Crucial donations make year-round Miracles

HOLIDAY REQUEST – While many members of the community are out shopping for Christmas presents this time of year, others may be worrying about how they are going to pay their heating bills.

For Patsy Davis, the executive director of Mountain Projects, this time of year is always a reminder of the young families, low-wage workers or people on Social Security who desperately need emergency heat or utility assistance.

Davis’s commitment to the cause is driven by her memory of a news story she read about in which a family lost their life while trying to stay warm in Haywood County.

“I am forever reminded of that tragedy and about how important it is to keep people with heat in the winter,” Davis said. “All children and seniors deserve a place of safety that is warm and safe.”

Mountain Projects is keeping vulnerable families from falling through the cracks by using donations to provide emergency heating and utility assistance to keep them warm, safe, and secure.

And this year, the need for heating assistance is higher than ever.

“Our heating assistance fund is critically low,” said Davis. “And yet we have been seeing an increase in senior citizens having trouble paying their utility bills. Oftentimes, the older we get the more heat we need to stay warm.”

To celebrate Davis’ birthday on Christmas Day this year, Mountain Projects is asking for donations for its emergency fund and heating assistance fund – which is how the nonprofit can help families with their most urgent needs.

Any donations made to these funds are unrestricted; this means that these donations can be used for any kind of crisis that may arise.

“We had a 76-year-old man come in who was behind on his mortgage because his significant other went into long-term care,” Davis said. “Another time, someone needed tires. You never know what kind of situation is going to walk through the door. But without donations, we have to turn people away and say no.”

And according to Davis, being able to help these families that walk through the doors doesn’t only restore their livelihood, it gives them strength to keep going.

“I really think when you can help somebody, you restore their hope,” she said. “Just a little support can restore people’s hope and drive to carry on.”

 It all started at Head Start

Anyone who knows Davis will agree that she has a deep connection with community outreach, which likely started when she was in preschool.

Davis grew up in Cullowhee and attended Head Start in Jackson County in the late 60s.

“I’m a Head Start child,” she said. “I remember an outreach worker came to my house and recruited me. They had toys there like we didn’t have at home. I don’t remember last week, but I remember my days in Head Start.”

The Mountain Projects Head Start program is available at no cost to qualifying families on a first-come, first-served basis for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old.

In addition to offering childcare services at no cost, all other supplies such as diapers, formula or other food items are supplied by Head Start as well.

“We now have Head Start in the same location where I went to high school,” Davis said with a laugh, noting that she attended Cullowhee High School, which has now been turned into the Kneedler Child Development Center at WCU.

Davis had always wanted to be a teacher. She recalls sneaking away from her high school classes to go work with the younger children, who were in the same building.

“I probably should have been learning but I loved it,” Davis said.

Davis followed her dream of working with students in the classroom, but some things she saw made her change her major while at Western Carolina University.

“I didn’t know that children were without clothes and were hungry,” she said. “I thought, ‘These children can’t learn when they’re hungry and don’t have a place to sleep.’ So, I changed my major to social work.”

And so began Davis’s career of changing lives. 33 years later, she is still at the helm of Mountain Projects, crusading for the safety and security of vulnerable families all over WNC.

“Every contribution, every act of generosity is a blessing to a person in need,” Davis said, noting that currently, the organization receives an average of 10 emergency requests a day. “A lot of times everything is OK until their husband or wife passes away or has to go into long-term care. Then all the sudden they don’t have that income anymore. The community helps us solve serious problems like this when they make donations.”

This holiday season, consider donating to a cause that will go directly back to the community, and do it with Davis in mind.

With your help, we can restore the heating assistance fund and help make December 25 even more special for the woman who is always there for the community when they need it most.

To make a donation, visit or

You may also contribute by check by mailing it to Mountain Projects, Inc., 2177 Asheville Rd., Waynesville NC 28786, Attn. “Winter Warmth” or “Emergency Fund.”