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Avery County Healthcare Leader Retiring After More Than Three Decades of Service

Avery County Healthcare Leader Retiring After More Than Three Decades of Service

After working in healthcare in Avery County for more than 34 years, Carmen Lacey, President of Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (CMH), is retiring.

Carmen Lacey

Carmen Lacey

Lacey began her career in 1987 as part of the first Pharmacy Technician Certification program at Sloop Memorial Hospital in Crossnore. While working in the Pharmacy Department she was inspired to pursue a career in nursing. “I saw what nursing really meant at Sloop through several role models — and determined that was what I wanted to do,” Lacey says.

Within six months, she was a charge nurse, and eventually became the Assistant Director of Nursing. She worked there until Sloop and CMH came together in the new hospital in Linville in 1999. Five years later, CMH became part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Through all of this transition, Lacey rose in the ranks and managed several departments including the Medical Surgical Unit, The New Life Center, Emergency Department, and the Operating Room. She also served as Director of Nursing before being promoted to President of CMH in 2012.
“I have worked with so many wonderful people over the years,” Lacey says. “I have been truly humbled by the love, dedication and compassion that our staff has shown our community and patients. My cup has been filled with the support the staff has given me throughout all of my transitions and the many changes that healthcare has undergone. I will miss the morning briefings with Stephanie Greer and Ashley Campbell. I will miss the teamwork that has been evident when a challenge is presented. Quite simply – I will miss the people.”

And the people will miss her.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System President and CEO Chuck Mantooth, who has worked with Lacey for nearly 20 years commented, “Carmen epitomizes the phrase, “servant leader.” Her genuine care and compassion for patients is unmatched. Her dedication to the community is unwavering. It has been a true pleasure to work with her.”

Lacey says in her retirement, she plans to travel and spend more time with family. Her last day in a full-time role will be January 7, 2022. In Lacey’s departure, Stephanie Greer will assume the title of Avery Market President for both Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital and Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital.


2021 Longest Night Worship | AppFaithHealth

2021 Longest Night Worship | AppFaithHealth

Longest Night Bird Image The holiday season can be a painful time for some. Whether it’s the first Christmas without a loved one, the anguish of broken relationships, the insecurity of unemployment, the weariness of ill health, or the pain of isolation, for many reasons the holiday season may not be one filled with joy and happiness.

Join our community on the longest night of the year as High Country clergy lead us in a contemplative, ecumenical worship service that acknowledges our grief and celebrates the light that shines in the darkness.

Tuesday, December 21, 6:30 pm
Watauga Medical Center Cafeteria

A livestream of the event will be available on Facebook at Masking and social distancing will be observed. Sponsored by AppFaithHealth.

7th Annual Lighting of the Tree Virtual Event

7th Annual Lighting of the Tree Virtual Event

Hand-Painted Ornament by Karin Neuvirth

Lighting of the Tree ornament, hand-painted by artist Karin Neuvirth

December 16, 2021
6:00 p.m.
Livestream on Facebook

Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center warmly invites all High Country residents to help decorate a festive tree by purchasing ornaments in honor and/or memory of loved ones who have faced cancer, no matter where they were treated. People of all faiths are welcome.


To attend the Lighting of the Tree

Watch the live event on Facebook on Thursday, December 16th at 6:00 pm or anytime afterwards at your convenience. Decorated trees will be on display in the Medical Oncology Lobby and Radiation Oncology Lobby until January 7, 2022. There will be no in-person event this year.


To order an ornament in honor/memory of a loved one

Elegant black resin ornaments with a commemorative ribbon have been chosen for this occasion. Each honoree’s name will be hand painted on an ornament. Ornament orders received by December 10th will be placed on the tree prior to the ceremony. Orders placed after December 10th will be added as they are received.

If you would like to keep your commemorative ornament, visit the Cancer Center’s Medical Oncology Department (upper level) to pick it up during the week of January 10th-14th from 8 am until 5 pm.

For more information, call (828) 262-9165 or email Order online below or download an order form ▶︎



New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital opening in Linville

New Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital opening in Linville

Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health ARBH

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is proud to announce that its new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital (ARBH) will officially open its doors on November 15, 2021.

“The most important component of this new hospital is providing services in a manner that promotes dignity to the patients and families we’re here to serve. Through our inpatient and outpatient services, our goal is to meet people where they are and for what they need at any given time,” said Stephanie Greer, President of Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health.

