Ministries at Banner Elk Presbyterian Church

Since 1893, our church has been a beacon of hope to many in our community and around the world. Many organizations and non-profits began within the church when a seed of an idea was nurtured by members (read more of our history).

Find many opportunities to serve and fellowship! The Missions Committee oversees the many benevolence and outreach programs for our church – in Banner Elk, Avery County and beyond. Their responsibilities include screening requests for support, coordinating benevolence giving while providing oversight of these efforts, and continuously educating the members of our congregation about activities and opportunities available to serve others.

In 2022, the church sponsored and hosted two special fundraisers: the Firehouse Fundraiser for our local fire department and Food for Ukraine Families.

For our 130th Anniversary in July 2023, we are raising money for Cook Stoves in Guatemala.

Opportunities to Serve & Support: Local, National & Global

All are welcome to get involved. Contact the church office to find out how to help! 

Quilt Making at Banner Elk Presbyterian Church

Comfort Makers

The Comfort Makers is a group who piece together comforters for those who can use a lovely warm blanket. Dozens of women have worked on these beautiful creations over the years, each one in unique design and colors, and all made from fabric contributed by members and church friends.  They are given to various causes such as to Reaching Avery Ministry (RAM), to new Habitat for Humanity homeowners, and sometimes to a person who is ill or alone or who might just need a gift of love.  Anyone receiving one of these useful covers knows they have received an item to be treasured.  More than 400 comforters have been distributed since the group began in 1990.  Monthly, a completed blanket is dedicated to church members or a group that serves the church or community. That comforter is hung up to display throughout the month.

The Comfort Makers meets each Wednesday morning, 10:00-noon, upstairs above the church offices. They welcome anyone who enjoys the fun and fellowship of creating useful gifts. Members stress that no “sewing skills” are needed; if you can cut or pin or iron or tie knots, you’ll find a job in this ministry. Of course, if you are an accomplished designer or seamstress, you are needed, too! Contact for this group: Debi Tornow.

Prayer Shawl Ministry

The Prayer Shawl Group consists of women who enjoy a time of fellowship while creating beautiful, useful items for anyone who might appreciate receiving such a gift of love, concern and remembrance. More than 450 shawls have been made and given since the group began in 2013. Each shawl, lap robe or hug rug is dedicated with prayer and symbolizes not only the warmth and caring of friends, but also represents our being surrounded by God’s love. Members of this talented group knit, crochet and weave to fashion their creations. Donated yarn and needles are available or you may furnish your own supplies. Someone is always happy to help beginners or to share patterns and ideas for design.

Everyone is invited and anyone wishing to knit or crochet at home (or maybe as you winter in Florida) and contribute shawls is encouraged to do so.  You are also invited to suggest names of people who might enjoy “a hug” represented by one of these shawls.

The Prayer Shawl Group meets on the first and third Monday of each month from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Margaret Tate Parlor. Alice Johnson coordinates this ministry. (photo at top of page)

Feeding Avery Families

Feeding Avery Families

This ministry provides a monthly distribution of food to those in need in Avery County. Our congregation provides donations of food items, funding and many volunteers to make this program work. In addition to food donations from Manna Food Bank in Asheville, our local grocery stores, especially Food Lion and Lowes Foods, generously give items such as meats, bakery, and canned goods. These are an important part of the more than 500 boxes which are distributed each month. For more information, contact Dick Larson at FAF or go to their website.

Daily Change Hunger Relief Offering

During the last Sunday of each month, families bring in their pennies and change that they have put into a canister at meal time, remembering those who do not have food. Amazingly, this small amount has grown enormously, enough to help people throughout the region, including our own community.

Guatemala Sister Church

Guatemalan Partnership

Since 1996, our church has been in a covenant relationship with Arca de Noe, a small, rural church in Guatemala, as part of a larger partnership relationship between our Presbytery and two Presbyteries in Guatemala. Members of our congregation have visited regularly, providing assistance with education, housing, drinking water and simply extending this relationship. In addition to these budgeted funds, non-funded, committed funds are donated to support educational scholarships totaling $5,000 to $10,000 per year. For more info, contact Kathy Ward. Learn more about our Guatemalan Partnership

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian organization which builds homes for those who qualify. As one of our covenant ministries, we have agreed to donate funds to the group, provide volunteers, and to pray for its work. Several of our members are regular volunteers and coordinators for the program and since 1991, we have helped to build more than 30 homes in Avery County. Each spring, some women from our church participate in a national “Women Build Day”. Contact Avery Habitat at 828-733-1909.


