Clay County October 2022


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

Our trip to Clay County included a visit to the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville. The Center overlooks beautiful Lake Chatuge. As we walked across the property, Jacqueline Gottlieb, the CEO for the Center, pointed out that we were looking at the state of Georgia across the lake.

The Hinton Rural Life Center has existed for 60 years. It serves as a conference, event and retreat center for families, faith communities and youth organizations. And, as the largest nonprofit in the county, the Center also exists as an agency that serves the broader community through providing home repairs, firewood and more.

Gottlieb encouraged us to take in the natural beauty of the lake, the surrounding Smoky Mountains and the property before reminding us, “We hoped you would see the beauty of this area, but remember: Not everything here is beautiful.”

Clay County comprises just over 11,000 residents as of the last census. Gottlieb estimated roughly one in five residents live below or close to the poverty line — with as many as four in five school-aged children being eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

She opened our conversation by pointing to a wax ring that her team had set in front of all of us. She shared that the ring costs less than $3 at a home improvement store, but it is a vital part of any given toilet. If the ring fails, you could end up paying $150-200 to fix your toilet. If the fix happens too late, you might pay $3,000 to replace the flooring. If the floor repair happens too late, you may pay $15,000-plus to remove mold.

The point? “Too many of our fellow residents live in poverty that requires them to live in the tyranny of the moment,” noted Gottlieb. Small repairs can turn into expensive fixes, and those can dramatically alter a family’s entire financial and living situation.

This need is why Hinton Rural Life has a focus on helping their neighbors as part of a broader goal to build a thriving rural community where everyone has an opportunity to lead a healthy life.

They launched a home repair program a number of years ago, and they pair it with food and firewood distribution. They also created a leadership program to invest in building local leadership capacity in a cost-effective manner.

“We know the sad fact — ZIP Code is a better predictor of health outcomes than your genetics,” continued Gottlieb. “We want to play a role in changing that for our local community.”

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

All other trade names are the property of their respective owners.

U39702, 1/23