2015 State of The Mountain Issue
In This Issue
The Mountain Board

Linda Sterner-Chair
Kathlean Anderson
Lem Arnold
Jim Becker
Eunice Benton
Rev. Chris Buice
Chris Breivogel
Kit Hamblen
David Hudson
Peter Kandis
Jay Kiskel
Rev. Sherman Logan Jr.
Rob Marcy
Erin Thompson
Mani Subramanian
Cathlean Utziz

In Memoriam
Sarah Palmore 98, 
died May 21st.  Sarah became a member of the then UU Fellowship of Tuscaloosa, AL in the early 80s. As several members were active Mountain visitors during those years, Sarah wanted to know what this Mountain was all about and joined us. She became a Life Member during that visit. She had come to Tuscaloosa after meeting her future husband on a cruise, but she wasn't new to the South, having been born and raised in Atlanta, as I recall. In any event her presence among us was truly a blessing and gift. Carl's words aptly describe her, "she didn't suffer anything less than our best efforts. And if s he decided The Mountain, which she visited several times, was worth supporting, then it was quite a seal of approval!"


Here is a recollection of her from Life Member Carl Clements: " Sarah shows up at Hillel, where we used to meet, dropped off by a taxi and wearing a big hat. We learned quickly that she was an out-spoken and self-confident woman as she announced, 'I'm Sarah Palmore, I'm a UU from Chicago.' She was a lovely presence for so many years--hosting, invitin g, contributing, challenging, learning about and keeping up with UUCT families, always smiling. We truly loved her.
Walter Lee Hodges

Walter Lee Hodges died on May 11, 2015 from complications of Lewy-body disease. Born May 21, 1930 in Conway, Arkansas to Basil and Hazel Hodges. He graduated from Hendrix College in 1952 and married Alicia Bell, from Lepanto Ark. He served in the navy during the Korean war and achieved a rank of LT. He graduated from George Peabody College in 1960 with a Ph.D in Psychology. In 1971 he joined the faculty at Georgia State University in Atlanta where he was a professor of Early Childhood Education, served as Chairman of the department, and retired in 1992. Walter enjoyed hiking, running, white water canoeing and rafting, volunteering at Hope Elementary school, traveling, Jekyll Island, celebrating life with family and church friends. Survived by wife of 62 years, Alicia, son Michael, daughters Leanne and Cherie, grandchildren Mira, Jonathan, Daniel and Caleigh. Memorial services were held at the UUCA, on Saturday, June 13.

Hiking Retreat relaxes on top of Whiteside Mountain
What's Happening
at The Mountain
Alex Willocks


Hello, everyone!

MountainCamp began last Sunday with the arrival of 73 campers! We are very excited about MountainCamp but we also have several exciting upcoming programs to share with you . Thank you for supporting The Mountain by spreading the word about our programs. 

Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) July 5 -10: The Mountain is proud to host LREDA for a week long session. Learn more about the program from LREDA.
Health and Wellness Retreat July 21-24: This weekday retreat is designed by long time yoga teacher and life skills retreat leader, Cathy Woods. She has created a program where you can spend quality time with yourself and like minded individuals all coming together with intention of self care and renewal. See flyer here.
Family Camp July 26- August 2:  A camp for families and friends of all ages to come together for traditional MountainCamp activities. Parents, Children, Grandparents are all welcome for this inter-generational camp experience.  See the flyer here
Southern UU Leadership Experience (SUULE) August 23-28:  This week-long intensive leadership training opportunity will allow current and future congregational leaders to deepen their understanding of congregational leadership and to develop their abilities with other UU Leaders. Find out about the nomination process here.
LGBTQ+ Youth Workshop September 11-13: This weekend is geared for LGBTQ + identifying high school youth. It will be full of fun, fellowship, learning, and self-expression. More details coming soon!
Southern UU Fall Institute (SUUFI) October 4-9:  We have a great new program planned again for our 4th Fall Institute!  Come enjoy SUUFI's blend of personal growth and fun, inspiration and relaxation, community and space. Our 2015 program will test your mind and your experiential skills, yet we trust you'll learn and leave with new options and commitment.  Ahh, the color and coolness of fall in the WNC mountains, at our unique UU place, elevated 4200' in early October. Please join others of diverse thinking who want a positive week of "being", learning, and connecting.

Our 2015 journey together on SpaceShip SUUFI with 60-80 others teams up with 2 talented navigators:  A storyteller versed in UU Buckminister Fuller's constructs of the earth/universe and a UU minister to help us soar within ourselves, learning about other "ins and outs" of the world.  SUUFI blends hands-on and experiential modes, producing fun and renewal with personal growth.  View the  Flyer Schedule , and Program Details
Rhododendron or
Mountain Laurel



Two native flowers that are often confused, the mountain laurel and rhododendron, share many similarities. Mountain laurel and rhododendron are both members of the heath family (Ericaceae.) They are both flowering evergreen shrubs but do not share the genus Rhododendron. Mountain Laurel is one of about seven species in the genus Kalmia. The name rhododendron defines both a genus and a species, containing hundreds of species, including azaleas and rhododendrons.

