WIX® Filters Continues Rescue Ranch Sponsorship Through Dinner Series

WIX® Filters, a global manufacturer of filtration products, continues its sponsorship of Rescue Ranch through Founder’s Dinner Series.

The Founder’s Dinner Series is annual charity dinner and auction in support of Rescue Ranch, a non-profit animal welfare organization. Co-founded by NASCAR driver Ryan Newman and wife Krissie, Rescue Ranch promotes respect for all animals as well as environmental, agricultural and wildlife conservation. The event aims to bring the local community together to enjoy freshly grown and prepared food.

“We are proud to represent the Rescue Ranch through initiatives like the Founder’s Dinner Series,” said Jennifer Gibson, brand manager for WIX. “Rescue Ranch continues to do exceptional work in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. In addition to supporting the Ranch, the Founder’s Dinner also offers a spotlight on local agriculture, all causes WIX supports.”

WIX has partnered with Rescue Ranch since 2012, but became an official sponsor of the organization last August. This year, the program raised $XX. All proceeds benefitted Rescue Ranch’s mission of promoting respect for all animals through education. Additionally, guests had the chance to learn more about how Rescue Ranch’s mission and programs affect the community on a local level.

“We are incredibly thankful for the support of WIX Filters in sponsoring the Founder’s Dinner Series,” said Krissie Newman, co-founder and president of Rescue Ranch. “It’s important for our organization to recognize the support of our community and shine a spotlight on agriculture in Iredell County. The continued support from WIX allows us to expand this event year after year to make a greater impact.”


After a three-month search, the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation board of directors has named Shelly Johnston director of development for the nonprofit organization.

Johnston will be the first to serve in this newly created position, the duties for which include managing the engagement of donors and supporters of Grandfather Mountain. Jesse Pope, executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, said the position was created for someone to dedicate his or her efforts toward helping Grandfather Mountain Sustain the funding needed to successfully achieve its mission: to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain.

“While Grandfather Mountain does generate its own revenue to cover operating expenses, we must rely on grants and private donations to enhance the educational opportunities in the park,” Pope said. “Shelly’s role will help us work toward finding the resources to advance our mission and make a greater impact on our education and conservation efforts.”

Johnston, who previously worked as a volunteer at Grandfather Mountain, has 10 years of experience in nonprofit work. She first served as a volunteer manager assisting with marketing and development for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region in its Lincoln County office. Later, she worked as the director of the Arts Council of Lincoln County.

In coming to work for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Johnston is returning to her naturalist passions. Johnston holds a bachelor’s degree from Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer and a master’s degree from N.C. State University in parks, recreation and tourism management with a focus in environmental education. Johnston originally planned for a career as a naturalist, but instead began work in the nonprofit sector.

A native of Matthews, N.C., Johnston has lived mostly in the Lincolnton area, where she previously worked in various nonprofits. Johnston first came to Grandfather as a part-time resident and fell in love with the area. At the beginning of 2016, she decided to seek full-time employment in the area, particularly at a nonprofit with an environmental focus. Johnston said that after volunteering at Grandfather Mountain, she watched the Foundation’s website for job listings and came upon the position.

After Grandfather Mountain founder Hugh Morton’s death in 2006, the Morton family sold two-thirds of the Grandfather Mountain property to the state of North Carolina. These 2,600 acres of land make up the Grandfather Mountain State Park. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation maintains and preserves the remaining third of Grandfather Mountain. The Morton family established a nonprofit organization in 2009 to manage the scenic travel destination and the 700 acres that include the Mile High Swinging Bridge, the Nature Museum and Animal Habitats. The foundation is dedicated to the conservation of the mountain and the education and inspiration of visitors.

“When you work for a nonprofit, there’s an investment of yourself. You have to love it,” Johnston said. “You have to have an investment in the mission, and going up the mountain every day is an inspiration for the work.”

As director of development, Johnston will be working primarily on engaging donors and serving those donors better, as they are the main supporters of the mountain. “We are really trying to focus on and grow our donors. We want to expand our reach,” Johnston said. “We want to engage those who are visiting the park so that they will continue to support Grandfather Mountain.”

Jesse Pope also acknowledged the need for a director of development to improve the quality of visitor experience and to preserve the natural resources in the park.

“Shelly, along with the rest of the team, will help create the community partnerships and relationships with our donors that will help us accomplish our goals,” Pope said.

Johnston will sustain current projects like the field trip scholarship fund, which provides resources for underfunded schools to plan field trips to Grandfather Mountain. Currently, Johnston said the biggest project is raising money to restore and enlarge the cougar habitat. The restoration project follows the recent arrival of two cougar cubs to Grandfather Mountain. The duo was found orphaned in Idaho last January and found a home at Grandfather.

The foundation is also working on developing an elk habitat, to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“We received a generous grant from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation to help us with making the elk habitat a reality,” Pope said. “We are excited Shelly is here to help us find more champions to step forward and help us preserve Grandfather Mountain for future generations.”

Pope said he has enjoyed working with Johnston during her first few days as the director of development.

“She is a wonderful new addition to the Grandfather Mountain family,” Pope said. “She loves Grandfather Mountain and believes in our mission.”

A long-time advocate for environmental education, Johnston said she understands the importance of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s work and admits it is a large project to tackle.

