Published: Dec. 11, 2020
As 2020 draws to a close, we ask ourselves – as so many are today – “What we are to learn from this past year, and how we can build a more resilient future?” At Woolman we have lost a lot, but we gained much more, and have great reason to be more optimistic about the future.
After closing our Woolman Semester School four years ago, College Park Friends Educational Association (CPFEA) considered how to best realize our vision of peace and justice through learning and service. The organization launched a two-year pilot program to work with disadvantaged communities. Participants in the Woolman Outdoor School – teens from Oakland Unified School District and their teachers reported the program was a success in getting kids into the natural world – sadly many who had never done this before, and to experience Quaker values through group process and individual actualization. Based on what we learned after working with Oakland kids, our 2020 plan was to fully launch to Oakland and other schools.
Then COVID struck everywhere and everyone. By March we all realized that 2020 was going to be” put on a shelf” for duration of the pandemic – even now, the virus is still in command of our lives. We faced the likelihood of needing to sell the land to continue our programming mission as a tenant. Many supporters came to us with innovative ideas for partnerships, for potential co-housing, and for engaging our local Nisenan tribe. Then at dawn on August 17 we evacuated the campus as a devastating wildfire was about to consume our beloved Sierra Friends Center. We lost a third of our buildings and two thirds of our forest in the Jones Fire. If ever the was a time to listen to Spirit, that enormous lighten bolt that stuck at the South Yuba River was as strong as a message could be.
But all was not lost. Valiant firefighters save our most precious and iconic buildings. Today, everywhere we see signs of rebirth: green sprouts out of ashes, a doe with her fawn, an acorn woodpecker building its granary. Nature is slow and steady, but relentless as it continuously moves toward life. We see ourselves in this picture, a little battered but determined to continue the long march for justice and a more perfect world. We much work ahead.
Our insurance covered our losses. The board prioritized insurance funds, this “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for financial sustainability and resilience. We have already paid off more than three quarters of our debt. We have learned the importance of setting aside operating reserves for years when crises like 2020 hit. We are developing a Site Master Plan to at last upgrade our infrastructure and modernize existing buildings to serve diverse learning communities: youth, families, adults, interest groups, Quaker communities.
In the coming year, Woolman itself will be transformed. We look to the future with more hope than ever before, with a stronger organization, a rebuilt campus, powerful programs and an enduring community who wants us to succeed.
Woolman’s 60-year legacy has touched the lives of more than 5,000 youth with a variety of programs. That’s a lot of people, who while at Woolman have felt the potency of the values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, social justice, and a celebration of diversity. We feel a strong commitment to steward that community of alumni, many who call upon those ideals to help transform other lives today.
Thank you for the many ways you have supported Woolman—as volunteers, donors, and by holding us “In the Light”. We feel this support and it fuels our future. Please consider a year end donation that will help us transform Woolman into a powerful place to steward diverse learning communities for peace, justice and sustainability.
from Marty Coleman-Hunt, Woolman at Sierra Friends Center (12/11/2020)