Mountain Laurel
An easy way to differentiate mountain laurel  from rhododendron is by comparing the flowers. 


Mountain laurel usually blooms from May to June and has pink or white flowers with a red stripe encircling the center. The flower petals are fused together to form small thimbles, about a half inch to an inch wide.


The three NC native rhododendrons bloom June to July and bear clusters of 10 to 20 bell-shaped flowers at the end of small branches. Rhododendron's dark bluish-green leaves are thick and leathery and range in size from 4 to 14 inches long. Mountain laurel has elliptical- shaped leaves with pointed tips. Leaves are glossy yellow-green to dark green and smaller than rhododendron's, about 2 to 5 inches long.


Confused yet...or loving the specificity?


Rhododendron generally has  a wider range  than mountain laurel and can be found  throughout much of North America.  Mountain laurel, sometimes  called calico bush, is generally found in the  Appalachian Mountains, from Maine to the  Florida panhandle and westward to Louisiana.


What is important to me is appreciation first and then visual recognition. On The Mountain, the laurel are

in full bloom bearing large clusters of thimble-shaped flowers - from a distance they billow-out of the landscape like huge scented pillows.


- Huldah

Welcome Linda Sterner
Newly Elected
Board Chair

Comments by our New Board Chair

"When I'm on The Mountain I'm Home" 

 (from The Mountain Song)


These lyrics, written by Shelley Jackson Denham years ago, still resonate for me.  At Homecoming this year, I was honored to be elected Chair of The Mountain's Board of Trustees.


By way of introduction for those of you I look forward to meeting... I became a Life Member of The Mountain in October 1983 during my first visit.  I knew immediately that this was a special place I would want to be a part of forever. Recently divorced and a single mother of two young girls, we were attending a congregational retreat with other members of Northwest UU Congregation of Atlanta.  The great fellowship, inspiring scenery and a safe, caring community was just perfect. Later when I met and married my husband, Phil (a Charter Life member), at UUCA in Atlanta, we found The Mountain a perfect environment to nurture our blended family. 


Homecoming and Thanksgiving weekends became a tradition for our new family for many years. After drifting away for almost a decade, we came back to Homecoming in 2011, and my love for The Mountain was rekindled. At that time, I was concerned about the financial troubles and saddened by the condition of the facility, BUT I was inspired by the commitment of the existing Board, staff and long-term supporters.  They were determined to restore The Mountain to its original purpose, a permanent spiritual home for UUs and like-minded individuals.


On the Board since 2012, I have served on the Institutional Performance Team and chaired the Planning and Finance Team. I have also volunteered to assist Mountain staff in the kitchen, in the office, and have made many beds for guests.  

The Mountain needs your involvement  too-volunteer (individually and in groups), make recommendations for things you would like to see happen, provide constructive feedback, share your concerns.  And most of all, attend programs and bring lots friends with you. 

Outgoing Board Chair, 
Marty Beech
Thank You for A Job Well Done

Farewell Marty Beech


In May 2007, when I was appointed as the Recording Secretary, I never expected to have the opportunity to serve as Trustee and become Chair of the Board. It's been an adventure with so many changes. 


I'm inspired by the renewal of our core values on The Mountain.With the support of members and staff, The Mountain now has a very promising future.


We have eliminated our enormous debt and brought back Family Camp and instituted other mid-week programs, like SUUFI, Appalachian Spring, Adventure Week, and Health and Wellness. Our youth programs are flourishing with increasing attendance at

MountainCamp and Youth CONs. We see more guests at our Thanksgiving table each year.


I will look back at these eight years with gratitude, friendship, and a bit of relief. I am grateful to the Trustees with whom I served. We formed a powerful team and worked side by side with staff and volunteers to keep The Mountain thriving.


Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets, says it best. "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there."

Financial State of The Mountain
Board Financial Advisor
 Rob Marcy

The Mountain's move toward financial strength and stability is continuing into 2015. Cash flow, driven by strong program revenues, has increased our cash balance by approximately $125,000 since the first of the year. Our staff's ability to manage expenses without sacrificing the quality of meals and other services has also contributed to our positive cash flow.  Annual Campaign revenue, however, is lagging last year but is not currently a cause for concern as the timing of contributions varies throughout the year. It is, however, important for us to meet or exceed this year's $239,000 Annual Campaign budget as several significant infrastructure projects, such as renovations to the Lodge, will need to be addressed in the near future. A large direct mailing was done in May which we hope will start to bridge the year-over-year gap in donations. We're confident that the strength of our programming and the generosity of our members will help us to further strengthen our financial position throughout the remainder of the year.

