Mountain Matters 2017
Early Spring Edition
Message from 
Linda Sterner, Board of Trustees Chair

Music has always been a positive element of my experience at The Mountain.  From Shelley Denham's songs to the Quartet performances, many of us have found joy in listening to music here.  

R ecently, I find, music has returned to The Mountain (maybe never really left?). In 2016 I happily spent much of the summer as a volunteer on site. During MountainCamp, I realized that music continues to be a large part of the camp experience for our youth.  Lee Knight performs for each session of MountainCamp, as he has from its beginning. Morning circles are how the campers and counselors start each day.   Morning circle is also a big part of Family Camp, where my grandchildren (not yet old enough for MountainCamp) learn all the silly, traditional camp songs.

Two groups that hold their annual retreats here, Our Song (Gay choir) and Emerson UU Choir, bring wonderful melodies to the Great Room. Karmeil, the Israeli Dance Group, brings traditional Jewish Folk dances to the Tree House during Labor Day weekend.  Occasionally I am lucky enough to hear our talented staff, guests and volunteers who play instruments for their own enjoyment: Miriam (HR & Finance Director) plays the Grand Piano in the Great Room when she thinks no one is listening.  Volunteer of Note, Harriet Lawrence, plays harmony with guests on dulcimer and recorder. Bill & Margaret Kleiber play dulcimers, and Jorge Medina plays guitar during social hours when he is there. Megan (Program Director) strums along on her Uklele.  

In October 2016, SUUFI (our very own Southeast UU Fall Institute) brought Mindy Simmons (long-time SUUSI performer and music teacher) to The Mountain for her first (thankfully not her last) time.  The Mountain worked its magic on Mindy, who returned for Thanksgiving weekend with her father. Mindy will be returning this spring to co-lead Music Week in April 2017.  Come and join us for that event, or one of our other great programs! We promise to continue making joyful noises on our beloved Mountain! 
A new event "springs up" on Easter Sunday at The Mountain:
Music Week Presenters:

Mindy Simmons

Program and Workshops include t hree e vening Concerts and these great Ge neral Sessions:
  • Music's Evolution in 100,000 Years
  • Ageless Archetypes in Music
  • Setting Family Stories to Song
  • Choral Instruction Daily
  • Voice Clinic: One-on-One
  • PA Systems: Setup/Hunt/Fix
  • Hiking for Sounds in Nature
  • Playing Parts Together
  • Open Mike Talent Night
  • Re-Sounding Worship Daily
Bring your musical instruments, voice, playfulness, music stands, toes for tapping, hands for clapping, zest for the new, good heart, and positivity.  Expect good souls, magic, and a sense of community.  Learn from well-trained musicians with proven teaching skills and a knack for inspiring the best in us.
Secure a $25 early registration discount by 2/28. Packages start at $375 for 4-day/3-nights. Full 6-day/5-nights: $560 including room, board,& program costs.
Prior to MUSIC WEEK is   Easter Volunteer Weekend, a bargain!! $70 for the 3-days/2-nights with 12 hours of volunteering--a $190 value.  "Give and Get More" at The Mountain, so register today!

Children are welcome at both programs when accompanied by a registered parent/guardian. 
Registration Now Open for MountainCamp 2017

Can you believe summer camp is right around the corner? This will be MountainCamp's 38th summer on top of Little Scaly Mountain--we are counting down the days until our wonderful campers and staff arrive! Registration for all sessions is now open. Check the website for details.


March 10-April 2

April 14-16

Music Week, April 16-21

(UUA Southern Region), June 1-3

MountainCamps, June 11-22

Total Solar Eclipse, August 18-22

Southeast UU Fall Institute (SUUFI), October 1-6

Thanksgiving Weekend, November 22-26

November 3 - December 3

For more information about the other retreats being held at The Mountain, or to learn how you can schedule a group or personal retreat, visit the Retreat and Plan Your Retreat sections of our website.

Message from Megan Quattlebaum, Program Director

Last year, I received a beautiful 
needlepoint banner that is now on my office wall. It features a poem written by Ilan Shamir:

Advice from a Mountain
Reach New Heights
Rise Above it All
There is Beauty as far as the 
Eye Can See
Be Uplifting
Patience, Patience, Patience
Get to the Point!
Enjoy the view!

When it was first given to me I thought, 'well that's cool, we're on a mountain.' Since then I have studied it, and really let the words sink in. I do believe it is Little Scaly Mountain speaking to us through this poem! Line by line, this poem can highlight our accomplishments, our excitements and our rewards.

