Community gets first look at The Literacy Council’s future home

The Literacy Council hosted the Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s first monthly Business After Hours of the season on Wednesday, opening its doors to the community and giving the public a first-hand look at TLC’s soon-to-be facility. The new location is next to Bryson’s Food Store in Highlands Plaza and will undergo renovations before TLC officially moves in this spring.

The Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours was the first of the season and was hosted by The Literacy Council on Wednesday. Business After Hours is a networking and social event for Chamber members, area merchants, guests, friends, and family. TLC’s night was for both adults and children and included food, games, dancing and yes, that’s TLC Chair Jane Jerry in the back center breaking down to the Macarena with Steve Hott on the turntables.

Once construction is complete, TLC will be able to increase their capacity of students by 150% and eliminate the lengthy waiting list students face today, said TLC Executive Director Bonnie Potts.

“We wanted to thank the community for all they have done over the years and show that we are being good stewards of their support by increasing our capacity to help more students,” said Potts.

Merchants, friends, and family gathered at the Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours to mingle with fellow business owners and see The Literacy Council’s new facility in Highlands Plaza next to Bryson’s Food Store. Pictured above on right is Broker in Charge Pat Allen of Pat Allen Realty Group.

TLC not only helps children through a variety of programs, but there are several adult programs, including English as a Second Language and GED classes; that are free, provide child care, and are designed to be as convenient as possible for those who have tight schedules. The new location will do just that as people can grab lunch at Bryson’s Food Store and eat while on their break at the TLC gathering materials or studying, said TLC Chair Jane Jerry.

“For people who have to work, we have a lunchtime program because we feel that’s a time when people can stop and think about their future,” she said.

Jerry added that many of TLC’s tutors are retired volunteers who are available throughout the afternoon during traditional business hours to give students as many options as possible to utilize the programs that are available.

Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor spoke to the crowd at Business After Hours and said The Literacy Council is an invaluable resource that must be preserved. The photobomb in the background is Conservation Photographer Kevin FitzPatrick from All Species Photography.

Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor spoke to those in attendance and said TLC is an invaluable resource to the area and its efforts in the adult community can be life changing.

“What they (TLC) do for young people is immeasurable, but there’re other programs aimed at adults that are invaluable to breaking the cycle of not being able to communicate,” said Taylor. “And this new facility is indicative of the progress this organization has made.”

The pre-renovation, public invite was the prequel to the actual opening in spring after construction is expected to be completed, said Potts. When TLC is fully moved in to the new location they will host another Business After Hours in October to give the public the “after” look post-renovations.

“We are very excited to move in and get things up and running,” said Potts. “While planning, we tried to be creative and do it as cost efficiently as possible.”

The Literacy Council students from left are Leela Chrestman and Nicole Taylor having some fun at Business After Hours at TLC’s soon-to-be home.

The new location includes the capacity for a 150% increase in students, space to run multiple programs simultaneously, advanced security system, reading room with amphitheater seating for lectures and storytelling, individual tutoring rooms, media center, and individual learning spaces for both children and adults.

Artist and Owner and Operator of Yard Monger Redhawk, Duncan Greenlee, helps decorate the walls with students from The Literacy Council at Business After Hours on Wednesday.

To learn more about TLC’s programs and resources click HERE.

Editor’s Note: Pictured below is Steve Hott of Hott Acts keeping the party rolling with a consistent stream of sweet jams. For more information on Hott Acts call 828.421.4121 or email On another note, speaking of before and after…

Highlands Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours

The Chamber’s Business After Hours is a monthly event where Chamber members and guests get together on a regular basis and have some fun, said Chamber Events & Volunteers Manager Beverly Wichman.

“It’s a chance to mingle with fellow merchants, friends, and neighbors in town,” said Wichman.

Members of the business community throughout the area got together at The Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours on Wednesday hosted by The Literacy Council. Pictured above from left are Kaye McHan; Marjorie Deal Christiansen, Managing Partner of the The Laurel Magazine; and John Woods, General Manager of Park on Main at the first Business After Hours of the season.

The monthly Business After Hours traditionally begins later in the year due to low turnout before the season really gets underway, but Wichman said highlighting a community asset like TLC was a perfect reason to begin the festivities early.

“They’re (TLC) able to reach everyone on the Plateau and are such a big part of the community,” said Wichman. “The show of support from the people who came out tonight is incredible, they know the programs at The Literacy Council are needed.”

The Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours on Wednesday was hosted by The Literacy Council and gave the public a look at the soon-to-be new facility.

The evening’s shenanigans included activities for children, dancing, food, and Steve Hott on the turntables.

Taylor said Business After Hours is a great way for merchants to regularly touch base.

“It’s a chance for people to get together and share ideas and problems,” he said. “I think it’s great.”

Real Estate Broker Mary Abranyi (far left) at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices; Ashby Underwood-Garner (middle), Owner of Yoga Highlands; Rachel Lewicki, Manager of the Spice & Tea Exchange of Highlands; and The Literacy Council Executive Director Bonnie Potts.

Owners of Chambers Realty and Vacation Rentals, Tucker and Jeannie Chambers, are long-time members of the Chamber and said the Business After Hours events are very beneficial.

“These events are really fantastic,” said Jeannie. “Especially like tonight when you get to what’s coming in the community. And you get a chance to network. Yes, a lot of them you already know, but you get to see more than if you just bumped into someone on the street.”

In the center laughing is Diane Cox McPhail, author of the The Abolitionist’s Daughter, at the Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours hosted by The Literacy Council on Wednesday.

Husband and wife team Jeffrey Gillette and Sharon Ramsey of Gillette Law are dual members of both the Highlands and Franklin Chambers. They have been attending Business After Hours for years and wouldn’t miss it.

“It gives you a chance to mingle and meet other business owners,” said Ramsey. “I don’t know how many realtors have sent us business after we met them here and they knew us because we had that face to face. It’s incredible what the Chamber does here, and they do a great job of organizing this.”

From left are Debbie Grossman, owner and operator of Fressers Courtyard Cafe and Catering, and Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor at Business After Hours on Wednesday.

Gillette, who’s office is based in Franklin, said he looks forward to the monthly event and was especially excited to see TLC’s new facility.

“The Literacy Council told us about a great reading program through one of their partners, we would never had known if they didn’t tell us,” said Gillette. “Now we have tutors in schools, and they have been inspirational in the Franklin area helping us design and staff programs.”

For more information about the Highlands Chamber of Commerce resources and member benefits click HERE.

Pictured below are photos of The Literacy Council’s new space before renovations begin.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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One thought on “Community gets first look at The Literacy Council’s future home

  1. Hi Brian – Sorry I missed this great event as I was away from Highlands. This is absolutely spectacular coverage of the event. Thank you so much for all your support for the Chamber and the Community. Your reporting is timely and well presented. Great Job!

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