Meet New Board Members 
Peter Kandis 
Rev. Sherman Logan Jr.



New Board Member Peter Kandis relaxing on the Commons Deck
Pe ter has a string of credentials as  a   UU leader in the south that go back several decades.  In his years as a member of the UU congregation in Columbia, SC, Peter filled numerous leadership roles.  He then was elected to the Board of the Southeast District (formerly the Thomas Jefferson District) and is currently the Vice-President of that board.  In addition, he has been the Dean of the Southeast UU Leadership Experience ('leadership school') for the better part of the last decade.  Now married to Ann Harrison (the DRE of the UU congregation near Hilton Head), Peter now calls the South Carolina Low Country home and frequently brings youth to 'cons' at The Mountain.

Rev Sherman  Logan, Jr.

Born in Richmond VA, Sherman currently lives in Sandston VA. After graduation with a BA from the University of Virginia with a major in Sociology, Sherman spent twenty-one years in retail management. But a call to ministry caused him to leave retail work and enroll in the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Divinity, at Virginia Union University, for a Master of Divinity degree. He was then ordained as a Baptist Minister, serving as an Associate Minister and Minister of Economic Development for Trinity Baptist Church. For the last six years, however, Sherman has been the Business Manager of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. In 2010, he joined the Unitarian Universalist faith and, last December, was welcomed into preliminary fellowship as a UU minister by the UU Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Sherman is married to Franka (' my beloved soul mate') and they are proud parents to Wendy, Charmaine, Liza, Jennifer and Sherman III. They are also doting grandparents to a cherubic three-year-old, Kayla, and a precious two-month-old, Michael.  ( 'Oh - I must not forget our four legged children, Jack Russell terriers, Max and Mitzie!'Sherman has joined the Planning and Finance Team on The Mountain Board. 
Coming Home with
Generous Hearts



Homecoming was a wonderful weekend filled with family fun, our Board's Quarterly Meeting, and a heartfelt service at the Memorial Garden. Weekend activities kept everyone 

engaged: family games, kids crafts, a stained glass workshop with Jim Null, visiting the Many Hands Peace Farm's chickens, and blazing bonfires with gooey smores.


Pilates and the Alexander Technique with Monika Gross and Tom Dessereau

helped all to stay integrated and healthy. Chaplin Tom Dyer led a workshop on the habits of effective people. Social hours spilled onto the side deck warmed by late afternoon sun, the sounds of laughter and impromptu riffs. The Mixed Genes  performed in the Tree House. And, we all lingered long over Chef Charity's delicious meals visiting old friends and making new ones. Larry Wheeler's slide show of The Mountain's history (seemingly embellished from last year), evoked many shared memories.


When hearts, minds and bellies are full, the

generosity of love and giving abounds. During the weekend, donors generously gave 21,000 supporting the Annual Campaign, and restricted gifts: Many Hands Peace Farm's Poultry Project,

MountainCamp scholarships,infrastructure, and the Ropes Course..we are filled with gratitude, thank you!


Thanking all who came home to The Mountain making Homecoming 2015

warm and memorable. 

Caring for our Future



The Hamblins, Trustee Kit, Anna, Lily and Samantha made a special donation to ensure our little ones are high and dry! Located in the Family Bathroom outside the Dining Room is our new Koala Kare baby changing table fitted with

child protection straps and bag hooks.

Kit, Lily and Samantha
with new Koala Kare

Constructed with 16% recycled materials and

contributing to LEED requirements, the Hamblin's special gift supports The Mountain's future in several ways - caring for our kids and the environment. Thank You!


Share the Plate Sundays

Love The Mountain?  Do you want your congregation to love The Mountain as much as you do? Many UU Congregations have established a Mountain Sunday  where the proceeds of "Passing of the Offering Plate"  go to The Mountain - your retreat and learning center in Highlands, NC. 

Call me to talk about this special way of giving, Huldah at  828-526-5838 Ext. 254 .

Unique Opportunities
The Mountain



* Matching Gifts - with a matching gift program,

your employer (or previous employer) may double or even triple every dollar you give. Contact your human resource department for information regarding your company's matching gift policy.

* Bequest - by leaving a bequest, you are establishing a philanthropic legacy that will provide for a sustainable future and reduce capital gains and estate taxes for loved ones.

* Assets - donate appreciated securities such as stock or  mutual funds, paintings, real estate, or other assets and avoid capital gains liability.

Contact Huldah Ext 254 for more information.


Ted Wisniewski Named Executive Director
By Linda Sterner,
 Board Chair

One of the most important and exciting tasks I will have in my new role as Chair

of the Board of Trustees is to communicate on a regular basis with our members and

supporters. The current Board is committed to continuing the transparency demonstrated over the past several years with regards to governance of our organization and the

operation of our beloved mountain facility.


