The Central Blue Ridge Community Foundation recently awarded the Youth Philanthropy Program a $6000 grant to continue their good work in Highland County. At the same ceremony, our tenant, The Highland County Arts Council received a $2500 grant to help bring additional programs to our community. At the ceremony Josh Umar accepted the check for the YPP and Liz Delahoussaye accepted for the Arts Council. Congratulations to both groups and deep appreciation for their efforts in our community through collaboration.
Other organizations impacting Highland County that received grants were the Valley Program for Aging Services, Highland County Humane Society, and Garth Newel Music Center.
For more information on the Community Foundation visit www.cfcbr.org
Returning vendors, as well as new vendors are encouraged to join us in celebrating our 20th season with 20 markets this year!
Are you interested in joining the fun by becoming a vendor at the Highland Farmers’ Market, but were unable to attend the recent workshop? No problem – we’ve got you covered! Just click the handy-dandy links below to access copies of pertinent documents to get you started.
Applications for the pilot season of our Culinary and Hospitality Internship are due this Friday, 4/15! We are encouraging current culinary and hospitality students to apply for this 10-week internship for credit, which will run from June 13 through August 21, 2016.
Interns will have the chance to experience many aspects of Highland County’s burgeoning local food and business economies. They will work on several area farms, tour different lodging establishments, work as innkeeper at the Highland Inn, and gain hands-on culinary experience in the kitchen, as we re-open the Tavern and Dining Room at the Highland Inn. The program will culminate with our annual local foods fundraising dinner, Taste of Highland.
We are looking for highly motivated participants who are excited about spending part of their summer in beautiful Highland County. Click here for the application materials. To find out more about either the program or application, email Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
This month’s Faces of Farmers Farm of the Month is S & S Farm, in Marlinton, WV. It might be easier to list off the items Steve andMary Saffel don’t produce—S & S Farm is home to a variety of meat animals including turkey, chicken, ducks, and hogs, a couple of milk goats, and a wide range of produce from cantaloupes to collard greens. Farming is Steve and Mary’s livelihood, and it is one they’re glad to have chosen.
Overall, the farm is maintained using organic growing practices, and it was recognized as the Pocahontas County Conservation Farm in 2014. Produce, meat, and eggs from S & S Farm are available at the Lewisburg Farmers’ Market, area restaurants, through a CSA, and for the first time this year, online through Monroe Farm Market. Read more at their Faces of Farmers page!
Last fall, the future of the Highland Inn was unclear. The 111 year-old hotel, a National Landmark building that is the county’s largest lodging facility, closed its doors due to financial constraints and the need for major upgrades. The Highland Center purchased the Inn last February with a loan from a private citizen and has been welcoming overnight guests throughout the summer. Plans for the restaurant are underway, and the inspected kitchen is in operation to serve complimentary breakfast for guests and prepare home-delivered meals for Bath and Highland seniors through Valley Program for Aging Services. Plans for the restaurant include a fresh and healthy menu that showcases local meat, produce, and other Highland products.
In addition to being a treasured landmark that is critical to tourism and the Main Street economy, the Highland Inn also has great potential to attract young people to the county with workforce development opportunities for those in the culinary and hospitality industries. The Highland Center is in talks with regional community colleges to develop an apprenticeship program in those fields. This and other initiatives are being planned with input from the community and guidance from the Highland Inn Steering Committee. Renovation of the Inn is a major priority, and the Center is asking for community donations as well as exploring state and federal grant opportunities. The goal is to maintain the historical integrity of the hotel while making it more attractive and comfortable for guests. If you are interested in becoming involved in the project, please contact Executive Director Betty Mitchell at (540) 468-1922 or email@example.com.
Help us meet our challenge grant
We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received to help purchase and renovate the Highland Inn. Most recently, several generous donors issued a $111,000 challenge in honor of the Inn’s 111th birthday.
Gifts and pledges made by December 31st may be matched 1:1 and go directly toward renovating the Inn. You may give online, fill out a pledge form, or stop by the Inn to make your donation.
How do we attract and retain more young people
in Highland? How do we create more jobs while ensuring that workers are skilled and ready to take them on? Robin Sullenberger of the State Board for Virginia Community College System, the Highland County Economic Development Authority, and The Highland Center hosted a group of 38 local business owners, government officials and education leaders for a Workforce Round Table on August 31st to discuss these issues.
Business owners from Highland and Bath spoke about the challenges they face in finding and retaining experienced workers, while representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, and the Virginia Community College System gave perspectives from statewide and regional initiatives. Representatives from Highland County Public Schools were also in attendance.
Everyone agreed that there is a gap between jobs that exist in our area and the skills and interest of young people to take them on, especially in “middle skill” careers such as mechanics and construction. Overall participants agreed on some tangible steps forward, including creating an inventory of all business opportunities in the region, expanding current programs such as The Highland Center’s Youth Employment Program, introducing apprenticeship and mentoring programs, and strengthening partnerships between the schools and the business community.
