Mid- Summer 2016 Edition

In This Issue:
Board of Trustees
Linda Sterner,  Board Chair
Rob Marcy,  Financial Advisor 
Peter Kandis
Kathleen Anderson
Kit Hamblen
David Hudson
Peter Kandis
Jay Kiskel
Rev. Sherman Logan Jr.
Gail Sphar
Natalie Bigord
Erin Thompson
Cathlean Utzig
Rev. Julie Kain
Chris Breivogel Recording Secretary

Charter for Compassion
Compassion Partnership
The Mountain is a partner with the Charter for Compassion International, which provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. The mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors.

To see The Mountain webpage and learn more about this international initiative, follow this link.

Beverly Cree  is the contact person for the Mountain - Charter Partnership.  Please be in touch if you have ideas for Mountain compassion stories to post on the Charter website.
The Mountain Endowment Fund
"We drink from wells we did not dig," begins a sign in The Mountain Dining Hall. We of The Mountain community are heirs of those who came before us. As we ourselves age we can be buoyed by the thought that we may define our own legacy and be remembered by generations to come. The Mountain Endowment Fund was established to guard well the safety and vibrancy of The Mountain community and relies not only on direct donations but on pledges made in wills or estate plans. Those who let us know their intentions are recognized in the Tower Society honor roll. My wife, Daidee, and I have made a pledge and it feels great. If you think about your legacy, will you please think about joining us? We'd love to hear from you, ( [email protected] ).

Steve Hollingsworth, on behalf of The Mountain Endowment Board
Mountain Programs Calendar
What's Happening at  The Mountain!
By Alex Willocks

Greetings from The Mountain!

The Mountain is full of on-going excitement and fun for every age. For a complete listing of our upcoming programs, visit TheMountainRLC.org/retreats

Family Camp and 80's MountainCamp Reunion: July 24 - 31
A program for families to come together for traditional MountainCamp activities. Parents, children, grandparents are all welcome! 

Southern UU Fall Institute: October 2 - 7
This year's SUUFI theme is Creative Play.  YOU are invited on a quest to better understand how we Play.

Headliners = David Novak & Mindy Simmons!!!

Autumn colors, small groups, many formats and workshops, such as
Music 4 the Kid in Us
Pumpkin Carving Art
Hike to Glen Falls
Nature Center Exploration
Seasonal Arrangements
Drumming Inspired
Creating Meaningful Worship
Socrates Café®
Strum Fun-Beginning Dulcimer
Playing with Ancestors
Making Walking Stick
Playing in Garden
Plus, Evening Entertainment

Visit  TheMountainRLC.org  to Register and learn more! ...$25 discount before 8/1

UUWomenspirit: October 19 - 23 
UUWomenspirit is an all-woman retreat where we strengthen our talents and renew our energy in a supportive and safe environment, as we explore the Feminine Divine. This fall's theme is Moon Energy: Rhythm, Mystery, Illumination. This year we will explore the six moon phases through meditation, dance, tarot and goddess rituals from several cultures with a goal to provide space for inner connection each day. Find out more at  uuwomenspirit.org

Thanksgiving: November 23 - 27
Save the Date for the 37th Annual Thanksgiving at The Mountain! Why not leave the cooking and cleaning to us while you enjoy friends, family, and fellowship? Create a new tradition and join us this Thanksgiving.

Fall Youth CONferencesSave the Date for our Fall Youth CONs!
Elementary - November 18-20
Intermediate - December 2-4
Senior High - December 9-11

T hank you for supporting The Mountain by letting your circle know about our upcoming programs. If I can assist you in any way, please let me know. 

