Community Impact Award

Recognizing the True Servants of Hickory Nut Gorge 

The term steward dates back to ancient history and referred to a household servant who dutifully and faithfully oversaw the valuables of the Master. Today, a steward is someone who has accepted or been assigned responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuables of others.

The Jim Dunn Community Impact Award (CIA) is given to an individual, couple, or organization who has demonstrated significant stewardship in the Hickory Nut Gorge community.

The Hickory Nut Gorge is a rare jewel, its majesty and beauty touch the soul, drawing in a population of people who put the needs of the community ahead of their own.

These community-minded people have provided the civic leadership that has been the cornerstone of the Gorge. That leadership continues to be carried out by strong, dedicated people who accept the challenges and responsibility for its care. The Community Impact Award acknowledges that spirit and recognizes those special people who have made the Hickory Nut Gorge a better place.

About our 2020 Recipients

“Jim Dunn” Community Impact Award - H.N.G. Foundation Honors the O’Learys

Peter and Ann’s Chimney Rock journey began in 1990 with marriage and a decision to move to Chimney Rock Village where Peter became manager of Chimney Rock Park. After two years they took a slight (hairpin) turn in their journey and decided to become entrepreneurs and opened Bubba O’Leary’s General Store. The business was named out of fondness for their new yellow lab puppy, Bubba.

Peter immediately got involved with the HNG Chamber of Commerce and Ann served as its first Executive Director. They established a Welcome Center in a rustic building in the middle of what is now the parking area between Medina’s and the Oates’ Bistro. Peter subsequently joined the CR Fire Department and Ann the Women’s Auxiliary which makes about 25 years of service for both of them. Peter is also currently on the CRVFD Board.

Peter was serving on the Village Council as Mayor in 1996 when the torrential rain storm crippled the Village with significant damage all along the banks of the Rocky Board. The storm severely affected all adjacent properties to the roaring waters. Out of the devastation emerged an opportunity to develop the “River Walk” that had been envisioned by a project called “Hand Made In America”. Under Peter’s leadership, town regulations were modified and implemented to stimulate and foster the beginnings of the Rocky Broad River feature. This has been a favorite tourist destination attraction for many years and will continue to be expanded and enhanced in the future.

Peter and Ann have been involved in the CR’s Community Development Authority (CDA) and the county Tourism Development Authority (TDA) as these organizations have evolved over the years. In 2015 Peter was again elected to the position of Mayor. Working with the TDA and the Town of Lake Lure, Chimney Rock created a plan for a walkway trail from the Flowering Bridge to the center of CRV. Although only partially implemented, Peter and Ann see a day when the Trail winds all the way up to Bat Cave.

Peter and Ann are quick to point out that Chimney Rock is a very small community and its progress is attributable to a host of volunteers, friends and mostly teamwork. It takes a village to make progress in this quaint little but vibrant community. They cite Barbara and Buck Mileski, Steve and Mary Jaeger Gale, Achie and JoAnn Okpych, Amy and Bob Wald, Joe and Linda Carter, Megan and John Medina, Don and Kim Cason, Bill Whitman, Charlie Dangerfield, Steve Duncan and April Schick as key contributors to the ongoing, successful evolution of Chimney Rock Village.

Peter and Ann have three grown children, Marie Claire, Erin and AJ (Augustus Joseph) and, rounding out the family, Erin’s husband Ethan Whitlock and two year old granddaughter Everly Whitlock. All these years they have attended Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hendersonville and have participated as readers in services and with several children’s programs. Their life is all about family, Christianity, community, commerce and continuous contribution.

For all these reasons, the HNG Foundation is pleased to recognize Peter and Ann O’Leary with the Foundation’s 2020 Community Impact Award.

Since 2005, the Community Impact Award has honored the following individuals and organizations:

Peter and Ann O'Leary

Todd and Melinda Morse

George and Hope Wittmer

Buck and Barbara Meliski

Russ Pitts and Lynn Carnes

The late Jim Dunn, Co-Founder Recognition Award

The Chimney Rock Village Community Development Association

Kay and Ed Dittmer

Gary Wilson

Mary Ann Ransom