“The foundation has a monumental job maintaining and preserving the mountain,” Johnston said. “It’s a worthwhile job, and it’s a great team. But we have a huge project ahead of us. The mountain’s alive, the animals are alive, so our work is ongoing. It’s important work to maintain the mountain.”


Linville Land Harbor demonstrated its support for the education of Avery Country students with a generous donation to the Grandfather Mountain Field Trip Scholarship Fund this June.

The donation, made on behalf of the community’s property owners association, will directly benefit Avery county students from Title I schools and give them an opportunity to visit Grandfather Mountain. In addition to entry to the park, the fund can also assist in payment for transportation and meals.

The Scholarship Fund was established in 2015 in the memory of the late Nathan Pribble, a teenager who had a strong passion for the outdoors, connecting with nature and Grandfather Mountain. His parents decided to honor their son after his passing by establishing the fund to share Nathan’s passion with students who may not get the opportunity to visit the mountain without aid.

Mickey Shortt, director of education and natural resources for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, said that the students come to see a piece of Western North Carolina, as well as gain experience with naturalist programming of their teacher’s choice to enrich their lessons from their curriculum.

“The program is a bridge that connects the classroom to the real world,” Shortt said. “They get to experience the top of the mountain and cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, as well as a special naturalist program that the teacher picks based on their curriculum. This enables them to understand the concepts they are learning about in school at a practical level.”

Shortt said there are upwards of 20 possible programs with varying subjects, including weather, geology, animals, ecology and plant life.

Shelly Johnston, GMSF director of development, said the numbers from last year attest to the program’s significance and success. In 2015, 13 schools from eight counties received $7,002 in scholarships to assist with field trip expenses.

Need for the scholarship fund has increased for the 2016-17 school year. Johnston reported 17 applications for the fund so far, submitted from seven different counties, requesting a total of $33,000 in field trip support funds, which creates a current need for the program.

“Linville Land Harbor is a benevolent neighbor in the community,” Johnston said of the recent donation. “Their money will go directly toward supporting the children in their community of Avery County.”

Johnston reached out to Linville Land Harbor after seeing their passion for supporting local schoolchildren, as the group has hosted a back-to-school bash for Avery County students for the past two years. Linville Land Harbor will now continue to support these students by providing them with the opportunity to visit Grandfather Mountain.

Tyler Hood, a representative from Linville Land Harbor, said the donation is a testament to the group’s long-standing involvement in the community.

“Linville Land Harbor is a community, first and foremost,” Hood said. “The success of Avery County is important to us, because it’s what many of us call home. Since 1969, Land Harbor has taken an active role in helping our local communities, and our ongoing mission is to better our community and local area. “We hope this donation will inspire future generations of Avery County students to appreciate the nature around them and instill a desire to maintain it for the generations to come.”

The stewardship foundation received an additional grant from Wells Fargo and its corporate giving fund, dedicated to community investment. This donation will also go toward supporting the scholarship fund.

Candace Pritchard, business relationship manager and market president for the Morganton office of Wells Fargo, said the grant committee loves Grandfather Mountain and is passionate about the program offering Title 1 schools the opportunity to visit the mountain. Shortt said for many students, this is the trip of a lifetime.

“The students are wowed and amazed by visiting such a unique landscape as Grandfather Mountain,” he said.

Author Randy Johnson To Speak At Grandfather Mountain

For Randy Johnson, speaking at Grandfather Mountain will be much like returning home. On July 28 at 6:30 p.m., Grandfather Mountain will welcome Johnson to speak about some of his passions — nature, the outdoors and Grandfather Mountain itself.

Johnson has written six books on the natural world, as well as articles and photography that have appeared in national magazines and newspapers. The author of numerous hiking guides, Johnson’s most recent book is a journey through Grandfather Mountain’s history, spanning from its geological beginnings to the park we see today.

“Grandfather Mountain: The History and Guide to an Appalachian Icon” speaks not only to the rich history of the mountain, but also to Johnson’s own experience working to maintain and preserve the natural world at Grandfather.

Johnson founded Grandfather Mountain’s modern trail management program in 1978 after realizing that trails were deteriorating and becoming unsafe. He met with Grandfather Mountain founder Hugh Morton in order to implement the fee-based trail system. His plan had two objectives: preserve the mountain and ensure the public would have access to the trails. The trail management program was a success and aided in achieving Grandfather’s status as both a N.C. Natural Heritage Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.

Johnson has maintained a passion for Grandfather Mountain and preserving the area that he loves. After working on the trail management program, Johnson served as a backcountry manager until 1990 and currently serves on Grandfather Mountain State Park’s advisory committee. Additionally, Johnson has endeavored to tell the story of Grandfather Mountain in his most recent book.

In the upcoming program, Johnson will introduce his new book, tell stories of his own time working on Grandfather and share photographs from his years of building and exploring trails. The event will cost $15 for the general public and is free to Bridge Club members.

Mickey Shortt, Grandfather Mountain’s director of education and natural resources, said this will be a great opportunity for guests to hear from Johnson, as well as to meet him and have books signed by the author.

“This program will provide an opportunity to hear stories about a great mountain from Randy Johnson, who has spent a lot of his life exploring and researching the natural and cultural history of Grandfather Mountain,” Shortt said.

Johnson promises to tell the story from the very beginning, but not to worry — the story of Grandfather Mountain is far from finished.