On Thursday, September 28th, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce marked a momentous occasion in its 125-year history by awarding thirteen $10,000 grants to local non-profit organizations.
These generous grants were bestowed as part of our “Together for Tomorrow” initiative, a celebration of the Chamber’s long-standing commitment to “Building Community Through Business.” The funds for these grants were made possible through the unwavering support of Asheville Chamber member businesses and ticket sales from the Chamber’s 125th Anniversary Celebration.
Strength in Collaboration
For 125 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of driving economic vitality in our community. Their initiatives have stimulated economic development, influenced public policy, and provided unwavering support for the growth of countless local and regional businesses.
Kit Cramer, the Chamber’s President and CEO, emphasized the power of collaboration in the community, stating, “One of our guiding principles is ‘collaboration.’ It’s one of the reasons why our tagline is ‘Together, We Are More.’ We recognize there is strength in numbers, and for our anniversary, we wanted to recognize non-profits that work alongside us to build long-term economic vitality, solving problems to move the community forward.”
Indeed, this celebration of collaboration and community support reflects the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s dedication to fostering a robust local economy.
The Selection Process
Non-profit organizations were invited to apply for these special grants earlier in the year. A committee of esteemed business leaders diligently reviewed applications, ultimately selecting 24 finalists. Recipients of the grants were then chosen through a combination of committee scoring and a public vote.
The thirteen grant recipients represent a diverse range of causes, each contributing to the enrichment of Asheville’s community:
- All Souls Counseling
- By operating on a sliding scale and offering services to various groups, including those experiencing homelessness, All Souls Counseling is making mental health support more accessible, ultimately enhancing the overall well-being and employability of individuals in their community. Thanks to this grant, All Souls Counseling Center will expand its counseling services, catering to uninsured, under-insured, and under-served populations in their community, addressing the escalating mental health challenges exacerbated by recent events.
- Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)
- ASAP aims to foster community connections through local food and strong farms, with a focus on vibrant farmer’s markets serving as community hubs and business incubators. This grant will support ASAP’s Double SNAP program, which doubles benefits for SNAP recipients at participating farmers’ markets, improving fresh food access, supporting local farmers and entrepreneurs, and enhancing the local economy, thus strengthening the role of Buncombe farmers markets in the community.
- Asheville Greenworks
- Asheville Greenworks, which originated from the Quality ’76 initiative, now focuses on fostering an equitable, climate-resilient future in the community. This grant will support their Tree Keeper Training Program, aimed at introducing marginalized youth to the tree service industry, equipping them with skills for high-income careers in arboriculture, and involving them in neighborhood tree care projects and community orchards.
- Asheville Habitat for Humanity
- Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity works to address economic disparities by providing pathways to homeownership and home repair for vulnerable populations. This grant will support the expansion of Restore initiatives and the Deconstruction Program, increasing revenue for affordable housing projects, promoting sustainability, and strengthening the local workforce system, allowing residents to live closer to their workplaces.
- Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS)
- AMOS serves as a hub for experiential science learning and aims to cultivate curiosity throughout life. This grant will support their STEM Connections to Career initiative, which brings industry leaders into classrooms to engage students in project-based learning and develop exhibits showcasing regional industries and sciences, ultimately fostering a generation of science-based innovators and environmental problem solvers.
- Black Wall Street AVL
- Black Wall Street AVL works to bridge cultural and economic disparities by supporting Black-owned businesses and promoting equity, youth empowerment, and engagement with elders. They employ an asset-based community development model and will use grant funds to establish an Entrepreneurial Navigator to connect entrepreneurs, with a goal of helping 1,000 businesses and making 10,000 connections within a year, ultimately fostering economic growth and inclusion in their community.
- Blue Ridge Public Radio (BPR)
- With these grant funds, Blue Ridge Public Radio will launch the Community and Inclusion Business Spotlight project in collaboration with the Asheville Chamber, with the aim of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in their content and community engagement. This initiative will provide visibility to businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, offering them the opportunity to share their stories and gain brand awareness through various media platforms, ultimately fostering community partnerships and supporting BIPOC-owned enterprises as part of BPR’s commitment to diversity in public media.
- Buncombe County Schools Foundation
- The Buncombe County Schools Foundation aims to strengthen the local education system by supporting a recruitment and retention plan for Buncombe County Schools. This initiative includes a “Grow Your Own” campaign, career exploration, mentoring, scholarships for students, professional development for teaching assistants, and potential collaborations with community partners to elevate the teaching profession, enhance diversity, and emphasize its role in the local economy.
- Eblen Charities
- Eblen Charities focuses on assisting low-income individuals during crises and recognizes the importance of employment for economic opportunity. With this grant, they aim to double their capacity to provide gas vouchers to help people attend job interviews and bridge the gap until their first paycheck, while also planning to create an online platform for easier access to assistance, emphasizing the significance of even small financial support in helping individuals improve their economic status.
- My Daddy Taught Me That
- My Daddy Taught Me That is committed to improving the well-being of youth in Buncombe County, particularly in the Black community, by providing mentorship and community engagement programs to address challenges associated with poverty and resource limitations. This grant will support KL Training Solutions, which aims to enhance employability and community sustainability for Black youth in Asheville by connecting them with local businesses and larger employers for internships, skill-building, and entrepreneurship training, thereby helping them discover their unique skills and interests to pursue a career or college degree aligned with their passions.
- OpenDoors Asheville
- OpenDoors’ mission is to address race-based opportunity and achievement gaps in education, and this grant will support their College Director in the To & Through College Access and Completion Initiative, which works with students from 7th grade onwards to prepare them for college. By connecting low-income students of color with the College Director and providing assistance in navigating college admissions and financial aid, OpenDoors is working to increase college accessibility, improve graduation rates, and enhance economic outcomes for these students.
- Western Carolina Rescue Ministries
- Western Carolina Rescue Ministries aims to empower individuals in poverty, homelessness, or struggling with substance abuse by offering essential care and resources like job training, education, and counseling. This grant will aid in providing safe transitional housing for program graduates, addressing the challenge of costly rent in Asheville, and promoting recovery, career stability, and mental well-being among clients.
- YWCA of Asheville
- The YWCA of Asheville recognizes the critical role of affordable childcare in women’s economic success and its impact on low-income families and communities of color. This grant will support their Empowerment Childcare program, providing up to 12 hours of free childcare per week to families pursuing employment, education, or social services, addressing the growing need for accessible childcare and working towards a more equitable childcare model in Asheville.
Supporters of the Celebration
None of this would have been possible without the generous support of numerous organizations, including Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts, SanStone Health & Rehabilitation, First Horizon Foundation, First Bank, Capstone Health Alliance, Duke Energy, Pratt & Whitney, HomeTrust Bank, Mission Health, First Citizens, DMJPS, Altura Architects, Biltmore Farms, FORVIS, Western Carolina University, MB Haynes, Whitney Commercial Real Estate, AVL Technologies, and AdventHealth. Their commitment to the community and the Chamber’s mission has truly made a difference.
Celebrating Excellence Throughout the Year
As an added bonus, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce will spotlight one grant award winner each month during its anniversary year, sharing their stories and accomplishments across the Chamber’s communications channels.
Learn more about our 125th Anniversary here.