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08/01/2019: From Traci Hjelt Sullivan, Interim Executive Director

Traci Hjelt Sullivan, Interim Executive Director

Traci Hjelt Sullivan, Interim Executive Director

“Almost a decade ago, I left Pendle Hill after four years as a resident staff spouse.  What a delight it is to return as Interim Executive Director! Outgoing Executive Director Jen Karsten and I overlapped for a few days, and I so appreciate her generously sharing her time and insights. I invite you to read Jen’s departing message below expressing gratitude for her years here and celebrating the milestones accomplished by Pendle Hill staff, board, and donors during the past nine years.

After less than a week, what is most remarkable to me is the dedication of Pendle Hill staff.  As a previous director of a conference center, I appreciate the complexity of serving the many guests who pass through Pendle Hill each week.  Our staff is diligent and very competent, and the warmth in the community shows that colleagues appreciate working together.  What a joy to step into an organization that models teamwork and where each staff person understands that they contribute to providing opportunities every day for spiritual and transformational work – within our short-term programs, within groups using our facilities, and by sojourners and scholars alike.

You may wonder how I ended up here in this interim position.  I recently completed 13 years working for Friends General Conference in Philadelphia, first as the coordinator of the FGC Gathering and later as associate secretary for development.  Before moving to the Philadelphia area, for many years my husband Walter and I directed the Ben Lomond Quaker Center, a Quaker conference and retreat center in northern California. Throughout my career, I have helped individuals and communities foster opportunities for spiritual growth. I look forward to continuing to do so at Pendle Hill.” —Traci Hjelt Sullivan


07/31/2019: Jen Karsten’s Departing Message

Outgoing E.D. Jen Karsten (left) with Interim E.D. Traci Hjelt Sullivan

Outgoing E.D. Jen Karsten (left) with Interim E.D. Traci Hjelt Sullivan

Dear Friends of Pendle Hill,

Today is my last day as executive director of Pendle Hill. Tomorrow I will still be part of the community as an admiring friend and proud supporter. I wish to express my thanks to you for the support you have given Pendle Hill and me over the past nine years, and I have reflected on some of our achievements, below. Please join me in celebrating the journey we took together!

Thousands of people come to Pendle Hill each year with the aim of creating beloved community here and in the wider world by walking the steps toward lasting peace. We owe a debt of gratitude to the visionaries who founded Pendle Hill in 1930, the many builders of the dream through the decades, and those who sustain that vision now:

  • A governing board comprised of capable, caring, and hard-working volunteers;
  • Our supporters, donors, and volunteers who have shared generously of their resources (time, skills, and money); and
  • A staff body that shares the daily challenges, joys, and awe of being in a community rich with risks, shifts, achievement, and the satisfaction of overcoming difficulties together.

Accomplishments

Strengthening

  • Reconceiving and rewriting our Mission, Vision, and Values
  • Developing a rolling three-year strategic plan alongside a financial model that led us to an improved state in all our key areas (including sustainable financial practices, increased reserves, morale, program, hospitality, and holding an anti-oppression frame to all work).
  • Investing in development work that resulted in receiving grants from dozens of foundations, running a quiet capital campaign which secured millions for expansion and improvements to facilities, increasing the endowment, and reconnecting us with hundreds of our friends around the world.
  • Increasing and strengthening partnerships with community and regional agencies.
  • Building trust among ourselves so that we could maintain healthy relationships even while making difficult staffing and program changes and support one another during the adjustments.
  • Overhauling our Policies and Procedures to achieve a consistently applied and plainly communicated set of expectations.
  • Expanding our volunteer program and partnering with a European organization that places several “gap year” volunteers with us each year.
  • Gaining a shared appreciation for the nature of a Quaker workplace.

Stewarding

  • Preparing a master plan for campus improvements that has guided our physical plant priorities and can do so for the years to come.
  • Increasing ADA compliance in additional spaces across campus, installing new roofs, improving HVAC systems, upgrading fire-protection systems, re-grading and installing paths, adding a hoop house to our garden, removing buildings that were beyond repair, stopping groundwater incursion into buildings, and improving air-quality throughout the campus.
  • We were selected as the site for a year-long design project focused on modelling deep-ecology and resulting in plans for two living buildings on the Pendle Hill campus. Pending funding, these buildings will be among the very first in the state to have better than net-zero energy performance.
  • Purchasing and improving an adjacent property, including an acre of land and a house.

Programs and offerings

  • Increasing the number of Pendle Hill pamphlets published annually from five to six and digitizing most our 400+ pamphlets, making them available online as e-publications.
  • Advertising by radio in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York markets.
  • Live-streaming our events so people could listen to guest speakers through their computers and creating our own YouTube channel to view speakers at any time.
  • Adding online and hybrid (blending on-campus and online elements) programs.
  • Increasing the programmatic spotlight on topics that challenge and inspire: Reparations, Gender-based violence, Mass Incarceration, Palestinian Liberation, and the immediacy of Climate Action.

The Campus Community Today

As Pendle Hill proceeds into its 90th year, the community is composed of a rich mix of vibrant people. I look around campus and see 6 children from staff families among 4 or 5 generations of people at any given time. People with a wide range of identities and self-expression find home here. We strive to welcome the stranger with memorable goodness and provide newcomers a uniquely immersive introduction to Quakerism. There is leadership throughout the community, and great gifts matched with great commitment.

As my tenure winds to a close, I’m excited for the ongoing emboldening of Pendle Hill. I have great appreciation for Traci Hjelt Sullivan, who is sharing her bright light with Pendle Hill as interim executive director. As a former resident for several years, Traci brings understanding and competence to the role, and she has been very happily received upon arrival. I am grateful for her service and am confident that she will thrive here.

Leave-Taking

As I pack up my final boxes of cards and letters…one stands out. It was penned in calligraphy by Barbarajene Williams in July 2012, shortly after I changed roles and became executive director. She had served as a spiritual nurturer on campus before my time and was/is a revered presence. On the front, a photo of two simple wooden chairs in front of a window; inside, some kind words of support, and a Mary Oliver poem:

blue irisPrayer

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

 

Beginning in September, I will assume a new role as Executive Director at The Hickman. I look forward to cheering for Pendle Hill from “down the road”, and to seeing each of you again as Way opens.

In Peace, with Thanks,

 

Jen Karsten

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