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Prescott to Reno - February 2006
by Hildy Gottlieb
Copyright ReSolve, Inc. 2006 ©

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These days we are spending a good deal of our time traveling - convening the nonprofit sector in communities across the country to talk about creating visionary impact.

Destination Index

Prescott, Arizona: Methamphetamine Task Force

Prescott - FriendRaising, and other Community Driven Conversations

Sanders Clinic, Navajo Reservation: Adolescent Girls Nutrition / Exercise Program

Sacramento Nonprofit Center

Sacramento County Bar Association

Reno, Nevada: Sierra Arts and FriendRaising

Whether we spend a few days, a week, or on rare occasions, months or even years in a community, by working so intensively with folks who want to improve their community's quality of life, we quickly get to know each community we visit from the inside out.

This past winter, we tested our ability to learn as much as we could, as quickly as we could. We took a road trip.

The trip was a logistical decision. From our home base in Tucson, Arizona, close to the Mexican border, we needed to visit 2 communities accessible most sensibly by car - Prescott, in the north-central part of Arizona, and Sanders, on the Navajo reservation, at the New Mexico border. But we also needed to be in Sacramento for a few days, and in Reno, Nevada.

And we needed to be in all these places at about the same time. The road-trip decision thus made itself.

And as it always is, it would prove to be an adventure at every stop.


Day 1


Methamphetamine Task Force (MATForce)
We are in Prescott, Arizona, visiting Yavapai County's Methamphetamine Task Force (MATForce). The visit is part of our work with St. Luke's Health Initiatives, a 5 year effort aimed at determining what it might take to build healthy, resilient communities, filled with healthy, resilient individual residents. (We will share more about that project in our next letter.)

MATForce has brought together all those involved with the horrors of Meth. By building on the collective wisdom and experience of recovering addicts, counselors, hospitals, judges, educators, law enforcement, parents, rehab experts and others, MATForce aims to beat this community scourge. How can we learn from those who have successfully kicked their own meth habit, to determine the factors that provided for successful recovery when so many do not succeed? What has created successful interventions for law enforcement, for the schools? And how can we build on that?

As we so often find in Prescott, MATForce is ahead of similar efforts around Arizona, as this effort itself will build resilience into the system. There is something about Prescott that almost oozes cooperation, with some of the state's most innovative thinkers living and working in this tiny community. Listening to MATForce's story is energizing, as Prescott always is for us. If one of the reasons collaborations fail is "ego," just the opposite seems to occur in Prescott - that the only time individual egos thrive is when they can boast of being part of what everyone accomplished together.

As the St. Luke's participants are all discovering, new ways of seeing bring up new issues for these otherwise accomplished community leaders. The more collaborative an effort, for example, the harder to find common language. How do we communicate well, when a single word means one thing to a former meth user, a different thing to a law enforcement officer, and yet something else to a judge, a parole officer, or a counselor?

As the MATForce team tells us of its successes and challenges, we could spend the whole day listening and learning from them. But for us, the day has just begun.

We are tossing down lunch at the always-yummy Gurley Street Grill, preparing for an afternoon Book Talk on FriendRaising. Our friend and consulting colleague, Debbie Stewart, has graciously arranged the talk, inviting her clients and associates to join us at the YMCA, where ED Allan Klinikowski has offered his space to the group.

For the next hour, I get to see the look of realization on face after face, as I introduce the asset-based approach to resource development that includes FriendRaising. Here is the crux:

If we see ourselves as "competing-for-limited-funds" against the very people who share our vision for the community, we will never link arms together to create significant change.

In just an hour, the group is seeing with new eyes, and more importantly, realizing there are practical tools for working from that new perspective. They leave energized. The next day I will find emails of thanks in my mailbox, with further realizations they had on their way home - the joyful notes that let us know we've made folks think.

Heady Conversation with Old Friends
The talk is over. We help put the room back to YMCA-kid-ready, and Debbie (our wonderful mother-hen) scoots us off to see another old friend, Tracey McConnell.

