Deena C. Bouknight
An Otto-based community club was one of 64 receiving recognition and a cash reward from WNC Honors Awards, a program of WNC Communities, which spotlights rural community development clubs for innovative ideas and grassroots solutions. According to Susan Garrett, community programs coordinator for WNC Communities, based in Asheville, “These centers and clubs are the backbone of community cohesion running through our beloved mountains.”
Communities were recognized Saturday, Nov. 12, with nearly 200 community leaders and volunteers representing 15 Western North Carolina counties as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Sixty-four communities received a total of $50,000 in cash awards. Locally, Otto Community Development Organization (OCDO) of Macon County received the President’s Award for 50 years of participation in the WNC Honors Awards.
Current Otto president Thomas Young, said, “It means a lot for us because of the length of time we’ve been involved contributing to our community.”
“Otto Community Development Organization has been involved in the WNC Honors Program for 50 of the 73 years the program has been in existence,” explained Garrett. “Each of these years, they have turned in an application explaining what they have done to help their community’s residents. In their 2022 application, they reported that there are approximately 1,800 households in their area. One of their volunteer services from the past year included providing space for a candidate forum for candidates running for county commissioner and sheriff. They reported having roughly 100 community members in attendance.
“To show the diversity of their offerings, another example is their volunteer effort to enhance the local economy, wherein they worked to support a local business, … Their goal was to inform the public about a local business that is young, but established, with the hope that efforts will improve the enrollment levels of the studio.”
The OCDO hosts regular community events throughout the year. From Trunk or Treat for Halloween, blood drives, fund raisers and ice cream socials in the summer, the club is truly a cohesive entity bringing community members together either for a common goal or just to fellowship. The group meets in the community center behind the Otto Fire Department just off 441S. The 3,000-foot building is also available for rent for family, civic or religious activities.
The Awards serve to recognize how clubs enhance communities.
“A total of more than 7,100 volunteers [throughout Western North Carolina] invested an impressive 96,158 hours of their time in outreach programs dedicated to feeding people during COVID, recovering from Tropical Storm Fred, and other benevolence projects, education, beautification, health, wellness, and economic development,” Garrett noted.
WNC Honors Awards are sponsored through donations by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Harrah’s Valley River Casino & Hotel, Duke Energy, Biltmore Farms, Inc, First Citizens Bank, The McClure Foundation, Wells Fargo, Buncombe County Farm Bureau, New Belgium Brewing, Carolina Farm Credit, and Haywood Regional Medical Center.
Garrett continued, “WNC Communities wants to ensure communities get the support and recognition they so richly deserve. To this end, we celebrate their efforts, give monetary awards, and performance-based awards, and announce what they have done so that all the communities know their wonderful volunteer work is appreciated.”