requirements, are still in effect. Check individual market websites and signage for details and updates.

SNAP/EBT is accepted by many farmers markets in the region. In addition, some markets also offer SNAP incentives, such as one-to-one matches on dollars spent through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at farmers markets. Find details about this and other farmers market SNAP programs at asapconnections.org/snap.

There are more than 100 farmers markets across the Appalachian Grown region, which includes Western North Carolina as well as surrounding counties in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. For a complete list of markets click to asapconnections.org/farmersmarkets or use ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

Cooperative Extension

announces Plant Sale…

The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Avery County Center staff is ready to take orders for the 2021 Avery County Cooperative Extension Plant Sale.

For years, this annual event has helped supply the Avery County residents with various fruit trees and berry plants. This year, we are offering new apple trees such as the Junaluska, Jarrett and Golden Pippin along with numerous other heirloom varieties. These particular heirloom varieties grow very well in our area. Traditional heirloom favorites will be available along with Pear trees, Pawpaws, Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Grape Vines, Asparagus, and Rhubarb. These plants come from high-quality commercial nurseries; the plants are excellent quality.

Contact the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center to request a Plant Sale Catalog and Order Form to be mailed. Also, Plant Sale Catalogs and Order Forms will be available at Three Nails Hardware in Newland and the NEW Avery County Cooperative Extension Center at 661 Vale Road, Newland or at https://avery.ces.ncsu.edu.

Business hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. For additional information and availability of plants, contact Bill Hoffman, Extension Agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, Avery County Center at (828) 733-8270.

Recreational senior softball league seeking participants…

High Country Senior Softball is looking for men ages 60 and older and women ages 50 and older to come out and enjoy a fun time competing in senior softball or leisurely throwing the ball around for exercise. Senior Softball meets April through Sept. every Monday at 9:30 a.m. at Avery High School and every Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Watauga Recreation Center. Ages for competitive teams range from 60 to 69, as well as 70 and older. Bats, balls and gloves are available for use, so lace up you sneakers and come out. For more information, call Bert Valery at (727) 215-5560.

Avery County

Historical Museum is open…

The Avery County Museum is open with COVID 19 regulations in place. Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with Saturday hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m (unless a volunteer is unavailable). Visitors can also tour the ET&WNC Railroad and Depot located behind the museum. There are many resource books and family genealogies available in the museum library.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

NCDIT Broadband Survey launched to assess high-speed internet across state…

RALEIGH — A year into the pandemic, we know how crucial high-speed, affordable internet access at home is to work, learn, socialize and get medical care. But that infrastructure is not available to many North Carolina residents who live in unserved and underserved areas of the state. Others may have access to high-speed internet but are unable to afford it.

The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO) needs residents and businesses—both those who do and do not have internet service—to complete the North Carolina Broadband Survey to let us know about the availability and quality of their internet service.

The survey results will identify locations across the state with inadequate internet access and speed. BIO will use the data to direct funding and grants to areas that are unserved and underserved, whether due to low population density, geographical barriers or cost.

High Country Audubon Society bird walks…

Join the High Country Audubon Society for a bird walk at Valle Crucis Community Park on Wednesdays through November. Enjoy an opportunity to see the beautiful birds in the area in a walk led by one of your community members.

Walks are free to take part in, and the event takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. For more information, email contactus@highcountryaudubon.org.

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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