The Granite Dells are just 1 reason
we love Prescott!

Since meeting her years ago, Tracey has always lit up our world. Take the energy of all life's possibilities, add wisdom and tenacity and the willingness to explore, fold it all into a beautiful young woman with wild hair and an amazing smile, and that is Tracey.

These days, Tracey's focus is Generations United Yavapai County - identifying the strengths that young people and old people can bring to each other and to the community. The effort is so vision-based, so values-based, so collaborative down to its decision-making, that we are mesmerized as Tracey speaks.

Then we are joined by Bob Moore. When we were expanding the Diaper Bank years ago, Bob was running Prescott's Information and Referral Service. His obvious caring and integrity, and more importantly, his willingness to be silly, made us instant friends. I would drive the 4 hours to Prescott just for one of Bob's hugs.

So there we all are, crammed around a tiny coffee shop table, laughing and all telling stories at once. We get loud, quiet down, and within moments realize the volume is back up to "annoying-everyone-else" level. We leave for dinner, reconvening at Tara Thai in Prescott Valley, where the flavor of the food is topped only by the flavor of the conversation.

Growing loud again, we no longer care. We are interrupting and finishing each other's thoughts, growing each idea into something new and wonderful. We talk about the possibilities we each hold for creating the future. We talk about the walls people erect when we mention "vision" and "values," perceiving it all as esoteric BS when in reality, it is the only thing that matters.

Long after the food is gone, we do not want to leave these friends who see, as we do, the incredible potential we all have to create an amazing world. But we are heading to the opposite end of the state the next day. After saying 100 goodbyes, we head out, our minds racing, our faces fixed in smiles.


Day 2

Standin' On a Corner in Winslow, Arizona

We are driving across Arizona to Window Rock for another St. Luke's visit. We're taking our time, stopping along the way in Winslow, Arizona. I call my daughter. "Honey, I'm standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona!" It would take 3 days for Jackson Browne to leave my head.

We are stopping because we hear that Winslow, Arizona - population 15,000 and 60 miles from anywhere - has an incredible restaurant.

An elegant remnant from the days when the rich and famous rode the train to the Grand Canyon, La Posada Hotel opened in 1930. And talk about rich and famous!
The Lindberghs and Amelia Earhart; Presidents Roosevelt and Truman; Albert Einstein and Howard Hughes; Bob Hope, Betty Grable, Dorothy Lamour - this was clearly the place to be.

The hotel closed in the late 1950's, its gorgeous furnishings sold at auction. And for the next 30 years or so, this beautiful piece of history became office space for the Santa Fe Railroad.

When Santa Fe moved out in the mid-1990's, the hotel landed on the "endangered places" list, where a savior found it, bought it, and renovated it. Now, here it stands, an incredible edifice in the middle of - well - not much!

But we don't know this until we arrive. Honestly, we are in Winslow entirely for dinner.

Our meal starts with two soups poured yin/yang style into one bowl - the light half corn chowder, the dark half black bean. Then every course beats the last for flavor and whimsy. Throughout the meal, trains roar past the sound-proofed windows.

After dinner, we explore, noting a bizarre nature to the decorating scheme. While most of the place feels historic, virtually every wall houses some VERY modern art - paintings with bold colors and a distinct point of view, all by the same artist. These very pieces have appeared in museums; some have hung in presidential libraries. The artist - Tina Mion - has been featured on National Public Radio.

Tina Mion's Webpage

Why in the world is she displaying her works in the middle of nowhere?

Finally we learn the story. That guy from a few paragraphs back - the guy who rescued the hotel from destruction? He's her husband. Tina Mion lives at La Posada.

Back on the road, we are laughing, feeling like Charles Kuralt, uncovering stories at every stop. And we wonder - did Charles Kuralt get Jackson Browne tunes stuck in his head, too?


