Here on the hill, the meadows and the forest edges are currently full of life – birds, pollinators of all shapes and sizes, deer, coyote, porcupine, a variety of blossoms, and an infinity of greens: tree leaves, grasses, vines… As always, this spiritual sanctuary is a grounding center – an island of calm in the middle of turbulent seas.
These are challenging times – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually. We have been thinking of those of you in the wider Woolman Hill community, hoping that you are faring ok as our nation and world face medical, social and cultural unrest. And we have an important update about how the hill is faring.
Back in early March, the Woolman Hill board and staff were poised to embark on a major fundraising campaign. Growing out of years of careful discernment and strategic planning, our goal was to carry out much-needed renovations to our conference center and two other buildings, to construct a new building, to strengthen Woolman Hill’s long-term financial stability, and to increase its welcome to a wide range of people. We were blessed to have already received a significant amount in gifts and pledges, and our plan was to conduct a feasibility study to test raising the rest over the next three to five years.
Then COVID-19 came to New England. The onset of the coronavirus presented numerous challenges for Woolman Hill, and it became abundantly clear that we should not move forward with fundraising or a feasibility study at that time. It was easy to feel despair in the midst of limitations on group gatherings, immediate loss of rental income for the foreseeable future, and numerous new practical considerations, regulations and protocols for personnel and physical plant. Yet we have been buoyed up by the outpouring of love and support from Woolman Hill fans near and far.
And out of the darkening storm clouds, a potential silver lining has emerged.
All along in our planning for the capital campaign projects, we have been aware that construction work in the main building would be difficult to navigate while actively hosting programs and groups in that space. The current extremely unusual situation, when events appear likely to be severely limited for an extended period due to COVID-19, presents a unique opportunity to do those renovations with far less impact on visiting groups.
As we do our best to respond to rapidly evolving circumstances, we are charting a new course. We are now envisioning a two-phase campaign approach. We have made the momentous decision to proceed immediately with the Conference Center renovations, which we are calling Phase One.
In the conference center, we plan to replace the west bunk room (closest to the lane) with a modest addition. Several ground-floor bedrooms will be added, along with renovating and expanding the existing bathrooms, resulting in at least one fully accessible bedroom and bathroom. The main entry will be altered to create single level access between the new bedrooms and the common areas. We have engaged an architect and plans are proceeding with the hope of breaking ground before the end of the year.
We envision a second campaign phase, in about three years, to address the additional goals of a new building, an endowment to ensure financial stability, and a fund for increasing Woolman Hill’s welcome and program initiatives.
We hope that you will join in our excitement about moving forward with these improvements. We are eager to know what is important to you, as part of the Woolman Hill family. Your input will help us to plan spaces and features that will best support all of our guests.
We’re also excited to share more with you soon about our broader vision for Woolman Hill’s future, and to hear how it resonates with you. And we hope that you will consider supporting that vision in a world that needs Woolman Hill more than ever.
In the midst of the storms, we are sending light to you from the Hill and from our hearts.