Providing both emergency and non-emergency assistance to victims of domestic abuse, OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Service, Information and Shelter) has been in existence since the 1980’s. We provide funds and assistance, as well as contributions of needed products. Volunteer opportunities are also available for those who wish to do so. For more information, call 828-264-1532.

Reaching Avery Ministry

Banner Elk Presbyterian members consistently support the work of this local agency. RAM (Reaching Avery Ministry) consists of a food pantry and thrift shop. Gifts of food, good used clothing, household items and money are contributed to assist those in need in our area. Items needed are soups, canned vegetables and fruits, meat substitutes (ravioli, hash, etc.), and disposable diapers. These items can be left in the box in the office vestibule of the church at any time. For more information, please contact Director Janet Millsaps at 828-733-5127.

It’s Time for a Change

This on-going project of the Outreach Committee involves working with RAM (Reaching Avery Ministry) to help provide diapers and powdered formula for low income young families who cannot afford these items. You can help by purchasing disposable diapers and / or powdered infant formula. The request is for diapers that will fit babies of 15 pounds or larger, or you can help these babies and families by mailing a check made out to Banner Elk Presbyterian Church with the notation “It’s Time for a Change”.  We will shop for the needed items for you. For more information about RAM, contact Janet Millsaps, director,  at 828-733-5127.

Shepherd Program

The Shepherd Program, part of our Congregational Care Committee, is a means of helping nurture, encourage and support members of the church family. Two people volunteer each month as Shepherds. Working closely with the pastor, they seek to convey God’s love and our church’s concern in ways they think will be helpful. This ministry may include phone calls, notes or cards, visits or gifts of food during times of celebration, illness, stressful family situations or bereavement. Volunteers are always welcome to assist with the Shepherd Program which is coordinated by Debi Tornow.

Stephen Ministry

This ministry offers Christian solace to those facing illness, death of loved ones, divorce, relocation, financial setbacks, care taking and more.  Four members of our congregation are serving as trained Stephen Ministers.  We have three additional people who have previously been trained as Stephen Ministers in other churches, and who have offered to assist in various ways.   If you would like more information, please contact Stephen Ministry Leaders Reverend Murry Haber or Janet Speer. See a listing of Stephen Ministry Resources. Get more information.

Avery Toy Project

Avery Project Christmas

Donations of toys, gifts and money are given by our members to RAM, which coordinates a program to help selected, needy families at Christmas. A “store” is set up for two days so that parents can select and wrap gifts for their children at no charge.  For more information, contact Susan Carter or the church office.

Volunteer Avery County

Volunteer Avery County has been providing assistance to those in need since 1992 – including emergency food, fuel and funds to those struggling with poverty. This program seeks to help people who have fallen through the holes in our system’s safety net. For more information, please call Cindy Lindecamp at 828-737-0718.

Lees-McRae College Ministries

Our church sits adjacent to the LMC campus which was founded by Rev. Edgar Tufts during the same era as the beginning of our church. Our service and financial outreach to Lees-McRae students takes several forms including spaghetti dinners we provide for the students prior to exams at the end of each semester and refreshment on move-in day. Plus, we are delighted to give stipends to four choir interns from the musical theatre program and assist with funding of scholarships.

Meal Train

The Meal Train is an online program, free of charge to groups like ours, that organizes and reminds us of the opportunities to serve meals to those who need one. Janet Speer is the administrator and she can add your name at any time. Once you are a member, you can sign up for a date to take a meal to one of our recipients. It will let you know where that person lives, special food requirements and other pertinent information – including a reminder.

New Opportunity School for Women

Operating in conjunction with Lees-McRae College, NOSW provides education, counseling and mentoring for women from this region. These services help improve their career and social skills, thus benefiting themselves as well as their families. Participants from the mountain region come to the college campus for a three-week residential program at no charge. Go to their website.

