Watauga County citizens will benefit from grants worth more than $33,000 awarded recently to local helping agencies from the Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation for the 2017 grant cycle.

The Foundation has awarded over $1 million in community grants and is also quickly approaching another milestone with $3 million in total assistance for helping members and families stay warm in the winter with heating bill assistance.

The grants are examples of why the cooperative established the Members Foundation in 2007 to support the work of community organizations providing services that improve the quality of life for the cooperative’s members. Projects in the areas of health, wellness, education, youth, and economic and community development are the Foundation’s priorities for support.

A grand total of $175,000 was awarded to 25 different organizations across the Blue Ridge service area. Local Watauga County agencies receiving grant awards include:

-Casting Bread Food Pantry - $3,218 to help provide a Welcome Center waiting area for patrons delivering donations rather than having to sit in their cars;

-Community Care Clinic - $5,000 to expand the mental health offering and focus on tobacco cessation services for low-income individuals;

-Friends of St. Matthews Chapel - $7,500 to assist with renovations to continue developing this historic facility into a community center;

-Hospitality House - $2,500 to support the successful Garden Program managed by clients to contribute fresh produce, eggs, and herbs to the kitchen and pantry;

-Hunger and Health Coalition – $13,000 to improve energy efficiency and fund the pharmacy and food assistance programs;

-OASIS - $2,000 to assist with utility deposits for families fleeing intimate partner violence.

An additional multi-county grant of $5,000 was awarded to Special Olympics for funds to reach children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Avery, Caldwell, Watauga, and Wilkes counties and engage them with their peers in a sports program.

During 2017, the Foundation also provided crisis funding assistance to more than 1,200 Blue Ridge Energy members in need of emergency help to pay their electric bills. While crisis assistance is funded by the Foundation, local helping agencies evaluate needs and determine who qualifies for assistance.

Funding for Foundation grants and crisis assistance comes from members participating in Blue Ridge Energy’s Operation Round Up® and Operation Round Up Plus® programs as well as annual contributions from the profits of the cooperative’s propane and fuels subsidiary and its broadband business service subsidiary.

Anyone with questions about the Foundation, or agencies interested in applying for grants, may contact Grey Scheer, director of community relations, at 828-759-8994 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

(front row) Grant recipients Lisa Bottomley, Kelsi Butler, and Melanie Gunter; (second row) Jamie Thomasson, Janet Specht, Tina Krause, Stacey Harris, Elizabeth Young, Chris Hatton, and Margaret Pierce, Foundation Advisory Committee
(back row) J.B. Lawrence and Joy Coffey, Blue Ridge Watauga board members; Susan Jones, Watauga District Manager; and Raymond Reid, Foundation Advisory Committee