Reach New Heights
The Mountain is hosting three new 2017 programs that are sure to be successful if you sign up: Music Week, UUA Southern Region Adult Youth Advisor Training, and Cultivating Presence and Connection through Companioning- All in collaboration with wonderful people and organizations that support The Mountain's mission.

Rise Above it All
The Mountain is a safe space for all people; upholding our 7 Principles and building a community of acceptance.

There is Beauty as far as the Eye Can See
We continue to build relationships with our outside community, reaching out to new people to visit and partnering with local organizations for mutual benefit.

Be Uplifting
All of the opportunities available at The Mountain build a community that uplifts individuals and groups for spirituality, healing and relationships.

Patience, Patience, Patience
With all of the exciting things going on this year, we have to remember to be patient and continue to live in the moment while looking toward the future.

Get to the Point!
We know the point- Love conquers all
Enjoy the View!

This magical space and the amazing people who support The Mountain and contribute however they can to this community are a breath of fresh air on a sunny afternoon looking from Meditation Rock into the Blue Valley.

I hope to see you at one of our upcoming programs!
Mountain Dining
Matt Wright and our Mountain kitchen staff are working to prepare healthy and delicious meals using locally-sourced ingredients and produce grown on our Many Hands Peace Farm. Guest reviews are positive!

Oyster Mushrooms grown onsite.

Message from Laurel Amabile
Development Director
Thanks to your support and generosity, The Mountain exceeded its annual funding goal in 2016!
As I began my first year as your new Development Director, I counted heavily on Ted and our wonderful team of Mountain Stewards and the talents and knowledge of Alex Willocks, who covered the Development and Communications functions so skillfully through the transitions. Alex is moving on to an exciting new vocation, and I will miss her presence and support.

Appreciation goes to those who served as our Mountain Stewards in 2016:
  • Eunice Benton
  • Helen Borland
  • Beverly Cree
  • Nancy Heath
  • Dave Hudson
  • Jay Kiskel
  • Penny Raney
  • Robert E Smith
  • Linda Sterner
  • Phil Sterner
  • Larry Wheeler
  • Ted Wisniewski
The major task of our Mountain Stewards is to strengthen the relationships between The Mountain and our loyal donors. They work throughout the year, initiating contacts to learn more about you and your connection to this special place and community. The Stewards express appreciation to you for your past support, provide updates about current Mountain activities, and ask you for your continued support. 
I have enjoyed reconnecting with and meeting many of you at The Mountain over the past year. What I have discovered is there is immense love for this special place in your hearts and a strong desire to support it with time and money. I look forward to our contact in the coming months. Thank you!

Our 2016 Legacy Donors:
Passed But Not Forgotten

June Cravens Sholin
Died September 1, 2016

June Cravens Sholin became a Life Member in 1990 and was  a generous supporter of The Mountain and the Mountain Endowment Fund until her passing in September. The
  was named in her honor in 2014.  It was June's quiet, but firm advocacy and extraordinary generosity that made the Mountain Endowment Fund a reality, so it was a natural choice to name this legacy society as a tribute to her. 

June's family and several close friends came together at The Mountain in November to share stories and celebrate her life and their relationships with her.

Margaret B. Schilling
Died October 3, 2016

Margaret Schilling was a Life Member and loyal supporter of The Mountain. She died in October 2016, in the care of her long-time friends Danny and Frankie Powell of South Carolina. Margaret left a generous bequest of $158,000 to The Mountain which was received in December.

Margaret was a master gardener and active in the Nature Conservancy and several garden clubs. She became a Life Member of The Mountain in 1986 and Vision Holder at the Trillium level ($100,000+ lifetime giving).

Legacy gifts have helped sustain The Mountain and Mountain Endowment Fund for nearly 40 years. If you have already made, or have an interest in making a planned gift, contact our Development Director.

Facility Improvement Photos
Your Generosity Made these Improvements Possible!
Many thanks to the generous donors who provided the funding for these important projects, and to our Facilities staff and volunteers for making it all happen.

Sally's Deck on the Lodge is being rebuilt and nearly completed.
The Great Room windows have all been replaced and leaks sealed.

Thanks to Russell, Kerry, and Sam for all their hard work, with Fred Amabile, a volunteer assisting during the initial stages. y,Sam and Fred for The views of Blue Valley are as beautiful as ever from the Lodge!

The Dining Hall floor has been refinished--as you can see, it glistens!