ARBH will follow a tiered opening schedule to ensure that patient needs are met every step of the way.

  • November 15, the new hospital will open with 10 beds, the same number currently housed at Cannon Memorial Hospital
  • November 29, bed capacity will expand to 15
  • December 13, a total of 20 beds will be available
  • December 27, ARBH will expand to 27-bed capacity
  • Patients can begin self-presentation (walk-in) on December 27th. At this time, law enforcement agencies will be able to bring involuntarily committed individuals directly to ARBH for evaluation as well


Meeting the needs of the High Country and beyond


Since 2008, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon) has provided a safe and secure space for mental health patients who perhaps would have nowhere to go, or would have to travel a long distance to find help. The new hospital, solely dedicated to behavioral health, will extend that to even more patients in the years to come.

Before ARBH was established, the Cannon 10-bed inpatient unit was the only inpatient behavioral health facility within a 40-mile radius, receiving more than 5,000 psychiatric referrals from across the state each year. Cannon was only able to admit about 11% of those referrals – an average of 560 patients per year.

The new 27-bed facility will be able to serve 1,500 patients each year – three times what Cannon has been able to accommodate in the past.

“By expanding the number of behavioral health beds available, more High Country residents will be able to receive treatment close to home in a timely manner,” said Greer.


Walk-in assessment beginning December 27th will eliminate the need for Emergency Department visits


ARBH Activity Space

Open floor-plan Activity Space with natural light.

Across the state of North Carolina, patients needing long-term psychiatric hospital beds typically wait about 92 hours – just under four days – in the Emergency Department (ED). Locally, the average wait time to find appropriate treatment options for behavioral health patients is 16-18 hours. Those ED beds cannot be used for other medical emergencies while patients are waiting for transfer.

After ARBH reaches full operational capacity on December 27, adults ages 18-64 with any issue will be able walk into the facility and behavioral health professionals will assess them to determine if they need inpatient or outpatient care. There is no need for a referral or to visit an ED first.

If a person does not need psychiatric hospitalization or involuntary commitment, crisis services can still be helpful with an action plan and a referral to outpatient services.


What does a top-tier behavioral health treatment experience look like?


ARBH Dining Room

Dining room with buffet-style service

ARBH provides a top-tier treatment experience for patients. The healing environment includes open areas with natural light and mountain views. Caregivers partner with patients to meet them where they are and provide a combination of coping skills and innovative approaches to therapy.

“I’m proud to work with a team that recognizes you cannot neglect mental health as part of total health. Our team approach is a resource to help clients on their journey to wellness, realizing that the client is an integral part of the plan and decision-making process.” Ella Markland, FNP/PMHNP, Avery County native and Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner.

To fulfil the mission to provide care while maintaining the patient’s dignity and autonomy, the hospital is comprised of three separate spaces: Admissions, Treatment Mall and Residence Hall. All patients go through an admissions process which includes nursing care, medical history and physical assessments. At the time of admission every patient will get an individual meal, medication and therapy treatment schedule.

The Treatment Mall is where patients receive their treatment services. The hospital has three primary group rooms with a different focus for each treatment session based on the customized plan the patient receives upon admission. During the treatment sessions, notes are taken and printed at the end of each session for outpatients to add to their treatment manual, equipping them for success after discharge.

Due to an active treatment plan, patients sleep and eat in the Residence Hall area but are rarely in their rooms.

ARBH Visitation

Visitation Room with visibility to the activity areas

Family support systems are cornerstones of behavioral health during the treatment and recovery process. Family members are invited and encouraged to attend treatment team meetings. These meetings provide information on the patient’s plan of care and treatment goals. Discharge and aftercare needs will also be discussed during the treatment team meetings.

A patient’s relationship with ARBH may not end at discharge. Patients may be referred to outpatient services to continue treatment.

“Unlike every other diagnosis, there seems to be a stigma or fear to talk about behavioral health,” said Greer. “But the truth is that one-in-four adults will suffer every year from a diagnosable mental illness. Our goal is to meet these people where they are and to provide them with the care they so desperately need.”