In this spirit of open sharing, I am delighted to announce that the Board unanimously

voted to name Ted Wisniewski, Executive Director of The Mountain.


During the last five years, the Board has continually evaluated  The Mountain's 

health and well-being. Two years ago we decided to continue interim directorship to assure The Mountain's return to a stable operation.  Since then your Board carefully and deliberatel

considered a number of options for choosing the next staff  leader for The

Mountain.  Possible next steps included a search

 for a new executive 

director, however,the many positive results successfully

accomplished by Ted and the Mountain staff in the last two years led to final acknow-ledgement of how well things were going now at The Mountain.   


We concluded that The Mountain was in excellent

hands under Ted's leadership and that the finest prospects

for The Mountain's continued success in the immediate future lay in affirming Ted's  work and leadership.


Under Ted's leadership as Interim Director, The

Mountain staff has created new programs, increased

attendance of youth in both CONS and MountainCamp

and welcomed home a large number of long-time 

members. He created  a balanced budget and held

staff accountable for working within that budget.

Several UU Congregations

have held sold-out retreats, 

and we have a balanced mix of non-UU groups using

the facility helping to cover the fixed costs of a camp like ours. Established Mountain 

sponsored programs like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Easter have drawn more guests recently.


The climate established over the last two years by

Ted set the tone for the kind of trust that invited

generous contributions. 


The Mountain road has been paved, the dining hall

and kitchen have had major renovations, and the 

new well is functioning "well." Volunteer hours have

increased and our membership is more broadly engaged in volunteer projects than any time in the last decade. He has been successful in building a solid staff of talented, energetic professionals despite the severe budget limitations.  


Please enthusiastically join us in supporting Ted as our new Executive Director.



"How do we rise to 

the challenge of SUSTAINABILITY?" 




The answer was recently

demonstrated by staff

members of The American

 Chestnut Foundation's

(TACF) National Office (based

 in Asheville) on retreat at The Mountain. As they worked with Mountain staff to plant 6 beautiful American chestnut trees in the meadow, they shared a commitment 

to the cause of repopulating

the American chestnut.


Alex and Rachel plant an American chestnut sapling


We watched Tom Saielli, the

Foundation's Southern Regional Science Coordinator, gently lift a young American chestnut sapling out of its container and proceed to skillfully remove all dirt and untangle fragile root systems.


He spoke with a tone of reverence about the

history and demise of this mighty giant of trees. "Prior to 1904, this tree reigned over forests from Maine to Florida,4 billion American chestnuts or 1/4 of the hardwoods..."


Demonstrating how to plant our seedlings,  he continued, "This tree produces nuts every


American chestnut seeds

year, it was the single most important food source for bears to birds - an essential part of the ecosystem." As Tom methodically filled in

the last handful of dirt around our first American chestnut

with a chance of survival, he added, "It has  taken 30 years of research and backcross breeding to  arrive at this seeding and we won't know if it's blight  resistant for some years our work has just begun and  it will take a team effort to make this happen."


His words, "...our work has just begun and it will take a team effort to make this happen," also rings true for The Mountain. I recognized, it is our time to strengthen our commitment to not merely survive, but to work together for sustainability.


To meet our 2015 sustainability goals, we need

you on The Mountain's team. 

We need your belief in The Mountain's values and your

Time (volunteerism), Talent (advocacy), and Treasure (financial support)! 


We need you to  remember how your life and those you love  have been graced by The Mountain, and give  back in measure!  Can we count on your  commitment  to work together for The Mountain's



Will you help us to not merely

survive, but to THRIVE?


- Huldah 


Loving Our New Road,

Dining Room Heating

System, Tree House



We must continue to meet the challenges of the Annual Campaign.


Our 2015 Annual Campaign

goal of $240,000 will fund the work that makes all other work



We have ambitious goals for 2015! And, they all end with

the  word  "sustainability." 


This is a great time to give back to The Mountain.


- Huldah


A Call For Remote Volunteers!

We have heard your cries for an easier website experience and are currently working on designing a new website! We need volunteers to be part of a Website Task Force and we are calling on you (or anyone you want to pass this information to)!

We are looking for:
- Project Lead/Coordinator
- Content Creators
- WordPress Configuration
- Database Designer
- Campwise Integration Point-    of-Contact
- Tester and QA Review
- Cutover Team

A commitment of your time and talent are warmly welcomed. The work effort is envisioned to be executed by virtual teams working locally at home, communicating with email and conference calls.


Follow this link to read more information about the Website Task Force


Please contact Jay Kiskel, [email protected]


No offer of help is too small!


The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center | 828 526 5838 | [email protected] | http://www.mountaincenters.org
1699 Dillard Road
P.O. Box 1299
Highlands, NC 28741