July 23, 2018  Letter from the Executive Stewardship Circle

Summer Greetings!

Amidst summer and the blazing Ojai heat, fire recovery and land renewal continues at an even pace up on the ridge. We are pleased to send a few significant updates:

• A GATHERING: Council carriers return to the ridge.

On July 8, we opened the front gate to welcome our community of council facilitators, trainers, mentors and elders for the Annual Gathering of Council Carriers and new trainer confirmation ceremony. The first part of the day was spent in samu — mindful work in service to the land – all of us stopping at intervals to listen to the sound of the bell, follow our breath and appreciate our work, each other and the surroundings. In the afternoon, we gathered in the Council House for a session of Q&A with the Executive Stewardship Circle and then to the freshly mulched and prepared Teaching Tree where two new council trainers were confirmed and celebrated – a poignant moment of new beginning for the land and community. (Note: The land remains closed to the public for reasons of safety and continued recovery and renewal.)

•  A GIFT: Center for Employment Training (CET)

Photos by Simone Noble

In the midst of the major FEMA-sponsored debris removal process, a representative from the Center for Employment Training (CET), a national program with an office in Oxnard, came up to the land and informed us of a grant they had received to help with fire recovery efforts in Ventura County. As an operating nonprofit organization severely impacted by the fire, we qualified for this help. Within a few weeks, we had an on-the-ground team helping to steward The Ojai Foundation grounds. The CET employees learn through experience, and we receive much needed help on the land. Needless to say, this unexpected gift has been wind in our sails, and we have made tremendous progress with what is still a monumental task. We will continue to grow this team and work together with CET as we carry on. We send our deep gratitude to CET and the willing, capable new stewards caring for our beloved ridge top. And special thanks to Billy Matheson, a friend and ally from New Zealand who has been overseeing the work. (Scroll down for more images)

• A GRATITUDE: An ode to our Partners and the Ojai Community

When the Fire came, we had a full program calendar for 2018. Initially, we had to make many quick decisions regarding how to transition our programs, and what we needed to let go of. In all, our partners have been tremendous in supporting a graceful transition to new sites, new ways of doing business, and new horizons. We are grateful to you, each and all. And special gratitude goes out to our facilitators and meal coordinators for accompanying all of the changes. Also, big thanks to our corporate partners for steady commitment to us through the changes, and to the Crossroads staff who braved new frontiers to pull off a beautiful rites of passage season at Quail Springs. Not to mention the immense generosity from Quail Springs. Surely, the list is long, and, almost immediately after the Thomas Fire, many people and businesses stepped up to offer their venues for our already scheduled programs and evening events allowing us to continue to practice, celebrate, learn, and mark passages. we will not be able to name everyone who gave, offered, and supported the changes… We thank you, each, and all, including:

Hamsa Dance & Yoga Studio for hosting winter solstice

Somatic Sanctuary for hosting Community Council Spring Series
Ojai Retreat for Council One Training

 greater goods for Community Sing(s)

Twin Creek Ranch for Council Two Training

A Look ahead…

With the debris piles finally removed, and the initial stages of the clean up complete, we now turn our attention to the rest of the needs for our basic recovery. Our priorities include safety, care for the land, care for what remains, and movement toward re-opening as soon as possible, as well as reimagining our future.  A partial list of our known next steps and needs includes:

–       Renewal of our Conditional Use Permit (CUP)

–       Tree and trail work.

–       Repair of the Council Hut on the upper land (roof, windows, and plaster)

–       Repair of the Council House (windows, screens, floor, etc.)

–       Purchase of new rugs, meditation cushions and backjacks

–       Creating shade structure(s) for outdoor gathering spaces, including dining.

–       Replace Council House water tanks

–       Well repair and installation of irrigation system for central gardens

–       Repair of electrical and solar-electric infrastructure

–       Tool replacement and safe storage

As this process unfolds, we will endeavor to keep our many friends and circles of Ojai Foundation stakeholders informed and offer ways for you to be involved. In the meantime, we continue to welcome all of your support, whether in the form of stories and testimonials, words of love and encouragement, lending a hand at a volunteer day or making a financial contribution. These gestures of generosity have been keeping us buoyed in our work, have allowed for the continued efforts of our small staff, and keep the community heart of The Ojai Foundation alive.

With love and gratitude,
Executive Stewardship Circle (ESC)

Brendan Clarke & Sharon Shay Sloan, Co-Directors
David Bryan & Laura Whitney, Board Co-Chairs