What to do if you or a loved one needs help


Eva Trivett-Clark, Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health (ARBH) Program Manager, shares guidance for those concerned they or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition. “A general rule of thumb [for symptoms] is any noticeable increase or decrease in behaviors, thoughts or feelings,” Trivett-Clark said. “An increase in behavior might include talking rapidly, pacing or sleeping too much. A decrease in typical behavior may include such things as withdrawal from family and friends, sleeping too little or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Any suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors should be evaluated immediately by calling 911, walking in to ARBH, or going to the local Emergency Department (ED).”

For less severe symptoms, getting help is as simple as calling Outpatient Behavioral Health at (828) 737-7888 or requesting an appointment online at No referral is needed. Completing the depression screening tool, available on the website, is often a good place to start in determining whether one needs help.

While reaching out for help may seem like a big step for some, perhaps the hardest task is convincing a reluctant loved one (particularly one who is an adult) that they need professional help. Sometimes listening, validating and asking questions are sufficient, but if they have harmed themselves or someone else, or they are likely to do so, 911 should be called, or they should be taken to ARBH for walk-in assessment.

The truth is everyone struggles sometimes. Whether mental health illnesses come from genetics, personality, life events or brain chemistry, it’s important to know that it’s ok to not be ok. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, may worsen over time and cause serious problems. Professionals at ARBH are ready to help.

Although the new Behavioral Health Hospital is a part of ARHS, it is separate from Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital (Cannon), which will no longer house an inpatient behavioral health unit. Cannon will continue to operate as a fully accredited Critical Access Hospital, including an inpatient acute care unit, full-service emergency department, imaging department, laboratory, outpatient behavioral health, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapies provided by The Rehabilitation Center.

Call (828) 737-7071 for more information about the Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health hospital or visit

Open House & Hiring Event: November 9th at the new Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital

Open House & Hiring Event: November 9th at the new Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital

Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital Entrance

November 1, 2021

A new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital (ARBH) will officially open its doors in November. ARBH’s unique approach provides a top-tier treatment experience for patients. The healing environment includes open areas with natural light and mountain views. Caregivers partner with patients to meet them where they are and provide a combination of coping skills and innovative approaches to therapy. Learn all about the new facility at

Join us at our open house and hiring event for the NEW behavioral health hospital in Linville.

Open House: Community agencies are invited to tour the facility between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Learn about the physical environment, treatment modalities, and how ARBH can support and supplement the work of those agencies. 

Join the Team: Are you looking for a chance to start a different career path or learn something new? Curious about doing something that TRULY makes a difference? Tour the new 27-bed inpatient hospital, meet behavioral health leaders, learn about our patients and programs, and learn about career opportunities.

Community Agency Open House

Drop in November 9, 2021, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Hiring Event

Drop in November 9, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital
432 Hospital Drive
Linville, NC 28646
Phone: (828) 737-7888
Get Directions >

Meet Stephanie Greer, President of Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health, and take a peek inside!



ARBH is actively recruiting the following positions. Full time, part time, PRN and/or flex schedules are available for high quality candidates.

  • RN
  • CNA / Psych Techs
  • Recreational Therapists / RTA
  • Care Coordinators with a Bachelor’s degree in a Human Services field
  • BSW
  • LPC
  • MA / LPA
  • LMFT
  • PhD psychologists
  • PA / FNP / or PMHNP
  • Unit Secretaries
  • QMHP
The Future of Healthcare: Major Upgrades Ongoing at Watauga Medical Center

The Future of Healthcare: Major Upgrades Ongoing at Watauga Medical Center

Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower

The Future of Healthcare: Major Upgrades Ongoing at Watauga Medical Center


Originally published in High Country Magazine, Aug/Sept 2021. Used with permission.

Healthcare in the High Country has come a long way since 1925, when Dr. Henry B. Perry moved into Boone’s first hospital facility in the Lovill House Annex. Blanford B. Dougherty established the infirmary – where Dan’l Boone Inn is currently located – to support Watauga Academy, now Appalachian State University, and the surrounding town.

After operating on the university campus for 29 years, a new Watauga County Hospital, now Watauga Medical Center, was built at its current location on Deerfield Road. Its first patients entered the building on March 23, 1967.

The original building was constructed through money allocated by the Hill-Burton Act of 1946. This piece of federal legislation, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, allocated money to states for the purpose of constructing hospitals and healthcare facilities.

Since that time, Watauga Medical Center (WMC) has served the healthcare needs of countless patients, including a major expansion in 1980 and continual additions of new and updated services.

