|Wed Aug 31, 2011|
Dear Mountain Supporters!
Well over three decades ago, a group of individuals involved with the annual, week-long Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) began dreaming about a year-round gathering place for their children, themselves, and others. This dream became a reality in 1979 with the purchase of Little Scaly Mt., and the establishment of what today is The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center.
Enthusiasm, patience, lots of hard work by a host of people, and financial contributions, large and small, were needed to get the organization off the ground. Those tangible and intangible gifts from members and supporters have continued to be essential throughout The Mountain’s history.
As our frequent letters, newsletters and meetings with our members and supporters over these past 10 months have detailed, this ‘mountain’ that we all love so well was in serious danger of having to close its doors. Thanks to the generous outpouring of support at year end 2010 and early into 2011, we were able to remain open, but sufficient reserves to fund a complete turnaround were not available in such a short time. We are still undercapitalized, and the economy continues to inflict pain by restricting revenues from retreat group and program fees. However the staff, trustees and volunteers are committed to doing all they can do to continue to implement an operational model that can keep The Mountain in business.
Last March, Lee Reading was hired as Interim Director, and his camp and retreat center experience has allowed us collaboratively to accomplish a great deal. Our year-to-date expenses are 34% lower than at this same time in 2010. We just completed a wonderful MountainCamp season, and the response from our guests in the last ten months has been more positive than ever before.
We have learned a great deal these past ten months, including how very deeply people care about The Mountain. Our working model is one of transparency and communication. In our continued effort to identify the passion so many feel about The Mountain, we hear time and again how important it is for us to remain true to our founding principles and values. This past spring we reconnected with many long-absent Mountain members, staff and former campers and camp counselors who repeatedly told their own heartfelt stories about how The Mountain shaped their lives and why it needs to continue to be here for generations to come. We had a booth at the UU General Assembly in Charlotte in late June, and had so many powerful conversations with Mountain lovers young and old. And just as The Mountain began with a visit from SUUSI participants, this year Lee Reading and one of our camp counselors went to SUUSI in order to strengthen ties with the volunteer organization that gave us our start.
We are depending on donor-generated funds each year through an Annual Campaign which we are launching with this letter. Our Operational Plan for 2011 calls for $750,000 in operating revenue and $250,000 in donations for a break-even budget. Not surprisingly, the economy has had an impact on our operating revenue, so it is essential that we meet or exceed our Annual Campaign goal! Going forward, we hope to be able to make this appeal once a year rather than continually asking our donors for emergency funds. In the past, many of you supported The Mountain in response to crisis, and for this we are grateful. By managing our expense, our revenue and our fund development, we believe that future crises can be averted and The Mountain can sustain itself and thrive for generations to come.
In this effort, we are counting on each one of you to please join us in carefully considering the importance of The Mountain as the UU values-based organization we have all invested in through program and retreat attendance, camp, volunteer efforts and funding support. If you believe as we do that The Mountain needs to continue, then we ask you to carefully consider the essential part that your financial support plays in our future. We ask that you make as large a donation as you are able to make this year. We also realize that our reach is to a wide base of people with varying financial capacities. All gifts are welcome, needed, and appreciated, regardless of size. Together they create the strong foundation of support needed to sustain The Mountain. All gifts are used to support our heartfelt mission to embrace the diversity of life, creating an environment to energize people to work for positive change and are therefore tax deductible.
If giving smaller amounts throughout the year would work best for you, we can set up an annual payment plan, ongoing credit card deduction or automatic checking account withdrawal for you. Do you realize that an $85.00 per month donation through an automatic donation plan amounts to $1,000 on an annual basis? A number of donors are currently doing this, and we hope you will join them. We are also able to take credit card donations by phone or on our website (www.mountaincenters.org).
Please feel free to call on us personally if you have any questions at all about The Mountain’s finances or restructuring. Our latest Annual Report and contact information for all of the trustees is on our website as well. We will be publishing the results of our survey this Fall, so if you have not yet completed yours, please do so by August 31st. This can easily be done online through our website. We look forward to sharing the results and using them to inform our vision for the future.
We hope to see you soon at The Mountain. Please join us for an old-fashioned Mountain Thanksgiving – come share old memories and create some new ones, too!
For generations to come,
Trudy Deyle, Board of Trustees Chair Lee Reading, Interim Director
The following are from 2011 Spring and Summer Guest Evaluations as well as Facebook postings
“Just read the latest E-newsletter and it was fantastic! Keep up the great work : ) You all are making a difference in this world! Thank you for providing such a wonderful first time camping experience for my Jr. High Schooler!!! She and her best friend ranked it a 10 out of a 10!!!” Christine Nichols Gautreaux
“Thanks for all you do and are for my children.” Wendy Ellen Arend
“I remember when this rock was my world.” Maggie Murphy
“I was born in South Carolina, but I grew up at The Mountain!” MountainCamper
“I miss The Mountain... one of the few places I can just go on retreat and recharge my spiritual batteries.” Shakti G. Subramanian
“It was great being back up at The Mountain, enjoying the cool air, the hospitality, the good food, and that wonderful place I've been enjoying for the past 17+ years!” Herb West
'It is like coming home' ... 'Very welcoming people'... 'Still The Mountain - great staff, great food, great place' ... 'Beautiful and serene' ... 'Spiritual environment' ... 'An environment that allows self reflection in the quiet times and a sense of ownership with like minded people' ... 'A wonderful setting, nice rooms, great food and very welcoming people'
“I believe a Re-Creation of The Mountain is in the works. I'm excited!” Bonnie Gramlich
“Had a terrific time at the Mountain with 15 3rd grade Brownies on their first cabin camping trip : ) . . . The girls learned how to build a campfire, they slept great in the bunkhouses, said the food was "better than mom's!" (sshhh we won't tell) and were awed by the view from meditation rock when the sun popped through on Saturday morning. Thank you Mountain Staff and friends for making our first camping trip so memorable!!!”
