The Watauga County Community Foundation (WCCF) recently presented two awards honoring members of the community for their philanthropy and efforts to make Watauga County a better place.
The awards were celebrated at a reception on Nov. 10 at the Blowing Rock Conference Center. WCCF posthumously awarded the Spirit of Philanthropy Award to recognize Audrey Bentley and Dr. Don Saunders.
Mrs. Bentley was a native of Watauga and lived most of her life in the Aho community near Blowing Rock. Her husband, Don Bentley, had been a teacher, principal and administrator in the Watauga County Schools for many years before retiring and passing away in 2005.
Before her death in 2019, Audrey created two scholarships in honor of Don that benefit Watauga County students. The first scholarship is a generous renewable scholarship for Watauga High School/Innovation Academy students to attend any 4-year college or university of their choice. A second scholarship is directed at students, both locally and statewide, who attend Virginia Tech.
Mrs. Bentley also gave her homeplace on Aho Road to the Blue Ridge Conservancy. They have remodeled the home, making it their offices and are creating an educational center that includes a 2.2-mile trail on the 46 acres that will adjoin the Middle Fork Greenway.
Dr. Saunders was a history professor at Appalachian State University and was instrumental in guiding the honors program. He also served on the board of the Watauga County Community Foundation and established an endowment fund that supports general charitable, educational, religious, and scientific purposes. The Dr. Don Saunders Endowment is managed by WCCF.
The new Community Inspiration Award was established by the board to recognize outstanding contributions made by members of the community whose efforts have made a positive difference in the community and have inspired others.
The inaugural award was given to Elizabeth Young and the Hunger and Health Coalition, which works with vulnerable populations to provide emergency assistance and long-term solutions. Young and the coalition implemented creative, essential community solutions through the most difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic. They addressed some of the hardest issues facing the community - hunger and health - and inspired the community with their response.
“The past three years have been extremely tough on our community. Under the leadership of Elizabeth Young, the Hunger and Health Coalition met the challenges of COVID, inflation and higher prices, knowing their work is more important than ever to those they serve,” said Brian Crutchfield, president of the WCCF board. “We are honored to present our first Community Inspiration Award to Elizabeth Young and the Hunger and Health Coalition.”
The Watauga County Community Foundation is an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation. WCCF was founded in 1991 and has grown to include 39 endowment and scholarship funds. These funds have total assets of $8 million and made grants and scholarships exceeding $500,000 this year. For more information, visit nccommunityfoundation.org/Watauga.
The North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF) is the only statewide community foundation serving North Carolina and has administered over $243 million in grants since 1988. With more than $440 million in assets, NCCF sustains more than 1,200 endowments and partners with a network of affiliates to award grants and scholarships in communities across the state.
An important component of NCCF’s mission is to ensure rural philanthropy has a voice at the local, regional and national levels.
Amy Dominello Braun, Senior Communications & Marketing Officer