Prayer Ministry

The Prayer Ministry Team is comprised of dedicated, discerning individuals praying daily not only for church and world-wide concerns, but also for every church member throughout the year. For more information, contact the church office.

Thanksgiving Food Boxes

Our congregation provides a generous number of frozen turkeys and boxes of food sufficient to feed a family each Thanksgiving holiday. Each member receives information concerning the number of family members (but not names) and then shops for food items which are collected and donated the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This assistance to persons in need is coordinated with RAM.  For more information, contact the church office.

Walking with Shadows

Walking with Shadows is a support group that meets to discuss, share resources and discover ways of coping with family, friends and self. The group meets monthly on the second Monday at 7 pm. This subject is seldom discussed but mightily felt and should be addressed by people of faith. An important part of our group is to find ways that members can place themselves in a healthy mental state so they can better serve their loved one. See a listing of Walking with Shadows Resources

Banner Elk Presbyterian Preschool

Our preschool for two, three and four year-olds is an outreach program for our community providing developmentally appropriate Christian Education at affordable prices. We operate from 9:00 to 1:00 in our church classrooms five days each week, providing enrichment activities for children. The goal of the school is to provide for the intellectual, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development of our students through hands-on creative play. Read more.

Blue Ridge Partnership for Children

This organization provides programs, assistance and funds to families of children under five years of age to ensure that these children are prepared to begin school, maximizing his or her potential. A new emphasis is on reading readiness using the Imagination Library program, developed by Dolly Parton, in which each child, birth to 5, receives one book a month to create a home library of age-appropriate books. For more information, contact Susan Carter.

Christmas Joy Offering

This offering supports retired ministers and church staff who need assistance, as well as Presbyterian-related schools and colleges. Get more information.

Children’s Hope Alliance

This 100-year-old ministry, founded by Rev. Edgar Tufts during the same era as the beginning of our church, continues to provide both residential and non-residential support, counseling and treatment for abused children from our region. The home, originally created at Grandfather Home for Children, is now part of Children’s Hope Alliance. Get more information.

Missions Committee Discretionary Fund

This fund, begun in 2014, is designed to provide flexibility within the budget structure to deal with unanticipated missions outreach needs.

One Great Hour of Sharing

This special offering at Easter supports Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Self-Development of People program, coordinated by our General Assembly. It provides us Presbyterians a way to share God’s love with our neighbors in need around the world. Read more.

Presbytery of Western North Carolina

These funds support the work of the Presbytery.85% remains with the Presbytery, 1.4% is forwarded to the Synod and 13.6% goes to the General Assembly.

Rob Clemmer Benevolence Fund

The Rob Clemmer Benevolent Fund, previously known as the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, exists to provide assistance to the people of Avery County in the form of housing related needs and other emergency situations, including such things as transportation and health issues. A committee meets once a week to evaluate and act upon requests. This fund is named after a former staff member (and church member) who for years oversaw the distribution of benevolent dollars and ministries of the church, doing so with a compassion and love that epitomized the mission of our church. The Rob Clemmer Benevolence Fund is supported mostly through special  gifts from church members and friends.

Avery County Schools Special Needs Fund

This fund allows us to respond to needs as they arise in our local school system. It has provided money for the schools’ clothing pantries and school supplies to be used by any student in need. According to Banner Elk Elementary School principal Justin Carver, who administers this program in all seven schools, it makes a huge difference in the lives of children who don’t have the resources for such items.

Souper Bowl of Caring

This special offering, held on the Sunday of professional football’s Super Bowl, and coordinated by our high school and college students, provides food and funds for RAM to feed persons living in poverty in Avery County. Our financial contributions are matched by the Presbytery’s Hunger Committee funds to increase the impact. Click Here for more information.

Yellow Mountain Enterprises

Begun in 1989 in the basement of this church, this program provides vocational, residential, social and support services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The staff provides a wide variety of work, scaled to the unique abilities of their clients, believing that all people deserve the opportunity to lead productive lives and earn a paycheck. For more information, go to their website.