Day 3

Navajo Reservation

Window Rock's Quality Inn could be any motel, anywhere. But each of our beds has a little plastic bag filled with cedar and a card explaining its significance, welcoming us to the Navajo Nation. "Aheheé doo Nizhonigo Naninaá doó," it says. "Thank you and may you walk in beauty."

It is morning. We are meeting with John King, CEO of the Special Healthcare District that operates 2 clinics here, one of which is participating in the St. Luke's project.

John has eagerly awaited our visit. Living so far from Phoenix, where not only St. Luke's meetings but any meetings of consequence are held, John is used to driving 8 hours each way to attend much of anything. Having someone actually drive that distance in reverse, to spend time at the clinic - well, John is disappointed we can only stay for one day.

John explains that the clinics were initially conceived to provide healthcare to non-natives living on the reservation. Because Indian Health Services is the only healthcare within 100 miles, and because IHS can only be used by Native Americans, healthcare for non-natives is a big deal. The clinics are now an integral part of the community, providing tribal members an alternative to IHS for their own healthcare as well.

As we prepare to follow John to the clinic, he says, "When I point out the window, look to the left." We watch until John's hand shoots out his window. And suddenly, in a break between the rocks, we see the Teapot Rock formation, one of the thousands of stone monuments that make Navajo country famous. Within seconds, the rock wall has closed back up, and once again, we see only the road ahead.

Sanders is tiny. Its recent claim to fame is as a relocation community for Navajo who have had to leave their homes as part of the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act. The majority of the town's 2,200 residents are now relocatees, starting life over in an area known as New Lands.

The St. Luke's project at Sanders Clinic focuses on this question: How can we get teenaged girls more active if they are not involved in school sports? Alvina Begay, a bright young Navajo championship marathon runner and professional nutritionist, is managing this effort. Having grown up on the reservation near Sanders, Alvina is an incredible role model.

We tour the clinic and the community, listening to layers of questions. How to engage the wisdom of community members, to ensure success? How to engage the school, when the school already has so much on its plate? How to encourage the talents of community members, when so many Native Americans have become accustomed to thinking they have nothing to contribute? It is an inspiring day, filled with questions the whole St. Luke's Learning Community will discuss for months to come.

It is 4pm when we reluctantly hit the road. Flagstaff, 3 hours away, is our dinner stop, and then we are back on I-40, heading west.

We started the day in the blessed quiet of the Navajo reservation, at Arizona's easternmost border. We end the day west of the Colorado River, in Laughlin, Nevada, home of simulated Vegas neon, low-end gambling, and tribute bands impersonating everyone from Garth Brooks to Neil Diamond. It is a joy to be back on the road.


Days 4 & 5

Working on the Road

"Sorry it took so long," says the valet. "Front tire was so flat I had to inflate it just to get it out of the garage." She helps us stuff our belongings into the car, providing directions to a mechanic across the river, back on the Arizona side.

The shop is one of those places that only makes sense in a small-town tourist haven along a waterway - jet ski rentals during the "season," and tire repair the rest of the year. While teenaged son takes care of the guy ahead of us, Dad is completing a serious financial transaction - the mother of a Girl Scout is collecting on what was, apparently, a major cookie purchase. Grabbing cards off the counter, we pass the time between playing rummy and playing with the family's golden retriever. "Her owner was beating her," Dad tells us. "I backed my truck right up to him and said, ‘You give me that dog or I'll take that stick to you.' Been ours ever since. Isn't she the sweetest thing?" The car is ready, and we realize that nail in our tire was a great treat.

Most of I-40 between Laughlin and Bakersfield is desert dullness. Stopping to use the bathroom at the only thing around - a Dairy Queen - suddenly nothing sounds as good

Rhymes with Blizzard
(but lives in the desert)
as a Coffee Blizzard. Within moments, Coffee Blizzard has escaped through a hole in the cup, all over us. The replacement Blizzard has extra butterscotch, though, making it worth spot-washing our jeans in the restroom sink.