The Highland Center has been tackling these issues for 17 years by creating opportunities for young people, helping small businesses start and grow, and supporting farmers and local food businesses. We’re rounding the corner on some exciting new initiatives. Some are making a splash – like the major renovation of our historic building – while others are happening behind the scenes.
This newsletter is a spotlight on how we are moving forward. We want YOUR input – what are we doing right, and what are we missing out on? How can we help local businesses succeed and give young people the skills they need? Come and find us at the Highland Inn, email Josh Umar at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment on our Facebook Page. Thank you for your continued input and support!
It has been another great year for the Highland Farmers’ Market, with neighbors coming together to purchase the freshest local produce, meat, dairy and more. The Market, which runs every Friday afternoon through September, saw record-breaking sales this summer as well as increased usage of SNAP Benefits, with a 1:1 match generously provided by the Highland Evangelical Association.
You may have noticed some younger faces at the Highland market this year, as participants in the Health and Nutrition from the Garden program ran a booth selling vegetables that were grown and harvested from the school garden. The booth was entirely youth-run, with students creating the signage, interacting with customers, taking payment, and making change. The program, a partnership between The Highland Center and Virginia Cooperative Extension/4H, taught elementary students about planting, harvesting and maintaining vegetable beds and preparing easy healthy recipes with garden produce. Two students earned Junior Master Gardener certificates from the program. Many thanks to the Highland County Public Library and the Allegheny Mountain Institute for their volunteer support of this project.
The Highland Center is also leading a four-county Farmers’ Market Promotion Program with funding from the USDA. The grant has helped markets in Highland, Bath, Pendleton, and Pocahontas Counties come together to share successes and improve their amenities and signage. It has also supported marketing and education for local farmers and has led to the expansion of the Faces of Farmers website. The creation of a Faces of Farmers video is in production with local filmmaker KT! Eaton, and multiple farms in Pocahontas and Pendleton Counties are being added to the site.
This summer The Highland Center hired its newest employee, Youth and Community Outreach Coordinator Josh Umar. Coming from the DC area, Josh stepped in to take on the Center’s youth and entrepreneurship programs. He led a very successful season of the Youth Employment Program (YEP), with 14 local teenagers giving 1,526 hours at work sites including Highland County Public Schools, the Highland County Public Library, the Highland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive 365 Farm, Valley Program for Aging Services, Allegheny Mountain Radio, and the Highland Inn.
In addition to earning a stipend and gaining hands-on work experience, participants learned about important “soft skills” such as maintaining a good work ethic, showing up on time, and building a resume. The Center led the students through financial and career planning sessions, and mock job interviews were held with SCORE business counselors.
YEP was highlighted at the Workforce Round Table on August 31st as an example of a program that gives local youth tangible skills to take into the workforce. The Center is looking into the possibility of expanding the program throughout the year, and also adding more entrepreneurial experiences and apprenticeship opportunities. One participant this summer worked with a local farm and had her own dedicated garden bed, where she grew vegetables and sold them at the farmers’ market. “I’d like to see more opportunities like that in the future,” says Josh. “I think this program can lead to a more entrepreneurial mindset, where kids will eventually go out and make their own opportunities and contribute to the county.”
The Highland Center is also taking the lead on a new initiative for high school students, the Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC). The YPC is a teen administered grant-making board that will meet regularly with local leaders and non-profits to discuss community needs, and will eventually award grants totaling at least $5,000 to worthy causes. The Center is grateful for its partnership with the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge on this program. The first meeting of the YPC will take place on Wednesday, October 14th at the Highland Inn. Applications are being accepted through September 28th. If you are interested or know a local teenager who would like to participate, stop by the Highland Inn or email Josh at email@example.com.
This summer The Highland Center welcomed intern Ethan Strickler, a graduate student at the University of Virginia School of Urban and Environmental Planning. Ethan helped the Center create a strategic plan for moving into the new renovated building with ramped-up programming and systems in place to report on job creation, community investment, and other impact measurements. Ethan was recently featured in a story for UVA Today, highlighting his role as garden manager of the Hereford Residential College and his internship with The Highland Center. Thank you Ethan for all of your help!
After many years of planning and fundraising, The Highland Center broke ground on its historic renovation project in March, led by Lantz Construction Company of Broadway, VA with several local subcontractors. Many improvements are already underway.
Demolition is almost complete, including the tear-down of some entrances in poor condition and the crumbling back addition. A new addition will be rebuilt to include classrooms, business incubation space and handicapped accessible toilets. The new building will be fully ADA accessible with rebuilt ramps and a lift between floors.
The auditorium walls are being prepared for new acoustic treatment. The stage area will be relocated and lowered to create an improved performance space. Classrooms on the north side of the building are being converted into a Conference-Retreat space. Asbestos tiles and insulation have been removed throughout the building. Plumbing, HVAC and electrical updates have begun in the lower level, which will feature upgraded classroom space and a modified kitchen. New framing and concrete pouring is also underway.
The transformations taking place are already remarkable. We can’t wait to see the fully restored building in 2017. Thank you to everyone who has volunteered and donated to this project. It has truly been a community effort!