Mountain Capital Project List
 2017 & Beyond

Interior of lodge  
  • Carpets                                $6,000
  • Ceilings, Paint, and                           Window refinishing             $10,000
Tree-House & Rec Hall   
  • Windows & Rec hall floor   $27,000
  Other Priorities: 
  • Septic tank repairs (four)
  • Dam and spillway repairs 
  • Hot water tanks 80 gallons each
   Secondary Priorities
  • Repave Ring Road 
  • Cabin floors - Vapor barriers, floor repairs, and dehumidifiers
  • Repave road to cabins 1-4
  • Tower Rejuvenation
  • Dining Hall window replacement
  • New Internet Server--5 monitors & workstation upgrades 
Down the Road Projects
  • Staff & volunteer housing
  • Pave Lake Road
  • Gravel parking Lots
  • Stables- convert from storage to classroom or meeting space
  • Tree-house Attic renovations
  • New lodging building (by Lodge)
If you are interested in contributing funding toward any of these projects, please contact Ted or Laurel

The Magic of The Mountain
Another Mountain Love Story

Mountain Farm Manager Bill Hagemann and Communications Director Alex Willocks 
Celebrate their Future Together 
at a Handfasting Ceremony at the Mountain

Bill and I decided that 2016 would be our last year at The Mountain in late 2015. The time had come to leave and make our own waves in the world. Before we left we wanted to do something so that we would always remember where we met, fell in love, and planned for our future together. When Julia Jamieson explained the meaning behind a handfasting ceremony, we decided that it was the best thing for us to do in order to proclaim our commitment to each other. At first, the handfasting was going to be just with us and Julia, our officiant. Then we expanded the idea to include our families - we figured they would be displeased to be excluded from such an event and we really wanted them there. After a date was decided, we opened up the event for anyone that wanted to come and hoped that friends and family would be able to join us.
The months flew by and suddenly it was November. As the event planner and coordinator it was easy for me to get overwhelmed thinking about the weekend, who was coming, what we should do, if people would have a good time, etc. I decided that the weekend would be great and those that were meant to be there would be there. About a week before the ceremony Julia received word that she would be unable to be present for our ceremony. Within a few hours Bill and I reached out to 4 friends and each said they would help with the ceremony.
Finally, the day came for people to arrive for the weekend. It was exciting to share this amazing place with friends and family that had not been here yet. Friday night was a time for meeting and catching up with people you hadn't seen in awhile. Saturday rolled around and everyone pitched in to make the day special and perfect. All day the threat of rain was present but we made the best of it. The Dining Hall was decorated beautifully, a friend helped with my hair - a huge blessing as I didn't have a plan, and everyone parted ways to get ready for the ceremony. For those of you that know Bill, you would be surprised to see him in a suit! Never fear, his signature sandals-when-not-working were present (thankfully he didn't think his work boots went with the suit). Before the ceremony Miriam Witzl took some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen with me in them.

When the time came for the ceremony we walked to the Labyrinth which looked magical. The rain had stopped and a fog hung in the air surrounding our circle. The torches that line the Labyrinth were lit and the gentle wind filled the air with the sound of the swaying trees. Our friends and family circled with us in the sacred and special place. We decided to bring a Mountain tradition into this special ceremony - the yarn closing circle. Each person in our circle was united in love and support for me and Bill. Each in turn got a length of yarn to represent the community that was formed and the bond that connected and continues to connect us all. With closing words and the final knot tied by Kerry Keys, Bill and I were officially joined together.
The ceremony lasted a record-breaking 8 minutes. To the astonishment of our guests, Bill and I decided to remain tied together for the traditional 24 hour period. Surrounded by those we love we ate, drank, played charades and other games, talked, laughed, and had a great time. It was one of the best days of my life. Saying goodbye for now the next day was bittersweet as I didn't want it to end. A few days later, we packed our belongings from the tiny staff trailer and traveled to Alabama, saying goodbye for now to The Mountain, our coworkers, and that chapter of our lives.

We want to thank you for everything you have done for us in our time at The Mountain - for the laughs, the conversations, and the memories. We hope to see you on The Mountain soon -

Alex Willocks and Bill Hagemann

The Mountain Board of Trustees

Linda Sterner,  Chair
Chris Breivogel,
Recording Secretary

Cathlean Utzig,
Corporate Secretary

Rob Marcy
Financial Advisor

Kathleen Anderson
Nathalie Bigord
Kit Hamblen
David Hudson
Peter Kandis
Rev. Julie Kain
Jay Kiskel
Gail Sphar
Erin Thompson
Message from Ted Wisniewski, 
Executive Director

In November 2011 the "Visions for The Mountain" report was published.  The following was the list that stated recommendations for The Mountain.  Here we are five years later and my opinion on the growth of each. 