We had forgotten the wonder of road trips. During our years working on the Hualapai reservation; the year we worked in northern Mexico; the year with the Moapa tribe - we spent days at a time on the road. Being passenger meant reading aloud, although you couldn't really call it "reading," as after one or two pages, the rest of the trip was spent discussing those 2 pages. Our office shelves are lined with books from which we have read only 2 pages apiece, but both of us would declare we loved those books!

This trip's road-work is planning - website re-do, re-thinking our newsletter, furthering the Community-Driven Institute. Sequestered in the car, we are knocking out entire plans in less time than it takes to go through a tank of gas.

We arrive at Bakersfield at night, and sleep comes fast. In the morning, catch up on emails and phone calls, grab lunch, and we're on the road again, heading north to Sacramento.

And then we arrive - City of Trees, home of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is the end of February, and the weather is so warm and so sunny one would think we were still in Tucson.


Day 6

Sacramento Nonprofit Resource Center

Jan Stohr, founder of Sacramento's Nonprofit Resource Center, is one of those visionaries who lights up this sector. I have gotten to know Jan at the urging of Beryl Michaels, a Charity Channel colleague and subscriber to our newsletter.

We are sharing lunch with +20 community leaders, discussing the theme we talked about in Prescott - that when resource development is non-competitive, it more deeply engages the community in an organization's work, providing sustainability for creating a better place to live. One woman shares this story of FriendRaising / Community Engagement:

"Our organization plants trees. I wanted to set up a booth on campus, but everyone called that a waste of time - college kids have no money. I convinced them to try it. Not only were those kids excited, but they offered what they DID have - their energy and strength! By the end of the year, those kids planted more trees than we had ever planted before! We get stuck when all we consider is money, instead of seeing what people DO have to share."

The hour goes quickly, the room glowing as folks realize the abundance of possibilities each of them has. Folks tell us they feel inspired to go back and aim for their vision of an amazing community. We are inspired right along with them.

We are spending a moment with Beryl at a sunny outdoor café, hearing of other innovative work she is helping with around town. We haven't even left Sacramento, and already we can't wait to return!

And now we are with Jan at the Nonprofit Resource Center, listening to stories. How effortlessly she builds upon the community's existing assets! The resource center's very location is proof - inside the public library, surrounded by stacks of nonprofit books. As she tells her story, we feel honored to have this time with her, as we learn she is about to retire.

It is almost dark. But Sacramento is so beautiful, and the weather so delightful, we grab our cameras to play in Capitol Park, the grounds surrounding the capitol. Camellias and magnolias have shed their huge flowers, creating carpets of color across the grass - bright magenta, blood red, white tinged with lavender. We shoot until it is too dark to see, heading back to the hotel to prepare for the centerpiece of this whole journey - a day with the board of the Sacramento County Bar Association.


Days 7 and 8

Governing for Impact:
The Sacramento County Bar Association

Dimitri has always called me a lawyer wannabe, and I admit it - I love working with attorneys. I have just always felt the justice system is at the heart of what is fair and good in a civilized society. And attorneys are the facilitators of that justice system.

After all this trip has been, the Sacramento County Bar Association is our main reason for being here. Board president, Jack Laufenberg, had attended the "Governing for Impact" workshop we did for all California's Bar Leaders. He was moved as we folded "roles and responsibilities" into bigger questions:

• What impact does our organization want to have, both short term and long term?

• For whom?

• And how does one govern for that?

That is what Jack wants for the Sacto Bar - a board focused on creating significant impact for all the lives the association touches.

It is the morning of the training. We are thrilled with the turnout - most of the board has chosen to spend their whole Saturday with us. That is always a good sign.

And from the moment we begin, all we see is passion for the impact the association can have, not only for its members, but the community as a whole. The vision they articulate sets the tone for the day - a vision of "justice and unity in our communities, opportunities for our youth, and the means for attorneys to both succeed professionally and help bring about that community vision." How could we not love working with folks like this!?

