|Prescott to Reno - February 2006
|by Hildy Gottlieb
Copyright ReSolve, Inc. 2006
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days we are spending a good deal of our time traveling - convening the
nonprofit sector in communities across the country to talk about creating
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.
past winter, we tested our ability to learn as much as we could, as quickly as
we could. We took a road trip.
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.
we needed to be in all these places at about the same time. The road-trip
decision thus made itself.
as it always is, it would prove to be an adventure at every stop.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
Rhymes with Blizzard
(but lives in
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!
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
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
Sacramento Nonprofit Resource
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 /
"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
Governing for Impact:
The Sacramento County Bar
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?
And how does one govern
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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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