Question: Why is The Mountain so important - to you and the world?
“It's all about interconnections!!” Kayle Rice “Getting back to nature!” Jennifer Robinson “It's home!!!!” Ann Hadley Creech “My best memories from my childhood are from camp!” Hope Donkin Erickson “It's so tranquil and my cell phone doesn't work there. :)” Andrea Pixley “The Mountain I credit with helping put me on the path I am on right now ~ I love and miss the Mountain...will never forget my years as a camper, CIT, counselor, and of course as a Spirit ~ thank you Mountain for all you have given me!!” Jonathan Highfield “Because The Mountain is magical! It seems to attract some of the most amazing people and there is this calming energy that overcomes me whenever I am there. It is home to me. Some of my happiest memories have taken place at The Mountain.” Erin Thompson
“It's so encouraging to be part of a board that sets such a high priority on reestablishing old relationships and ensuring that The Mountain lives up to its reputation for being the warm, inviting place we all remember. I can’t say... how amazed I am at the dedication of the other board members - including those that just finished their terms – and how proud I am to be among them.” Shane M. McGee
“Going back this weekend, I thought I was looking for some measure of change. How are things different? Me, you, The Mountain, etc... What I found instead was a reconnection with the idea of purpose . . . The Mountain has a special power that allows all of us to experience our own purpose in an enlightening way . . . The Mountain seems to have a way of opening me up to my sense of self, and the experience of being there with all of you removed the blinders that make it difficult for me to see the purpose and direction that screams from inside me . . .
I AM GRATEFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Paul Allen
Then and now!
“For me, the Mountain was a safe haven from the mean girls of middle school, who called my Chuck Taylors “clown shoes,” and was a space that allowed me to be free . . . I would count down the days when I could return. What was so wonderful and surprising about this reunion was that I didn’t have to know the details of each person’s life to feel that connection again . . . I appreciate being reminded about why The Mountain matters so much. Thank you.” Lisa Speidel
WOW what an amazing weekend . . .I must admit I wasn't sure if I would feel that same old magic again in returning, but I (we) sure did. It was such a touching, healing, and reassuring few days to remember our connections. The love that we all share in this beautiful and sacred space is the essence of who we are. It is eternal, beyond time, and can never be taken away. Thanks to all whose hard work made this possible. Love to all” Matt Zimmerman
“I am grateful for the warmth and healing that we experienced this weekend. What an incredible feeling to have connectedness restored. So glad that the door has been opened, the welcome mat is out, and there is blueberry oat cake in the oven...hope to see you all again soon.” Karen Kleiber
“Thanks all you wonderful people for a beautiful weekend. . . I am reassured that the magic and power of The Mountain is undiminished, as long as there are those who believe.” Erick Gallun
“This is me doing my favorite Mountain lake activity. My parents were early staff members at the Mountain (Steve & Evelyn Carter) and I grew up there. I have so many delightful memories - collecting garnets on Meditation Rock, singing "Sneaky Snake," my first kiss, washing dishes in the dining hall, cleaning cabins, hiking in the mountains, river rafting, learning to drive in the Blue Monster truck, riding horses, and the list goes on and on. I'm lucky that my daughter had the chance to attend Mountain summer camp & enjoy some of these experiences, too. I love The Mountain and it will always hold a special place in my heart. My spirit is more full thanks to this wonderful place.” Megan Henry
“Initially – first time I visited – I thought ‘this place is like a different world’ – but now I think that description does The Mountain a disservice (though I meant it as a compliment). What I now feel is that The Mountain is very much rooted in the real world – a place to expand your mind while keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground. When the youth counselors came and spoke with our group that was the greatest gift. Amazingly awesome young people!” Kay McCurdy, 2011 Religious Educators Week
“Beautiful setting, sustainability in action, UU Through and through!” Lisa Rustemeyer, 2011 Religious Educators week
“The Mountain should be a friendly retreat for all, a place for kids to grow up and for teenagers to be challenged. Rest, retreat and growth here – then go back to the world and make or continue appropriate contributions!” Margaret & Bill Klieber
“The Mountain’s setting and service are inspiring and reflect our UU values. I am impressed with the progress made and believe (The Mountain) will thrive.” Nancy Mitchell
“I’m so glad to return to a place I have loved and lost awhile. It’s nice to be home again to a healthy place of wonder.” Liz McMaster
What will you tell others about your experience here? “That it brought back many fond & important memories of work, people, events, programs, hikes, river adventures, meals, holiday celebrations & simple quiet times in special places; and that I am glad to have come back ‘home’ to The Mountain. It’s still a very nurturing place and that it is surviving very difficult times & there is hope for its future if enough people come back, give money & send business to The Mountain.” Mary Andrus Overley
Many thanks to Marcia Bystrom, Charter Life Member of The Mountain who has given so generously each year throughout The Mountain’s 32 year history.Back
© 2013 The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center. All Rights Reserved.
P.O. Box 1299
3872 Dillard Road,
Highlands, NC 28741