Our Blog


W.A.M.Y.’s 'Santa for Seniors' Spreads Joy to Over 1400 Senior Citizens



As we closed out 2023, W.A.M.Y. Community Action celebrated a milestone - the fifth year of our “Santa for Seniors” gift drive. Thanks to the generosity of local businesses, organizations, and individual donors, we successfully delivered holiday cheer in the form of over 1,400 gift bags to senior citizens in assisted living facilities, under hospice care, or homebound in Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties.


These gifts, filled with comforting items like blankets, puzzle books, and treats, were personally handed over by dedicated volunteers. Allison Jennings, our Director of Development, emphasized the importance of remembering our homebound seniors during the holiday season. Since we launched this initiative in 2019, we've delivered over 4,900 gifts, bringing joy and warmth to their lives.


Our heartfelt thanks go out to sponsors like The High Country Area Agency on Aging, AmeriHealth, Walmart, Mast General Store, Blowing Rock Community Foundation, UNC Health, The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock, and numerous other local businesses and individual donors who made this project possible.


"Santa for Seniors" is our only annual service project that reaches all four counties we serve, and as we look forward to 2024, preparations for the next round are already underway. We're grateful for the continued community support and eagerly anticipate another year of making a positive difference in people's lives.



 Urgent Appeal: Help Us Support an Elderly Couple in Desperate in Need of Water


Hello dear readers & WAMY Community Action supporters,

We are reaching out to you today with an urgent request on behalf of a family who is part of our WAMY community. We hope you can help us make a significant difference in their lives.


This family, consisting of a hard-working man with an ostomy bag and his wife, who lives with disabilities and recently fought off sepsis after a three-month hospital stay, is facing dire circumstances.

They have been without water for over a week due to a broken well pump.

This has further complicated their already challenging situation, making their daily lives even more difficult.


We are aiming to raise funds for two critical needs this family faces:


  1. A new well pump ($2,500)

    Clearing a property tax delinquency ($3,000)

Without these, they cannot move forward with their lives.


They are under review for a total home replacement by Mitchell County, but the delinquent taxes are a roadblock to this much-needed upgrade. The current condition of their mobile home is such that WAMY could put $60,000 into its rehabilitation, but it still wouldn't be enough.


WAMY already invested $5,000 into getting their well connected, including a new switch, in-ground electrical wiring, and a pressure tank. Unfortunately, the well pump went dead soon after.


Now, we need your help. Can you contribute towards raising the $5,500 required to help this deserving family? Any amount helps and will go a long way in providing them with the basics we often take for granted.


Please reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to contribute. Thank you for your continued support!

Allison Jennings, WAMY Community Action





Add the Note "Mitchell Water Issue" when donating


The Beginning of Community Action

WORTH WATCHING - LBJ's Unconditional War on Poverty Speech January 8, 1964

As WAMY Community Action begins to celebrate our 60th year, we look back to the birth of Community Action:
The following six minutes represent one of the most important speeches in the history of the United States. Here, President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty and within 45 days, a blueprint for the War would be drafted and the Community Action roles would be determined.
LBJ's speech on January 8, 1964, was the culmination of 2 years of steadily growing awareness and societal demands since the publication of Michael Harrington's book The Other America. For the first time in American history, the question was not “could we afford it” but rather “should we do it." The answer was a resounding yes. (credit: NCAF)





Preserving Affordable Housing for Renters in Watauga County



In a recent meeting, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners approved a new rental repair program in partnership with WAMY Community Action. This initiative aims to aid low-income landlords and renters with minor repairs, preserving the county's housing stock. The program ensures that rents aren't raised post-repairs while the current tenant occupies the property. Commissioner Ray Russell highlighted the potential of the program to stabilize the fragile rental market, prevent displacement, and cost less than replacing units. Initially running as a pilot, its success will be evaluated for consideration in the next budget cycle, with the potential for additional partnership opportunities. The proposal received unanimous approval from the commissioners.


If you know someone who could benefit from this program, contact WAMY's Housing & Energy Coordinator, Danielle Moreland.




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A Day of Community and Connection: WAMY's Informational Cookout in the Junaluska Community




Hello, friends!

Today was a day filled with sunshine, smiles, and lots of valuable information at our WAMY Community Action cookout in the heart of the Junaluska Community in Boone, NC. We gathered as neighbors, not just to enjoy some good food and fun times but also to learn about how we can better support each other.