Alex Willocks
Communications and Development
alexandria.willocks@ TheMountainRLC.org

Development News
From Laurel Amabile, The Mountain's 
Development Director
Annual Giving

We don't have to look far to see and hear expressions of fear, hatred and oppression these days. The Mountain exists as a counterbalance to these challenging forces, enriching the lives of all ages through its programs, inclusive community, and natural setting. You can share in the legacy of this special place and community by making an annual gift to The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center.
You don't have to have great wealth to make a difference in the world! You may choose to make a single gift once a year, or set up a monthly or quarterly contribution through your bank's bill pay system or with your credit card. Just as The Mountain Community is welcoming and inclusive, so is our annual giving program. We enthusiastically welcome and appreciate donations of all shapes and sizes! 

Giving to The Mountain will bring you joy AND will strengthen and extend our mission and values in the world. Every gift counts--Thank you!

For more information, contact Laurel Amabile, Development Director.
[email protected] or  (828) 526-5838 ext. 254 

Faithify Funding Update
In May we launched a campaign to raise additional funding for our MountainCamps scholarship program. We needed to do this quickly because MountainCamps were about to begin and scholarship applications were rolling in-more than in prior years.
The decision was made to use Faithify, the innovative Unitarian Universalist crowd-funding platform, with a goal of $3,800 by June 24th.
Mountain and MountainCamp supporters from around the country pledged their support over the first three weeks. With the help of a generous Mountain donor, we were able to match all new pledges in the last week of the Faithify campaign up to $975. Over fifty people generously supported this worthy project. We not only achieved the goal, we exceeded the goal, raising a total of $5,100! Thanks to all!
Your Donations in Action
During Homecoming 2016 weekend a display board was created to show Mountain Supporters a range of projects that could be accomplished this year as funding allows. A number of people chose projects of interest to them and pledged or gave the funding to get them done. Thanks to Russell Hunnewell, Kerry Kennedy, and the Ascenders, progress is already being made!

Kim and Chris Breivogel made a donation for a new wooden table for the Dining Hall. The best part is that Russell was able to purchase the materials for TWO tables and a group of this year's Ascender youth MADE them with Kerry's supervision!

Many thanks to the Breivogels for making this special project possible through their generosity. 

If you would like to make a donation to help us complete one of our priority projects this year, contact Laurel Amabile, Development Director.
Interview with Matt, Kitchen Manager
By Suhkin Chawla

The Mountain as a retreat center, attracting audiences from all over the world, offers one of the most spectacular campuses anywhere.  The ongoing challenge of The Mountain is to continually and consistantly meet the needs of our guests. One, very important aspect of that is FOOD. The Mountain strives to offer, in addition to regular meals, food that will satisfy vegans, vegetarians and those requiring food that is gluton-free.

It is our goal to make sure everyone, regardless of dietary needs, enjoy each meal and that it is prepared in the most delicious way.
Here is an interview with Matt Wright, our new Chef/Kitchen Manager, to share some of the inital changes going on in the kitchen at the Mountain.
Ques. What actions have you taken to bring food and budget in line ?
Matt. I spend many hours a week on researching online for different recipes, quality food and prices. I often go to the market to find the best combination of health and affordability.
Ques. How do you control the quality of food that is being sent out to the guests at the Mountain?
Matt. We start with the highest quality ingredients possible including all natural and  locally produced and prepare the food based on menus designed to suit our audience.

Ques. What would you do if there was an emergency or safety hazard the kitchen?
Matt. I am a Servsafe Certified as a Food Service Manager for safety and sanitation . Therefore, I am trained as to how to prevent  as well as how to respond to food safety issues.

Ques. How have you accommodated special diets , such as gluten-free diet?
Matt. I have designated Cook 1 as a special dietary cook to ensure special diets get attention . We also carry multiple gluten-free and vegetarian options for our regular meals.