We spend the rest of the day teaching the board to govern for creating that impact. How to do Impact Planning. How to use core values to guide decisions and behaviors. How to use Organizational Wellness Planning to ensure the organization is healthy in every way. The session is over, and even after a full day, folks want to stick around to talk more about the possibilities ahead of them.

As we pack the car, Jack asks about our plans. "Monday we're in Reno, then back to Sacramento, then heading home."

Jack warns, "Be careful crossing the mountains. They're predicting snow." Yes, it's late February, but looking around at the spring-like day, we joke at how often the weatherman is wrong.


Day 9

Sierra Arts, Reno

We spend Sunday eating our words. It is pouring. Snow predictions across the Sierras have Highway Patrol warning that chains will be required. We desert folk wouldn't know how to use chains if we owned them! By the time we head to bed, we have no idea whether or not we are going to Reno in the morning.

Monday morning, the forecast has changed to "rain now, and snow later in the afternoon." The gods make our decision for us; we head for the mountains and our gig in Reno.

The mountains are covered with snow, but our path is filled only with rain - a ton of it. We make it to Reno, both of us wondering, "Will we be able to get back to Sacramento?"

Our host in Reno is Jill Berryman of Sierra Arts, the regional arts agency, promoting both the arts and artists, to make Reno a better place to live.

Sierra Arts is housed in the former Riverside Hotel, a place with a history as colorful as Reno

The Riverside
PBS Documentary Website
itself. In its heyday, the hotel contributed to Reno's reputation - Divorce Capitol of the World - giving folks a place to stay as they awaited that final gavel. Over the years, the building had various uses as it spiraled downward, ending its life boarded up and almost torn down - a "downtown story" so typical across the U.S.

That's when Jill and Sierra Arts stepped in. Working with Artspace Projects of Minneapolis and the Reno Development Agency, the building was completely renovated. It now provides living and working space for 35 Reno artists and a great art gallery. It is gorgeous.

Jill has subscribed to our newsletter for years. Since the time her development director attended one of our workshops, however, Jill has been seeking a way to bring us to Reno. Learning that we'd be in Sacramento, she jumped at the opportunity to have us do our FriendRaising Book Talk.

But it's raining. Today's warm rain is washing an entire winter's snow down the mountains at once, while the torrential rains just add to that flow - all of it aimed into the Truckee River, heading straight through downtown. We immediately understand why everywhere we look, all morning long, folks are sandbagging.

At 1pm, we are at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center, the renovated grade school turned performance center where we will do our talk. We admit that if we were the attendees, we probably would choose to stay home, safe and cozy and dry.

But over 30 people show up! And for the 3rd time this trip, we talk about ways to develop resources by linking arms, building armies of friends, reaching together for a shared vision of our communities. By the end of the talk, even as they are anxious to get home, folks hang around to chat about the flashes of insight they are having, seeing their work through different eyes. On that soggiest of soggy days, these folks have the sun on their heels.

As they all head home, we head back across the mountains. In the few hours we have been in Reno, the river has risen 4 feet, with no signs of stopping. Heading across the Sierras, water is oozing from every crevice and gushing down every slope. We pass our time alternating between speeding towards our own safety, and sending good wishes to the friends we have just met.


Days 10, 11 and 12

Driving Home

The drive home is simply the same route backwards - from Sacramento to Bakersfield to Laughlin and then home. East of Bakersfield, we stop to explore and photograph, as the hills here are enchanted - tumbling haphazardly into each other with abandon. Desert dwellers cannot resist a body of water or a large patch of green, and this place is dripping green, making us believe in Elfin Magic.

From Laughlin, we drive the 8 hours straight home, taking only one detour - to Prescott for one more great meal at Tara Thai. Sans our friends, the atmosphere is quieter, but the food is still incredible, and our souls are smiling just to be here.

We know we are blessed to do the work we do, and to share in your efforts to make the world a better place. We thank you all for being part of our lives.


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