At WAMY, we believe that everyone deserves a helping hand. That's why we're here - to lend that hand, help. We all need a little boost sometimes, right?

During the cookout, our team shared stories about the work we do and the Housing & Weatherization programs we offer.

But today wasn't just about us talking. We also listened. We heard your stories, your challenges, and your dreams. We learned so much from you all, and we're excited to use this knowledge to better serve our community.

We want to give a big shout-out to everyone who attended the cookout. Your presence and participation truly made this event special. It's clear that the Junaluska Community is filled with caring, committed individuals who are ready to support their neighbors. This is what community is all about!

Remember, WAMY is here for you. If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please don't hesitate to reach out. Let's continue to work together, support each other, and make our community the best it can be.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.


WAMY's Brittany Luxton Honored With 4 Under 40 Award




Brittany Luxton nominated for 4 under 40 Award

Thank you to the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce for nominating Brittany Luxton as a candidate for the 4 Under 40 award. Brittany is part of a wonderful group of nominees! We look forward to seeing you all on Thursday, April 6th at 5:30pm for red-carpet arrivals, reception and the 7th annual awards ceremony.

To read more about the amazing group of emerging, VISIT HERE.


WAMY Community Action Executive Director Melissa Soto Announces Retirement


WAMY Community Action’s executive director Melissa Soto announced recently that she will be retiring effective July 1st, 2023, after more than three decades of service with the organization. “Melissa has devoted herself completely for 31 years and thousands of lives have been positively impacted forever because of her kind and caring spirit,” said Tom Hughes, WAMY’s Board President and Director of Watauga County Social Services.


"Under Melissa’s leadership, WAMY has created goals and objectives and hired talented staff. The Board of Director’s is confident WAMY Community Action will continue to be a nonprofit dedicated to helping others and changing lives for decades to come. The search process for WAMY’s new executive director will begin next month,” said Hughes.


“Melissa is a collaborative leader, working alongside the staff she oversees,” said Allison Jennings, director of development at WAMY. “She is a unifying leader and well-respected among employees. Melissa has created a workplace of trust, encouraging us, and asking for our perspective and ideas,” said Jennings. “To put it in simple terms, Melissa is a lot of fun,” said Jennings.


Established in 1964, W.A.M.Y. (Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, Yancey Counties) is a Community Action Agency and was the first human-service non-profit to come to the High Country’s four-county area. WAMY’s mission is to partner with families and communities to provide the disadvantaged the support they need to become self-sufficient. WAMY conducts a community needs assessment every three years and programs are designed according to the needs of the community. Currently WAMY has four programs- Youth Development, Food & Nutrition, Housing & Energy, and Total Family Development. Its programs are designed to fill gaps in the community between the needs of the low-income population and the services that are already available.


Soto has seen many changes in the nonprofit’s history. WAMY originally brought the creation of transportation authorities, senior centers, Head Start and other initiatives that branched off to operate as other organizations. WAMY programs adapt to the needs and priorities of the community, which may change from year to year. “2023 will be a year like many others offering opportunities of change,” said Melissa Soto executive director of WAMY. “The organization is identifying strategies that can best help serve the community’s well-being. It has been my honor to work with WAMY Community Action for 31 years and I am proud to have been a part of an organization with such a bright future,” continued Soto.


Soto began working at WAMY in 1992 as a case manager in a job training program. “I had a desire to work with clients one-on-one to help them navigate through the journey from being unemployed to finding a meaningful career. I loved the interaction with people and the ability to inspire hope in someone who didn’t think they had options or a future,” Soto said.


Soto was named executive director of WAMY in 2012. She manages a staff of 11 employees across a four-county area, leads fundraising efforts and community outreach and manages agency grants.


In a recent interview with writer Jan Todd, Soto said, “My staff members are the true superheroes of WAMY. They give their jobs everything they’ve got. Not only do they all make monthly donations back to the agency, but they have worked on housing projects, served food, painted school walls, and cleaned client homes.”


Soto attended Appalachian State University in the late 1980s, studying accounting and business management. Prior to joining WAMY, Soto worked at the Region D (High Country) Council of Governments, administering job training programs across a seven-county area.