1.  Establish a sound fiscal operation with an adequate endowment and reserve funds, while maintaining a solid physical plant and facilities


We are building a solid fiscal foundation. Since 2014 we have exceeded our budget expectations, we have been conservative in our spending, managing to save some money for emergencies. Although we have a way to go before we get to where we want to be, improvements to the physical plant and facilities have been accomplished each year.  The endowment fund has grown with the leadership of Larry Wheeler and now Beverly Cree from $30,000 to $100,000 at the end of 2016. 
2.   Employ staff and support volunteers who are dedicated and willing to do whatever it takes.
Volunteers are a major reason for our success, logging thousands of hours every year, working on and off property for the betterment of our community. Volunteers provide the expertise and labor to complete many of the major facility projects. Our staff is dedicated and loyal, but our lower pay and lack of strong winter business contributes to staff turnover.  Since 2013 we have had five kitchen managers and three facilities directors. With the exceptions of Kerry and Julia, no other staff members have been here over four years. We now have a full-time Development Director, after nearly four years. Our new employees bring renewed energy, vision and ideas that will make  a positive and lasting impact on the Mountain. The Mountain Board has been a stabilizing force during the transitional period, keeping us focused and growing. We are fortunate to have so many skilled volunteers who have provided support and generous donors who have provided the funds for the necessary improvements.
3.  Provide strong oversight by the Board of Trustees
This is an area that should be celebrated. The board has moved from handling day to day operations to being a guiding force for improvements.  Open, honest, and transparent communication is now the norm. The annual budget is now prepared and approved well before the start of the new fiscal year, with clear and consistent financial reporting. Annual evaluations are conducted, focused on the growth and development of the employee. The Board hosts a staff appreciation event yearly.  Another change in the governance model is to include non-board members in the nominating process.  Members of the Board have worked on everything from improving the website and database, to providing emotional, professional and financial support to our staff. The Mountain is a stronger institution as a result of their efforts.    
4.  Strengthen and advertise our connections to UUA, SUUSI, Districts
Our relationships with the UUA, SUUSI and other UU organizations have been gradually growing. In 2012 we reactivated our connections with the other UU Camp and Conference centers; as part of the newly formed UU Alliance of Camps & Conference Centers (UUACCC).  UUACCC provides a platform for collaboration, support and advocacy within the UUA system. In 2016 when SUUSI moved to Western Carolina University we worked together to provide SUUSI programs at The Mountain. Our commitment to SEUUMA, LREDA and UU Womanspirit remains strong and we are actively exploring ways to partner with the Southern Region on additional programming possibilities.
5.   Focus on outreach to members and UU congregations .
For about two years board members and staff have worked to clarify the Mountain Membership program and to develop and implement the Mountain Mover program over outreach to UU Congregations. The process continues today under the leadership of  Laurel Amabile, Development Director. We actively communicate with the congregations by sending monthly program updates information. We provide Mountain information packets to Ministers and Religious Educators during their retreats.  
6.  Concentrate on the things The Mountain does well

The Mountain will continue CONS and MountainCamp which have grown to over 230 participants.  We will expand programming to include adventure camps and service camps.


Rock climbing and Ropes course programs returned in 2012. Rafting continues to be a popular component of our camp program. Our Counselors in Training (CITs) and ASCENDERS do a variety of service projects on property and in the local community   


Offer family and intergenerational camps- This modified MountainCamp brought back in 2012 and has been a consistent sell out with about 80 people from infants to seniors.
Offer midweek programs for seniors and other groups- The most successful mid-week business has been Southern UU Fall institute (SUUFI).  We have attempted Hiking & Wellness weeks with limited success.  Our quality programming is a strength we will build upon  to increase participation in 2017.
Continue Member gatherings, such as Thanksgiving, Annual Meeting Weekend, Work Weeks or Weekends: These events continue to happen; Thanksgiving is an annual sell out success. Work weekend happens every Easter with an average of 25 participants; we have a ton of fun and get a tremendous amount of work done. Homecoming is a great opportunity for members and guests to gain a deeper understanding of the business of The Mountain, with both the Mountain Board and Endowment board holding open business meetings that weekend.    
Host trainings for UU leadership, musicians, and religious education- The Mountain has hosted SUULE Southern UU Leadership experience twice in the past few years. We host several congregation board retreats and the UU Womenspirit leadership team planning retreats. We are partnering with the Southern Region to offer a Youth Advisor Training in early June that will include members of our MountainCamp staff. With our excellent service and affordable rates, we expect to continue to grow our Unitarian Universalist business.  
Offer programs in expressive arts, healing arts, Appalachian culture, etc.- During the past few years we have developed and presented Wellness weeks, Appalachian Spring, Southern UU Fall institute (SUUFI) and hiking weeks. In 2017 we are offering a Music week in April, Companioning Circles, and an Eclipse weekend this summer. The most successful newer mountain program is SUUFI, with the attendance of up to 40 people. These programs have been designed by volunteer program coordinators.
Expand offerings to UU affinity groups:  social justice, green sanctuary, women, men, families, choirs, etc. Since Jan 2014 we have hosted 18 different groups in these categories. We continue to work on sales and marketing in these program areas. 
Expand retreat and conference business to organizations like Gay Spirit Visions; reach out to other organizations. This is the area we get the most new groups who find us by word of mouth, the website and an individual returns to The Mountain and brings their own group.

