New Executive Director of Woolman


Message from Coleen

In late December I left my home in Idyllwild, California. My route wove downhill from 6,000 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains, across the Mojave Desert, and, as the sun set, through some very thick fog between Bakersfield and Sacramento, landing me at the Ranch House on Woolman’s campus. This journey to Woolman has been much more than a move to a new job and a new home. It has brought me back to the region of my birth.

Each time I’ve moved to a new place, I have always valued getting to know local history. This was particularly true when I moved to Haiti, where understanding the history was essential to understanding the culture.

As I settle into my new role at Woolman and my new home at Ranch House, I am struck by how much history has featured in my process. Each new person I meet – alumni, neighbors, donors, board members, staff – has shared with me their own personal history with Woolman and their strong connection to the place. I am moved by the depth of meaning and feeling people have shared when talking about their own Woolman experience and the role Woolman has played in their lives. Woolman has given people deep, transformational gifts: healing from trauma, a sense of belonging, a strong connection to land, God, and self, to name a few.

Woolman’s Ranch House holds its own history. Since moving here, I have met at least three previous inhabitants, all of whom shared some of their experiences living here, and all of whom remain connected to Woolman. Last week I met Jack Stillens and his wife Marie and heard more of the history. Ranch House was built in the 1940’s by the Stillens family when the property was a ranch. The photo above is of the fireplace mantle that was carved by Jack’s father. It depicts the Donner party and includes the exact count of people, wagons, and livestock as researched by Jack and his sister. More history within history!

It is my honor to be on this journey with you all, to help Woolman give birth to its next chapter. I am humbled and inspired by the history of Woolman, as I discover the many layers of gifts this place has offered so many people. What is your history with Woolman? Why do you stay connected? I’d love to hear from you!

As we continue to care for the land as it heals from the fire, as we make site improvements on campus to receive visitors and host life-giving programming for youth, families, and adults, I invite you all to share your Woolman history with us. We will honor these stories and allow them to inspire the new history Woolman will create next.

from Coleen Hedglin, Woolman at Sierra Friends Center (1/31/2022)