Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
A program based in Cullowhee geared toward helping at risk youth will soon be expanding in Macon County, and once local church is stepping up to help in that effort.
HIGHTS, Helping, Inspire Gifts of Hope, Trust, and Service, is based out of Jackson County but serves juveniles ages 12-17 in Jackson, Haywood, and Macon counties. It was founded in 2007 to connect kids in need to community resources that care about them. It is a local nonprofit that is 100 percent funded by grants and generous donors. HIGHTS provides services at no costs to the child or their family. Students are provided with a safe space to grow and learn while building important life skills to ready themselves for the grown-up world.
Louisa Chapel will be hosting a BBQ dinner this Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting HIGHTS and the planned expansion to Macon County.
“We are involved with HIGHTS because it is an extremely worthwhile project for Western North Carolina youths,” said pastor David Crunkleton, Pastor of Louisa Chapel. “Also, HIGHTS just received notification last week that they have a grant which will allow them to extend that project into Macon County, which is super exciting.”
HIGHTS organizes activities and creates a safe space for at risk children in the community.
“The students that we work with have had very tough lives,” said Mike Yow with HIGHTS. “They haven’t had the opportunity to build positive relationships with others or to make connections with adventures in their own community. HIGHTS provides opportunities to go rafting, ziplining, climbing, caving, and meaningful service activities that would otherwise be inaccessible to this group of young people. Studies have shown that a person can better manage their own past mental trauma by reflecting on a good memory. HIGHTS makes it a priority to help its students make these good memories through its programs. In turn, students who participate in HIGHTS programs are able to become functional, contributing members to their community.”
Crunkleton believes that by helping HIGHTS, they can reach youth across the area who are in need of extra support.
“If we can help the youth of our NWNC counties see the positive contributions that they can make, then the results will be exponential,” he said. “These kids have gone through experiences that are unimaginable for most of of us, and the program helps them to see that there is so much good in the world, and that they can contribute and make a difference. They may have only had poor role models and bad experiences in the past, but we can help them to see that the world is full of good people, not just bad people.”
HIGHTS is free of charge for the kids, and there is currently no funding for staff, for activities, for snacks, or anything.
“Our fundraiser will hopefully help supply at least some of these needs,” said Crunkleton. “Our barbeque is this Saturday, May 5, and will be held at Louisa Chapel United Methodist Church. “We ask that donations be made, and are not charging a set price for the barbeque dinner. The barbeque is being prepared by some of our local, seasoned chefs within the church, and we sure hope everyone enjoys it. We will also have slaw, baked beans, etc., to go along with the pulled pork.”
Louisa Chapel United Methodist Church doesn’t hold fundraisers to benefit the local church – its building needs, upkeep, salaries, parsonage, etc. Every fundraiser they have ever held has been for the benefit of a local need in the community.
“We believe that charity begins in the home,” said Crunkleton. “Although worldwide missions are critical, and desperately needed, our church tends to concentrate on the local community, and how we can reach out and help those around us who are in need. We pray that the community will respond with a generous outpouring of donations and attendance at the barbeque, and we pray that the HIGHTS program will continue to reach out to teens who are at risk and are struggling to find that ‘good thread’ that runs through the community of Macon County and Jackson County, North Carolina.”