Ques. There have been plenty of changes in the Menu. What you have to say about it?
Matt. My goal is to provide a healthier, fresher and all natural menu that truly nurtures our guests and aligns with the values of the Mountain
Letter Home
By Emma Bigler

Dear Grandma and Pops,
I'm having the best time at camp!  I feel like I'm in a movie, like 'The Parent Trap' or something (minus the separated twins).
Every morning after breakfast, we all go to this big room called "The Tree House" and sing songs together.  My favorite songs from the songbook are Closer To Fine, I'm A Believer and Riptide.  There's also this one song about a family who drives their car down a bottomless lake!  We all clap and stomp during the chorus.It's so much fun staying here.
Today, I did a workshop called "Screen Printing" where we got to make designs for t-shirts, and tomorrow, we're actually going to print them out!  My shirt is going to say "Home is wherever I'm with you" which is a line from one of the songs in the songbook.  I'm so excited to show you the final product when I get home!
Also, there's a lake here!  Almost every day, we go for swimming, and there's canoes and kayaks that we can use.  There's also a huge field where we play Capture The Flag, and a crafts-barn where we make friendship bracelets and buttons!  But in order to do all that fun stuff, we have to hike all the way down to the Mountain, and after a couple of hours, we hike all the way back up! It's not that bad though, and it's getting easier every day.  
Well, I'd better wrap this letter up.  There's always something to be doing here.  Right now, we're about to go to dinner!
Write back!  Letters are a big thing here.
Love, Emma
Counselors in Training
CIT's 2016

By Kate Mason and Sophie Nitche
The Counselor in Training (CIT) program is not only about learning to become well-rounded counselors, but a way to bond with the people and world around us. The most important connections made were between fellow CIT's and Mountain staff. In just six weeks, we've created friendships that will be everlasting.
During camp,CIT's were responsible for planning, creating, and being a part of workshops and evening programs. We also lived in camper cabins in order to create stronger bonds with the kids and get a feel for what being a counselor is all about. We were there for the staff, if asked, and put all of our heart and soul into the things that we were a part of.
In our off time, we explored the town of Highlands and supported local businesses. Some of our favorite excursions were shared with the ASCENDERs, from a picnic in Dillard to roller skating after an all you can eat Chinese buffet. 
Our first trip was to see the new film, "Finding Dory," which led to an amazing evening program that we created for the elementary session. Our favorite hangout spot was the huge Clayton Walmart, home of Grape soda and Ramen noodles.
This summer was a life changing experience. We are going to use the skills that we have learnt and will remember for the rest of our lives. We are more than excited for the next group of CITS to make an impact next year, though no one could beat us! Not only can we not believe that the summer is drawing to a close, but we can't even begin to describe our love for each other, love for the program, and love for The Mountain.
2016 Unfolds New Meaning to Mountain Lake 
By Micah Hall, Lakefront Coordinator

