HIGH COUNTRY — High Country Caregivers is helping local kinship caregivers and those in their care feel support through special events and opportunities.

HCC is a stand-alone nonprofit organization dedicated to relatives caring for loved ones — whether as surrogate parents with younger children or as direct caregivers for those with life-limiting illnesses and debilities. Through a variety of programs, HCC supports local families in need of respite and resources to help ease the heavy load they carry.

Helping to navigate the system, HCC points kinship caregivers to agencies available to help with legal, financial, emotional and physical challenges that can easily become overwhelming and frustrating for everyone involved.

As an example, HCC understands that grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives often face unique challenges in unexpectedly having to parent someone else’s child. Many relatives may not be prepared — be it financially, emotionally, physically or mentally — for the added responsibilities required for the new role.

According to HCC, many caregivers cannot afford the basic necessities that these children require in addition to extra items such as cell phones or laptops.

Currently, there are an estimated 8 million children in the U.S. living with someone other than a parent, according to HCC. In North Carolina, about 225,493 children are being raised by their grandparents or other relatives. The agency added that a large number of those children are located in the High Country.

To care for others, it is necessary for caregivers to ensure that their own physical, emotional and financial needs are met. Accepting help available through HCC allows them to do a better job.

Under the direction of an active and compassionate board of directors, newly appointed Executive Director Jacob Willis and Program Director Marty Wilson are available to help kinship caregivers in and around the High Country.

Willis and Wilson were introduced at a midsummer fundraising event at Stonewalls In Banner Elk, while at the same time outgoing director, Brenda Reece, and program assistant, Sherrie Norris, were both honored for their years of dedication and commitment to the HCC, the agency stated.

“As did Reece and Norris, Willis and Wilson continue to work closely with partnering agencies, organizations and individuals to help meet the needs of local family caregivers in the service area,” HCC stated.

How to get involved

HCC invites community members to contribute to its Children’s Wish List, Coach’s Kids or Play Me a Memory programs.

The Children’s Wish List was created to help meet some of the unexpected needs the surrogate parents face on a regular basis.

“Thanks to the support of seasonal and full-time residents, generous donations help with the purchase of clothing items, sports uniforms and equipment, school supplies, Christmas and birthday gifts, prom dresses and so much more,” HCC stated.

Opportunities that have been provided through this program include attending and participating in various cultural arts events at Lees-McRae College and Appalachian State University as well as paid registration fees for dance classes, martial arts instruction and school field trips.

“Without the help of women like Joan Benbasat and Rebecca Scialpi — who created this outreach and continue to give of their time, talent and skills to help our families — The Children’s Wish List would not be fulfilled,” HCC stated. “We hope that you will join these women in their efforts to continue meeting the needs of the families we serve.”

HCC stated that there is currently a need for donations to help with gifts for the upcoming Christmas season.

The Coach’s Kids program is a new part of the HCC outreach, and provides summer camp opportunities for kinship caregivers and their children. This project is led by former Appalachian State head football coach and current HCC board member, Jerry Moore, who serves along with his wife, Margaret.

Because many kinship caregivers work full time, there is a great need to keep the children in their care safe and engaged in summer activity while their caregivers are at work, according to HCC.

Through this program, HCC provides scholarship opportunities for children to attend camps throughout the agency’s service area of up to $350 per child.

“Please consider partnering with us, and Coach Moore, to make an impact in the lives of children throughout the High Country,” stated HCC.

Play Me a Memory is an early memory-loss group that meets on a weekly basis. This group focuses on the ongoing integration of physical, mental, creative and social activities of its clients. The program provides specific, structured activities that emphasize socialization, memory exercises, physical activity and cognitive stimulation.

Weekly sessions of Play Me a Memory include:

  • Cognitive and mental fitness exercises
  • Education related to memory and brain function
  • Social interaction with peers that encourages participant input
  • Physical activity and/or education on the benefits of physical activity and good nutrition
  • Opportunities to learn memory enhancement techniques and strategies to live with memory loss
  • Access to information about local resources and support services for individuals living with memory loss and their families
  • Camaraderie and support from peers also living with memory loss
  • Opportunities for creative expression

The group currently meets in Yancey County, and the opportunity will expand to Watauga County with the help of Appalachian State University at the beginning of next year. The Watauga Play Me a Memory group will be offered at the Beaver College of Health Sciences. Along with these classes will be a support group for caregivers of those with early memory loss that meets once a month at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center.

If a family meets the criteria and is interested in learning more about HCC, or to make a donation to the cause, visit HighCountryCaregivers.com or call (828) 832-6366. Your tax-deductible donations may also be mailed directly to High Country Caregivers at P.O. Box 3356, Boone, NC, 28607.

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