The quality of care continued to improve after the 1980 expansion, but infrastructure problems such as power failures and repeated HVAC system repairs have plagued recent years. These issues prompted stakeholders to begin planning for infrastructure upgrades.

Rising to meet the community’s needs


Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has begun a $126 million construction project, making structural and technological enhancements to ensure the delivery of premier healthcare into the future.

“When we started talking about this project initially, it involved building a new bed tower and moving outpatient services back to campus in a new medical office building,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation. “The board of trustees started considering how to make that happen – if we could afford it and how it would impact services until we were able to build it all. Meanwhile, our new CEO Chuck Mantooth was transitioning into the role Richard Sparks had filled for more than 30 years.”

To aid in the initial plans for hospital expansion, a team of Master of Architecture students from Clemson University’s Architecture + Health Concentration visited Boone to perform a needs assessment and survey the land. They performed the initial assessment and made recommendations for the bed tower and medical office building. Soon however, power plant issues began to arise, changing the initial building plans for the hospital.

“We had a prolonged air conditioning failure during the hottest week of 2019 because of old and outdated HVAC equipment. While we were thankful for the support we received to try to keep our facility as cool as possible, our board of trustees realized we needed to consider major upgrades. They approved an engineering survey to review all our systems. Charlotte Engineering’s report stated we had multiple issues that needed to be addressed. The cost was estimated at $22 million to repair the 60-year-old building,” Hudspeth said. “Our central energy plant was antiquated. If you don’t have power, it’s hard to do surgery; it’s hard to keep patients comfortable and provide quality healthcare for them.”

The decision to replace the central energy plant at WMC added approximately $28 million to the project cost which is being funded from a $126 million bond issuance.

“We felt like it was the right thing to do for the community. We were designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid as a five-star hospital, but we know we can’t keep delivering five-star care in a 60-year-old building,” Hudspeth said.

“The expansion project started with the new central energy plant,” Hudspeth said, “because we couldn’t just tear down the power plant and build another one in its place. It has to be a staged, staggered approach. The new central energy plant will give us all of the modern technology and power we need.”

The new 100,000-square-foot energy plant will include two fire tube dual fuel steam boilers, three condensing boilers, five hot water heating pumps, three 750-ton water-cooled centrifugal chillers, a three-cell cooling tower, two 30,000-gallon above-ground fuel tanks, two 2,500 kilovolt-ampere (kVa) utility transformers and a 1,000-kilowatt (kW) generator.

“For years, ARHS has successfully worked around limitations in space and declining buildings that have kept us from achieving our full potential. It’s time we invest in people, systems, and facilities. This will expand our opportunities and position us for the future,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. 

A new and improved patient care tower


A new 48-bed tower will provide larger patient rooms capable of accommodating high-tech mobile medical equipment, state-of-the-art surgical suites, an updated Emergency Department, new waiting areas, and more. A new two-story entryway will greet patients as they enter the building, with natural light and serene mountain images.[/caption]

Watauga Medical Center is currently licensed with 117 beds, which is enough for inpatient demand, so the bed tower will not add additional beds. This new facility will allow the hospital to create new modern spaces and renovate and repurpose space in the current facility.

Patient privacy is a primary concern of the new building. Separate patient and visitor elevators are planned for the bed tower to provide more privacy for patients traveling to and from their rooms for diagnostic tests, surgery or physical therapy. Built-in medication carts will be integrated into the six new surgery suites so all necessary supplies are at the staff’s fingertips.

The bed tower will also be home to women’s health services as well as imaging and laboratory services – both of which are currently located outside of the hospital. Patients will be greeted by new registration and waiting room areas.

Along with the expansion to the new patient care tower, the existing space will be upgraded and utilized. For example, a brand-new Intensive Care Unit recently opened inside the current hospital building.

A new era of surgical excellence


Image: New Surgical Suite at Watauga Medical Center

New operating rooms will have plenty of space for the advanced technology needed for every surgical specialty.

Along with the new building comes a whole new era of new technology advancement at Watauga Medical Center. A major feature of the new patient care tower is a spacious, efficient and modern surgical suite.

“The current 300-square-foot surgical rooms limit our capabilities for advanced procedures like robotics-assisted surgery and orthopedic joint replacements, “said Kevin Henson, Senior Director of Surgery and Anesthesia Services for ARHS. “Many of the rooms are just not big enough for the equipment needed.”