If you listen closely from the top of the Mountain every afternoon you will hear the sound of campers cooling off in the lake, splashing around the floating dock on kickboards and inflatable tubes, and cheering on their teammates as they compete in canoe races.
For those of us privileged enough to work at the waterfront, listening closely isn't necessary. Five days per week the waterfront has been filled with excited chatter, the sounds of laughter, and shouts of delight as the air is permeated with the sounds of fun. Each day when Lake Time comes to an end, I am treated to a chorus of enthusiastic "see you tomorrow's" fading back up the mountain as the bullfrogs begin tuning up for the evening serenade. It has been, and continues to be, a very happy summer at the MountainCamp waterfront.
During the planning phase of this year it was our goal to explore the unused potential of the waterfront and tap into those resources where possible. Much needed to be done, but great has been the reward. Repairs were made on some of the old boats, and this summer we launched a fleet of 8 canoes and 4 kayaks which have been used for leisurely recreation, competitive canoe races, canoe skills workshops, and overnight camping trips on the river. The floating dock was pulled out of the lake, boards and carpet were replaced, the flotation barrels were re-sealed, and a new ladder and anchor were installed. It has not only increased the ability of our lifeguards to maintain a safe environment by allowing them to post up right in the middle of the action, but it has given swimmers, sunbathers, and competitive cannon-ballers a little mecca of fun in the middle of the lake.
Work was also done to improve the trails leading to and surrounding the lake, as well as installing more shingles on the boardwalk to improve grip and prevent accidents due to slippage. Along with zero accidents this summer, the improved ability to access the lake area has resulted in an unprecedented amount of use. Another project, a collaboration with our Arts & Crafts director, resulted in the construction of a "Swimmer-in-the-Water" board which allows lifeguards and counselors to constantly monitor who is in the water, and increases our ability to account for campers and maintain their safety.
While creating a safe environment was important, creating a fun environment was equally so. To achieve this we put together a full schedule of water-related activities and programs. To begin with, we have ensured that unless the weather dictates otherwise, the waterfront area will be open every afternoon for free swim. Each camper who begins the session without being able to pass a swim test is offered the opportunity to return to the lake each day for swim lessons with the waterfront director until swim test proficiency has been reached. Watching the excitement on a camper's face when they confront and conquer that challenge has been a beautiful and motivating experience for staff and other campers alike. 
Next, we added weekly workshops. The Water Sports workshop introduces campers to a whole new world of fun, and debunks the myth that swimming is all a lake is good for. We have played basketball, soccer, football, and Frisbee, had kickboard surfing competitions, and put on goggles to dive down in search of hidden "treasure" on the bottom of the lake. A favorite this year as well has been the Pirates Workshop. Campers compete in canoe races, boat tug-of-war, and Nerf-ball naval warfare to earn a spot on the crew of a pirate ship. Another exciting addition to the lakefront program has been the initiation of a canoe skills land school. Campers who participate learn to name the parts of a canoe, a paddle, a personal flotation device, and the various types of other safety equipment relevant to paddle sports. They become proficient in launching a canoe under a variety of conditions, and follow that by learning how to handle those conditions once their boat is in the water. By the end of the workshop they have acquired the ability to navigate waterways safely, rescue a swamped canoe and the paddlers who were in it, and read the water and the weather as it pertains to recreational boating.
The purpose of this school is twofold: To expose campers to the joys of canoeing, and to provide an outlet for them to experience that pleasure. While a waterfront canoe school can be a lot of fun, it pales in comparison to heading out into the rivers and lakes to put all that learning to practical use. And so the weekly canoe camping program was born. Each week campers sign up for a paddle across Tugalo Lake where we camp overnight on the shore at the terminus of the Chatooga River. Campers who participate have the opportunity to learn flatwater and whitewater canoeing skills. Also included in this trip is a guided, participation-based learning opportunity to develop outdoor skills such as setting up and breaking down camp, Leave No Trace policies and practices, and building a fire for warmth and for cooking. The nature and structure of this program allowed a seamless integration with the Explorers program, and a combined backpacking/canoeing/camping experience was successfully included in their session. It was such a success, in fact, that plans are now underway to build a 2-week canoe/camping experience into the Outdoor Skills Adventure program, offering an alternative to the traditional backpacking experience.
And speaking of program building, we are doing a lot of that very thing. The off season will bring about more work to improve the docks, expand the beach area, and move the boating equipment into a more accessible location. Repairs will be made to two more boats with the intent of having 10 canoes available for use. Doing so will allow us to expand the canoe camping experience by making it available to more campers. Funding permitting, we will also construct floating sports equipment, including basketball and soccer goals, to enhance the sports workshop, theme day, end of session fair, and open lake play. This year will be busy, and I look forward to seeing the campers faces when they come back next summer and see all the improvements.
As this summer comes to a close, and we prepare for the final departure of campers, I find myself overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. In what has already been a very eventful and exciting year for me, the opportunity to teach, and learn from, campers this summer has been a highlight. Thank you for supporting The Mountain, for participating in this community, and for sharing in the joy which floods our hearts and overflows into the lives of those around us. See you next summer!

The Mountain Loses
A Collegue & Friend

It is with great sorrow that we share with you the loss of long-time Mountain 
employee and supporter Peter Raoul, 
who passed away unexpectedly 
Wednesday, July 20, 2016.

Peter, who had been with The Mountain previously, returned to The Mountain in 2013 as The Mountain Registrar.