Celebrating It's 30th Year 
at The Mountain
May 17-21. 2017 
In 1985, the Women and Religion Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Thomas Jefferson District (now the Southeast District) had an idea to create an all-women spiritual retreat to explore and celebrate the divine feminine.  The writings of Starhawk and the curriculum  Cakes for the Queen of Heaven  by Rev. Shirley Ann Ranck served as inspiration for these visionary women.  In May 1987, the first retreat was held at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center, and was a tremendous success. The popularity of subsequent retreats in 1988 and 1989 cemented the need to create a formal organization, and in late 1989  UUWomenspirit  became an official organization. Since then, the number of retreats expanded to include a spring retreat and a fall retreat. 
At the time UUWomenspirit was created, the organization was so fortunate to have a UU-affiliated retreat center nearby that was willing to rent space to the organization.Since the first event was held in 1987, UUWomenspirit has always held its retreats at The Mountain. With each retreat held in the years since, a special bond formed between UUWomenspirit and The Mountain that extends far beyond the business relationship of renting space for multiple day retreats.
There is just something special, magical even, about The Mountain that cannot be captured in words.  You can just feel it when you walk around the grounds. From worship services held in the Treehouse, to workshops held in The Lodge Great Room and solitary walks at the Labyrinth, every place at The Mountain holds special memories for UUWomenspirit members.  If you listen closely, echoes of laughter shared over meals in the Dining Hall can still be heard.  Wind gusts at Meditation Rock bring back memories of old friends and hopes for the future. 
This year, UUWomenspirit is thrilled to celebrate its 30th Anniversary at The Mountain during the spring retreat on May 17-21, 2017.  The theme for this event,  Ancient Whispers:  A Pilgrimage to Women's Mysteries , captures the essence of what inspired UUWomenspirit to form three decades ago.  What makes this anniversary even more special is that The Mountain is still an integral part of our retreats. We look forward to sharing more laughter with the staff at The Mountain as we add another layer of memories to the 29 years that came before.
Visit  UUWomenspirit website for information about our upcoming retreats.  We look forward to partnering with The Mountain for the next 30 years as our organizations continue to provide a contemplative and spiritual space for future generations. 
Namaste,  Lisa C. Sherman
Coordinating Council Marketing & Outreach Coordinator 
The Mountain was established in 1979 as a nonprofit membership organization, extending the right of the members to vote on matters of corporate business, including the election of Board Trustees and approval of the annual budget.

Currently, all individuals contributing a minimum of $50 (adults 25+ years) or $35 (under age 25) during the year prior to the Annual Meeting in May are considered active members. Those who are identified as Life Members also hold the right to vote, based on the privileges granted in past years when this category of membership was  an option.

The Mountain Board and Staff are working to clarify the criteria and responsibilities of annual membership and how the program will be conducted in the future. The recommendations of an Ad Hoc Membership task group of the Mountain Board will be presented at this year's Homecoming Weekend & Annual Meeting .

You are encouraged to become a  Member of The Mountain by April 15th, so that you will receive information about this year's Annual Meeting. We hope you will be coming to The Mountain for Homecoming Weekend & Annual Meeting . Register soon to join others in our wonderful Mountain Community for some great spring programming and to vote on matters of 2017 business. 

FIRST WAY: Donate Camperships!
Every year The Mountain raises funding for MountainCamp camperships, to help qualifying families afford the cost of camp for their children. We want every kid to experience the benefits and community of MountainCamp!

The last few years, we have awarded over $13,000 in campership support to over 30 kids each summer. Thanks to two generous donors, we have $5,000 in matching funding for camperships, so we can reach our goal of $15,000 before camps begin in early June. DONATE TODAY, and your dollars are doubled!

SECOND WAY: Camp Supplies! 
This year we have created a MountainCamp 2017 Wish List on Amazon Smile. Just go to this link and choose which items you would like to purchase from what we need for the Crafts Barn or water and field sports.  

The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center 
828 526 5838 | [email protected] |
3872 Dillard Road P.O. Box 1299
Highlands, NC 28741