In designing the new surgical space, a cross-functional planning team considered facilities such as WakeMed, UNC Health, Duke Health and others, and aimed to meet or surpass the technology available in larger metropolitan areas of the state. Watauga Medical Center, already a high-achiever in quality metrics, will be considered one of the premier hospitals in North Carolina.

According to Henson, the expansion will double the space of every new operating room. “With the expansion and design of these rooms, we can extend our robotics program. Every room will be able to handle the various needs of all surgical specialties, rather than relegating certain procedures to only certain operating rooms.” The new surgery department design will also have the pre-op and post-op rooms close to the operating rooms to improve efficiency.

Image: New Patient Room

New patient rooms will also have space for updated technology, as well as reimagined atmosphere and visitor space.

“On a typical surgery day, surgeons can log more than 18,000 steps and spend precious time they could use for patient care. They walk from one area of the hospital to speak with the family before surgery, then travel a couple long hallways to scrub in, and back down another hallway to go into the surgery department,” Hudspeth said. “We will relocate departments that work closely together to allow for more efficiency and a seamless transition between services.”

Watauga Medical Center has recently seen people traveling longer distances to receive care at the hospital. A significant portion of outpatient and inpatient surgery patients live outside Watauga County. “It’s a testimony to the vision that is being realized,” said Henson, “and it’s going to be an incredible facility for this small community.”

ARHS leaders hope the expansion will help them continue to recruit talented physicians, nurses, and staff. In addition to patients seeking out Watauga Medical Center for their procedures, they anticipate that doctors and healthcare professionals will increasingly view ARHS as an employer of choice and a place they want to be for a long time. Currently, many of Watauga Medical Center’s healthcare professionals live in Wilkes County, Ashe County, Caldwell County, and even across the state line into Tennessee. Many top physicians are also relocating to the High Country from other states, drawn by the facility improvements, the beautiful local area, and more.

A new and improved Heart and Vascular Center


One of the earliest efforts of this expansion was a new Heart and Vascular Center. Formerly known as The Cardiology Center, the 8,000-square-foot facility opened in a new heart care wing at the medical center on August 17, 2020.

The Heart & Vascular Center provides more efficient and convenient access for patients, by integrating outpatient heart care with diagnostic services in the same convenient location. The center includes twelve exam rooms, three device rooms, and two heart failure treatment rooms. The new name represents the enhanced service offerings and multi-disciplined team of board-certified cardiologists, advanced practice providers, cardiac nurses, office staff, and device technicians that all partner with patients to manage symptoms, monitor medications, and create customized treatment plans.

“Bringing services – diagnostic testing, catheterization lab, etc. – under one roof reduced the wait time for patients and enhanced the level of interaction between medical professionals to collaborate and delivered customized care,” said Kim Bianca, President of Watauga Medical Center.

After analyzing the number of people WMC was sending ‘off the mountain’ for cardiac catheterizations – approximately 300 each year – ARHS invested millions hiring additional cardiologists and enhancing the cardiac program.

“During a cardiac emergency, time is muscle,” Bianca said. “Any delay in restoring blood flow increases the chance for significant damage to the heart muscle.”

The WMC catheterization lab is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. High Country residents no longer have to leave the mountains for interventional and diagnostic services from the nation’s top medical professionals.

The future of Family Medicine, Wellness and Orthopedics Programs in the High Country

Over the last several years it has become evident that access to primary care, including family medicine, is a challenge in the High Country.

MAHEC Family Medicine Residents

First- and second-year residents with MAHEC Rural Family Medicine Residency Program

The MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program, located at Watauga Medical Center and AppFamily Medicine is a partnership between ARHS and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and will also serve as a clinical training site for medical students from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The program was created to train full-scope family doctors to serve in rural and underserved communities. Resident training will take three years, and ARHS and MAHEC are hopeful that many residents will choose to continue their careers in the High Country.

The Watauga Medical Center expansion ensures that resident doctors will be able to train in the most up-to-date, advanced environment while providing care to our rural population. A $1 million investment will be made into the future of the residency as a part of the capital fundraising campaign that supports the overall project.

“We are enormously excited to welcome these family medicine residents,” said Molly Benedum, M.D., Director of the MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. “Their interest in our program indicates their strong commitment to spending their careers meeting the primary healthcare needs of communities across the state. We look forward to what they will accomplish in the years to come.”