Those who knew or worked with  Peter will remember him as a fun, friendly, helpful and compassionate individual. Others, will remember him  as the friendly voice of The Mountain, assisting guests and campers through their registration process.

Peter never met a stranger and
those who met him, met a caring individual.

We will miss him.

Mountain Executive,
Ted Wisniewski

I find it challenging to put my thoughts on paper to share with you. I get caught up in the decision to be inspirational vs.informational, and how to find the balance between the two. I always question the effectiveness of my message. This, combined with my expert ability to procrastinate, I find my messages most inspired by recent events at The Mountain and current world events. 

My recent 12 hour drive to my family home in Buffalo allowed plenty of time to channel surf and for the mind to wander. During the drive I stopped my surfing on the recent Memorial Service in Dallas. During President Obama's speech I found my cheek wet with tears, not because I knew any of the fallen officers or the young people killed during police interventions nor because my subconscious took the opportunity for my own sorrows to be released. I think it had to do with the importance of our Mission, our Vision, and influence the Mountain can have on people's lives. I get the chance to speak with so many people who had transformative experiences atop Little Scaly. The overwhelming majority of the conversations are positive but, I do hear some heart wrenching stories. The positive ones are easier to hear as they confirm the importance of our investment in The Mountain. It's the heart breaking ones that haunt me, and stick to my ribs, making me question: am I a part of the problem or part of the solution? Am I doing my best? Is my staff doing our best to enrich lives, foster an appreciation of the natural world, honor the inter-connectedness of all things, inspire people to build inclusive, meaningful, sustainable communities throughout their lives? Are we building a center that celebrates Unitarian Universalist principles, that inspires people of all ages, transforms lives, and builds a more compassionate world? 

The short answer is yes, we have taken many steps towards the fulfillment of our Mission and Vision.  The longer answer is that we have a long path ahead and I must do better. It has been your ideas, advice, and stories that have guided my decisions thus far. It will be your ideas, advice, and stories that guide our future.  The Mountain is bigger than any one person, and is about us, all of us, sharing our talents working in unity for and with each other, not only at The Mountain but in our communities. It's about the 240 young lives who were touched by its magic at summer camp. These young people are our future and hope for a better tomorrow.

I do know what brought tears to my eyes during my drive. It's knowing that we, The Mountain, have the power to change things for the better and that if done right, we are part of the solution, and we will build a better tomorrow and stop some of the senseless tragedy and injustice in our communities.   

Theodore D. Wisniewski
Executive Director 
Camp  50 Years Later
By Phil Sterner

It's been 50 years since I was in camp as staff-as a college job. Who would have thought that 50 years later I would be spending my summer as a volunteer Health Coordinator at MountainCamp?  I was awarded the distinction of not only being a camp staff newcomer but also being the oldest staff member. 

What a great experience to enjoy the coolness of our NC highlands when all the cities and coastal plains sweltered at 95+ degrees.  No air conditioning here-only several blankets in the summer night coolness!
Wonder what differences I noticed versus 50 years ago...?
  • Hugs and joy plentiful among returning campers and staff-and throughout the weeks
  • Cell phones and Internet--but only used sparingly by camp staff and not by campers
  • Excellent staff cooperation in last minute, walkie-talkie coordination instead of daily meetings
  • More daily medicines issued vs. nearly none decades ago
  • Trail lights, moonlight and ADA ramp lighting instead of using personal flashlights
  • Snacks provided instead of being purchased at the trading post
  • Spectacular views and weather from 4200' Meditation Rock vs. humid, rolling hills of Piedmont
And many things stayed the same: 
  • Great fun 
  • Running on the game field playing competitive sports
  • Noisy dining hall and hand signals for silence before announcements
  • CIT leadership experiences
  • Walking everywhere up and down hills
  • No TV
  • Cessation of waterfront activities when thunder occurred
Really positive signs of MountainCamp's vigor include: 
  • More campers staying 2 consecutive weeks
  • Cabin-centered councils for fellowship
  • Positive growth seen by parents when picking up campers
  • Nearly a "sellout" of Intermediate Camp weeks
  • Return of a strong craft program renewed by special effort and investment
Registration for 2017 will open in October 2016.  "Register early", says Megan Quattlebaum who's continuing as MountainCamp Director again in 2017.