“For the past 31 years, Melissa has devoted her career to helping others by offering them the tools and resources needed to overcome poverty,” Jennings said. “Her vision, wisdom and leadership have changed the lives of thousands of people in the High Country and made our community a better place for us all to grow and thrive.”


Asked what she will miss most about retiring, Soto said, “My staff. I am so proud of the work they do every day. I will miss our gathering of morning coffee in the break room, solving all the world’s problems in one day, laughing hysterically, and transforming someone’s life for the better the moment they walk in our door,” shared Soto.


The Melissa Soto Honorary Fund has been established. All donations given in her honor will support WAMY’s poverty-fighting programs. To donate, visit WamyCommunityAction.org or contact Allison Jennings at allison@wamycommunityaction.org or 828-264-2421 ext. 107

Gifts made in Melissa’s honor can also be mailed:
WAMY Community Action

225 Birch Street Suite 2

Boone NC 28607


The Promise of Community Action

Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community and are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.


Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr


Baby It's Cold Outside-December 23, 2022







Operation: Kids Ready to Roll

The Boone Police Department, WAMY Community action and Boone Walmart gave away nearly 70 bikes on Tuesday the 20th.
This collective effort started nearly 2 years ago when Kat Eller from the Boone Police Department applied for a grant to receive bicycle helmets. Eller reached out to the Boone Walmart General Manager Billy Wells to discuss a partnership. With this collaboration, WAMY began by surveying local parents, and asking them whether or not their children had bikes or appropriate biking safety equipment. Eller said it was a great experience seeing the joy on these kids faces and that she looks forward to future collaborations that benefit the local community.




Prize Winning Produce from our Community Garden



Check out the Prize Winning Tomatoes and other goodies grown in our very own WAMY Community Action garden in Avery County. Board Member Arlene Weiner submitted these entries to the Avery A&H Fair 2022. Last year, with help from volunteers, WAMY was able to provide more than 835 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries. Arlene is still tallying the numbers for 2022 but she sure has a green thumb and our neighbors are getting the best produce around!






Check out our latest news & updates and read a heartwarming story about one of WAMY's Community Housing clients. Click this link to read all about it!



Celebrating WAMY's Executive Director-Melissa Soto

Give a meaningful gift in honor of WAMY’s Executive Director, Melissa Soto. For the past 30 years, Melissa has devoted her career to helping others by providing them with the tools they need to overcome poverty. Her vision, wisdom and leadership have changed the lives of thousands of people in the High Country and made our community a better place for us all to grow and thrive.





Great Story From Our Local News- Watauga Democrat

Commissioners show support for WAMY grant

WAMY Community Action received a boost in their bid for a $150,000 grant when the Watauga County Board of Commissioners threw their support behind the application at its meeting on Tuesday, June 21.

The organization is applying for a Housing Preservation Grant from the USDA, which would help cover expenses of repairs and rehabilitation of low-income family homes in the High Country.

The yearly project would provide help for 15 homes, with a total cost of $271,763. Of that total, more than $100,000 would just be for materials alone, and the grant would cover more than half of the expenses.

Finance Director Brittany Luxton noted that the grant had been given to WAMY for the past four years and that this one would begin on Oct. 1.


Luxton — with the support of Commissioner Charlie Wallin who is also on WAMY’s board — was requesting a letter of support from the commissioners that would help strengthen the grant application.

The board approved the letter of support unanimously.




WAMY's Denim & Diamonds 2022 BIG SUCCESS!

Denim and Diamonds Banner-1_1 


Thanks to everyone who helped make WAMY's Inaugural Denim & Diamonds a success! Check out this great article from Jan Todd detailing what a fun night we had raising money to help send kids to summer camp and helping low-income families receive much-needed home repairs.  We are making plans to do it again next year so SAVE THE DATE- Thursday, May 18th, 2023!  If you want to be a part of our WAMY's Denim & Diamonds Planning Committee (famously known as the Dream Team), contact Allison Jennings at allison@wamycommitteeaction.org or 828-264-2421 ext. 107 or 828-406-0593.  Denim & Diamonds success was due to the efforts of our amazing team, so come join the fun! 

Awesome Dream Team Members:
Cynthia Dillon

Susan Geldmeier

Monica McDaniel

Yolanda Roberston

Christina Fryzel

Dona Dowlan

Kelley Harrison

Jenny Miller

and many more!