Recognizing the relationship between physical fitness training and healthcare for joints and bones, ARHS is allocating $1.5 million to relocate their acclaimed orthopedics programs to the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center. Orthopedic physicians will now be able to collaborate more closely with physical therapy and wellness staff to provide access to specialized pre-surgical training and post-surgical physical therapy.

Jackson working out post-surgery while trainer Tiffany coaches

Jackson working out post-surgery while trainer Tiffany coaches

David Jackson, President and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, greatly benefitted from a customized pre-surgery conditioning program before orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Anderson performed his hip replacement procedure. This “prehab” gave him the best possible chance of overcoming his lifelong struggle with a rare condition and chronic hip pain that threatened to destroy his active lifestyle and consume his family life.

With the growing number of active seniors in the High Country, people who use the Wellness Center for fitness may increasingly find themselves in the midst of a major health event where they experience illness or need surgery. They may need help to get back to their previous level of activity.

Fitness services, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy through The Rehabilitation Center, and other clinical wellness programs are currently housed in the 54,000-square-foot building. With the addition of AppOrtho orthopedics and sports medicine, ARHS can consolidate services and help patients successfully navigate the cycle of wellness and rehabilitation.

“We wanted to take the integrated care concept and create a unique space – something special for the community,” said ARHS President and CEO Chuck Mantooth. “With our specialized staff, trained to work with different health populations, we can help people live up to their potential at any age and condition.”

Support from Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is a 501c3 non-profit organization that reinvests earnings to improve healthcare services for the High Country. It is important to note that construction of the central energy plant and bed tower will not raise taxes for residents or require the use of town or county funding.

In addition to the $126 million bond issuance for construction, the ARHS foundation has been tasked with raising $12 million through a capital campaign for ancillary costs such as people, programs, and technology to enhance the project further.

“Our foundation hired a consulting firm from Winston-Salem to perform a feasibility study and help develop our fundraising plan. We surveyed people in the community about a variety of themes around healthcare delivery,” Hudspeth said. “We are currently in the silent phase of the $12 million capital campaign and have raised about $6 million.”

Created in 2007, Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation engages with the community to identify individuals, businesses and organizations who want to partner with ARHS in providing for the healthcare needs of the community.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has been able to continue to provide excellent healthcare in part because of the generosity of full-time and seasonal residents in the High Country.

“The support the foundation has been able to garner from seasonal residents is vital to our success, and we couldn’t provide this funding without them,” Hudspeth said.

To kick off the capital campaign, the foundation received two major gifts from generous benefactors to recognize the excellent care they have received in the past.

Tom Dale, Rob Hudspeth, Peter Rucker, Bonnie Schaefer, Jamie Schaefer, Chuck Mantooth

Tom Dale, Rob Hudspeth, Peter Rucker, Bonnie Schaefer, Jamie Schaefer, Chuck Mantooth

The first gift came from Blowing Rock residents Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, together with their family, Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff, who generously gave $3 million for the future Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower at Watauga Medical Center.

“They say people make a place and it’s a good thing, because the core hospital, built in 1967, is dated, in disrepair and in need of improvement,” said Bonnie Schaefer.

“Watauga Medical Center offers life-saving medical care to those living in the High Country,” said Jamie Schaefer. “The patients and healthcare professionals need and deserve a new, state-of-the-art hospital.”

On June 17, 2021, Blowing Rock resident Ken Lewis surprised his wife, Donna, with a $1.5 million contribution to ARHS in her honor to name the new Donna C. Lewis Heart and Vascular Center.

Both Donna and Ken have needed cardiac interventions in the past. “Donna had some heart issues and she needed repair work about 15 or 16 years ago. I’ve had a heart stent myself,” Lewis said, “When this (capital campaign) came up, I thought about how lucky and blessed we were to have the ability to access this kind of facility.”

Lewis noted that as seasonal residents, they typically have all the facilities and technologies nearby their primary homes to address emergency situations. “But that is not necessarily the case when you are in the mountains,” he said, “It’s all about time in those situations. We have what we think are the best hospitals in the world [in our primary home cities], but they might as well be in China. At certain times of our lives, it is all about this hospital [in Boone]. It may be enlightened self-interest, but it’s also about all of the things we can do for the people of this region and this community. This is a great thing to do because it will help save people’s lives and Donna and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation hopes to have continued success to fully fund the capital campaign. For more information, and opportunities to contribute, visit