Oldest Counselor
MountainCamp 2016  
The Mountain Loves 
our Volunteers!

Becca Willocks, Megan Eckert, and Meg Engler 

By Megan Eckert (Atlanta, GA)

For the past six years The Mountain has been a special part of my summers. I am a teacher with summers off, so I have plenty of time to volunteer, and I actually see my time here as a vacation of sorts.  

I first encountered The Mountain on a women's retreat, and I knew instantly that it was a special place. When I heard that they had summer camp, and that I could volunteer during camp, I knew that I was going to make that happen. That summer I signed my son up for Beginning Camp along with my friend, Brynan, and her daughter who attended camp as well. That first summer Brynan and I both volunteered and worked in the kitchen for a week and had a blast!! The kitchen staff was full of fun people and the kitchen was full of laughter and music. In the evenings I spent my time hiking the trails, hanging out with Mountain Staff, exploring Highlands, reading in the library, or watching the sunset from the Lodge or Meditation Rock.

The first summer was so enjoyable that I signed up for two weeks the next summer. Where else could I go and have respite, make new friends, have great meals (that I don't have to cook), and enjoy the cool weather?! That summer I worked in the kitchen and assisted with housekeeping which was a lot fun with Kerry and the golf carts we used to have!

Now, I plan my summers around my time at the Mountain. Each summer is different. There are new jobs, new people, and new campers. I have spent enough summers up here to feel like I am coming home when I get here. I have been a witness to The Mountain's evolution over a bit of time. I have seen staff come and go and I have witnessed The Mountain struggle and grow. I feel connected to this place, the organization, and the people. Through every summer I have loved it!

For the past three years I have run a small day program for the children who come for the LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association) conference with their parents. This program has been a great joy and I feel honored to be asked to assist. The kids and I take small day hikes, make fairy houses in the woods, canoe, visit nearby attractions, walk the labyrinth and make crafts.

I also volunteer wherever I am needed: the kitchen one day, housekeeping the next, sometimes working with CITs and Ascenders. I love the variety of the environments and people that I get to meet and hang out with. The UU environment is an amazingly loving and magical place. This summer I had the pleasure of meeting another volunteer parent who shares the same name and many other things that we have in common. I am delighted to have made a new friend and I am pretty sure we will be planning our volunteer time to coincide for future summers to come. Every summer gets better and better.

It is my intention to continue my volunteer summers up here even when my son no longer attends camp. I hope to bring my grandchildren here one day. Every year people ask why I'd want to spend my summers "working at a camp". It's hard to explain that this isn't just a camp and that the "work" is really enjoyable. The Mountain is and has been a gift to me and my son; I look forward to many more summers up here.

By Becca Willocks (Nashville, TN)

I first heard about The Mountain when my daughter, Rin, attended a Youth CON here several years ago.  This summer, I've had the great privilege to volunteer at The Mountain's office.  I've been amazed to see this hard-working, spirit-filled staff in action, and it's been fun for me to help out.  Working here this season has helped me develop that deep connection to The Mountain that so many families, supporters, campers, and staff share.  The fellowship with other volunteers and staff has been priceless, and I couldn't ask for a better setting. The spectacular mountain views, plush summer foliage, and crisp mountain air have helped to refresh my spirit!

One big thing I've learned this season is that The Mountain is a place for renewal and acceptance, whether that be found in a group retreat, personal retreat, MountainCamp, or volunteerism.  The Mountain sits atop Little Scaly Mountain with open arms, ushering past participants home and welcoming new visitors to experience the magic.  Won't you join us?

Scenes From MountainCamp 2016
Want more pictures? Check out MountainCamp's Facebook page!

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