2021 Tocqueville Society Community Service Award

No matter in which corner of Buncombe County you live, there’s likely an Eblen Short Stop nearby. The Eblen family, founders of Biltmore Oil and Eblen Short Stops, have been an integral part of our business and philanthropic community for four generations and, on this, the 100th Anniversary of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, we gathered to celebrate two incredible women from this family. 

Alongside the mighty French Broad River, United Way staff and key supporters gathered at Bottle Riot to celebrate Jennie Eblen and her mother, Bobbie Eblen (represented by her granddaughter Jewel), as they were presented with the 2021 Tocqueville Society Community Service Award for their many years of service and dedication to our community.



With the influence of Bobbie’s love and leadership, the Eblen family has set the standard for what it means for a local business to give back to the community-- from the creation of The Eblen Foundation out of the funds raised in a yard sale in 1991 to their generous support of so many other local organizations, including United Way. 

It is clear that Bobbie instilled in her four children the belief in the power of community and, through their actions, they have demonstrated how the business community has both an opportunity and a responsibility to give back.

Jennie Eblen is fearless, never hesitating to face opposition or apathy about any topic that affects children, women, and people in poverty. Ann Von Brock, retired VP of Community Impact UWABC

For thirty years, Jennie has served as a volunteer leader on close to forty different United Way committees. Her insights helped to shape and transform almost every aspect of this organization including helping grow First Call for Help into what is now NC 211, she advocated for our volunteer center and ensured that the resources were available to grow its reach and she has been at the center of our efforts to improve our community investments in the work of local nonprofits. She is currently serving in the final days of her term as Board Chair and will continue on the board and executive committee. 

But as we all know, Jennie’s contributions weren’t exclusive to United Way. Just a few of her many endeavors include: 

  • Recently retired, Jennie was the owner and Vice President of Eblen Short Stops and is a fiercely proud and loving mother and grandmother.
  • Founding Member of the WNC Community Foundation’s Women for Women fund
  • Among the board of directors and committees that she has served on: 
    • Buncombe County Partnership for Children
    • Children First Communities In Schools
    • Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
    • North Carolina Center for Nonprofits
    • North Carolina Partnership for Children, and 
    • WNC Nonprofit Pathways
  • And in 2016 Jennie was presented with the Ashley O. Thrift award for her statewide leadership


Once again, just a few of the many kind words shared by those that have worked side by side with Jennie and care for Bobbie and the Eblen family. 

"On behalf of Children First/Communities in Schools, it's an honor to be able to express our gratitude for Jennie and all that she has contributed to the organization and to our community. Jennie was a visionary Children First/Communities in Schools board member that played a key role in our 2017 strategic planning process to chart a new direction for our policy advocacy capacity and know-how. She has been a tireless champion for direct-service nonprofits to get off the sidelines and get into the policy advocacy arena. This led her to being a trainer through WNC Nonprofit Pathways for other boards to build their own advocacy capacity and plans. We are grateful for her voice, support, and leadership that challenges us all to do our part to help all children thrive." - Natasha Adwaters, Executive Director Children First/Communities in Schools and Greg Borom, Director of Advocacy


“Jennie’s contribution to the survival, then the expansion and ultimately the thriving of the YWCA cannot be overstated. When the clouds were the darkest for the YWCA’s future she was a rock and continued to be a light! Steeped in the mission – empowering women and eliminating racism – Jennie was stalwart in her commitment. No matter how large or small the task, from gathering auction items to staff appreciation efforts to board cultivation to YWCA USA participation to leading our advocacy work, Jennie epitomized a servant leader. Her immense caring for her community, particularly its vulnerable children, is palpable and also contagious. Jennie Eblen has made our community a more just, more compassionate, and a more hopeful place. We are all greatly blessed to have been touched by her goodness.” - Holly Jones, Former Executive Director YWCA

"I met Jennie almost 30 years ago when I started working for United Way. She was involved on so many levels -as a volunteer in the funding arena, as an ambassador in the Children First initiative that United Way spearheaded, as a leader in getting 211 up and running, and on countless boards of nonprofits in the community that address the needs (and empowerment) of women and children. She has consistently been a calm, cool, collected, prepared, thoughtful, and engaged leader. She has made it her full-time mission to empower and improve the lives of women and children in WNC. She is a woman I have always admired and respected and I am thrilled that she and her family have been chosen to receive this award." - Robin Stickney, Former Director of NC 211


“The Eblen family’s activism and heart for our community, led by Joe and Bobbie, is legendary. Jennie may have inherited her sense of altruism, though she has acquired a distinctive legacy of her own. In all situations, I can visualize Jennie’s wisdom and her genuine, unassuming and reassuring manner.” - Jim Stickney, IV President of ISA, UWABC Board Chair 2005 -2007


"Jennie Eblen is foundational. I have worked on and off with Jennie for over 30 years. I can't recall when we first met, but I am sure it was around advocating for children, perhaps with the Youth Services Action Group. Jennie is consistent and persistent -- qualities critical for speaking out on behalf of those who feel powerless or voiceless. She is fearless, never hesitating to face opposition or apathy about any topic that affects children, women, people in poverty, and nonprofits striving to help them. Jennis is a fierce ally you want on your side. She has made me a better person and United Way a better organization. Above all, she has made this a better community for folks who may not even know who she is, but have found success through her support for strong services to families." -Ann Von Brock, Retired VP of Community Investments

About the Tocqueville Society Community Service Award

Since 1973, United Way Worldwide has recognized individuals who demonstrate extraordinary leadership, commitment, and service in their community. Here in our community, we presented the first Tocqueville Community Service Award to Buddy and Marilyn Patton & Barbara Blomberg in 2002. Learn more about the award criteria and local awardees through the years.

Thank you

  • Bottle Riot for sharing your incredible space with us for the evening.  
  • The talented artists at Lexington Glassworks for the breathtaking awards you created.
  • And to our Tocqueville Society event sponsors, Neil and Amy Hanks of Beverly-Hanks Realtors - you and your team are incredible partners in our work. 

This Event Was Generously Sponsored by Beverly-Hanks Realtors