04 Apr 2022
Mountain Findings and the act of giving
By Jonathan Shipley
Photos by Chelsea Cronkrite
John Warner’s house caught on fire. He had been volunteering at Mountain Findings, a nonprofit in Highlands that has given over $3 million in grants since its inception in 1969, for only a month before his house was engulfed in flames. For John Warner and his family, it was a bad day. The following day, the Mountain Findings' board and membership called and visited with his family, still grief-stricken and shocked from the previous days’ terrible events. They presented the Warner family a monetary gift to help them through a little before the smoke settled. “This is what it’s about,” Warner says. “This sense of belonging, appreciation and love. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
Community. A sense of belonging. It’s what it’s all about.
Carol Misner is Mountain Findings’ current president. She moved to Highlands in 2013. “I quickly fell in love with so many things about Highlands: the small-town feel, its friendly people quick to embrace me and my family…It is a magical place in which to live, support and enjoy.”
An all-volunteer organization, the proceeds of Mountain Findings’ thrift store supports more than 40 needy organizations in the community. The organizations are wide-ranging and diverse: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Highlands Fire and Rescue, Wreaths Across America, Highlands Playhouse.
A magical place. A place to enjoy. A place to support.
Mountain Findings offers up scholarships for deserving graduates. Under Misner’s presidency, the organization did something far and beyond what they had done previously this past year. In addition to giving $8,000 to the town’s scholarship fund, the board decided to do something life changing. The life that was changed was local resident Abigail Nichols. A 2021 Highlands School graduate, she received a $40,000 scholarship. Nichols is going to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, studying pre-kinesiology. “Receiving the Mountain Findings Scholarship has been an incredible blessing,” Nichols says. “I have been able to spend more time studying and making friends without the worries of going into debt or struggling financially…I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have such a great support system.”
A sense of appreciation. A chance to make a difference.
Edith Pendleton works in the thrift shop. A “veteran tourist shopper,” she calls herself, she was so taken by the place, what with its eclectic merchandise, ranging from fine china to family heirlooms, sofas to serigraphs, she decided to volunteer and give back to the community. “Highlands,” she says, “devotes thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture and paintings, sterling silver and appliances to Mountain Findings every year.” These items are entrusted to volunteers to appropriately clean, price and sell these items for the benefit of others. “These contributions,” Pendleton says, amazed, “represent a staggering gesture of generosity.”
The generosity has been staggering. Just ask John Warner, who will be able to move back in a Highlands home this coming summer. Just ask Abigail Nichols, whose life path has been cleared by the financial help of Mountain Findings. Just ask the thousands who have donated or purchased goods over the years at the thrift shop Pendleton works at. Just ask the organizations Mountain Findings collaborates with: Gordon Center for Children, Highlands Biological Foundation, Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain Volunteer Fire & Rescue. “Mountain Findings,” Misner says, “stays true to its mission.” Just ask anyone.
Started in 1969, it became a 501(c)3 in 1972. Their first grants given out totaled $200. Since then, millions of dollars, with more coming. One hundred percent volunteer-run, in a given year the volunteers (there are currently around 80) donate 24,000 hours of their time to the organization. “We believe,” their website reads, “that a single action can make a difference in the community.” Ask anyone.
The magic of community. An appreciation. “The people who volunteer and work for Mountain Findings are incredibly kind and accepting,” Nichols says. “I am excited to see what the future has in store for me.” A brighter one thanks to the people of Highlands.
Bringing in an old canoe to Pendleton to sell at the thrift shop can help someone in ways unknown. Buying a set of Russian nesting dolls can help a struggling neighbor. It takes a village. “You feel like you’re making a small difference,” Warner says. “That is very satisfying.”
Magic. “We support one another,” Misner says. What’s more important than that? Ask anyone and you’ll find a mountain of answers every day at Mountain Findings.
Facebook: Mountain Findings of Highlands