True Tales of Kindness in Wake of October 1 Tragedy at Umpqua Community College

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Two weeks after the horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College in which nine were killed and nine wounded, Mark Yaconelli was contacted by The Ford Family Foundation. “In the midst of the shock and pain of the October 1, 2015 tragedy, there was this generous, creative, compassionate response by local community members. The question was could The Hearth design a project that would collect and archive these stories so that the memory of this tragedy wasn’t only the violence and grief, but also the many acts of generosity and kindness that sought to bring healing.”

The Umpqua Story Project was formed with the purpose of providing compassionate settings where people across the Umpqua Valley could share their experiences of kindness in the wake of the tragedy. The project trained fifteen volunteers in compassionate listening, set up tables in coffee shops, libraries, schools and other public spaces across Douglas County and invited people to share their responses to the shooting at UCC. In addition to providing opportunities for the public to record their experiences, the project sent out staff members to record stories from individuals who had reacted to the tragedy with particular generosity and creativity. Continue reading

A Trip To The Jungle

[On May 10th I sent out a Facebook message seeking to raise $750 to help purchase supplies to help refugees in Calais. I had been invited by The Church in Wales to go and collect stories from refugees for an upcoming event in North Wales. I did not want to arrive empty-handed so I procured a van and asked The Hearth Community to make donations to purchase food. Within twelve hours over $1600 had been raised. Enough to purchase needed proteins (canned fish, beans) and vegetables/fruits (tomatoes, mandarin oranges). Thank you to everyone who gave generously! Here are my reflections on the trip.]

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We were five men from North Wales: a welder, a carpenter, a government planner, a vicar, and me, the lone American. We had procured two vans and filled them with food, lumber, plastic tarps, fire extinguishers, construction tape, and other supplies. We were taking time from work and home to help displaced people in Calais, France. And the feeling? The feeling was good. It felt good to try and do something right, something useful. It felt good to follow the most basic of human impulses—to share what you have with someone who has little. Spirits were high. We shared music we loved, remembered epic concerts we had attended. We smiled while describing our children, talked admiringly of our spouses. We told stories of adventures we’d had in other countries—a speeding ticket in Death Valley, a bar fight in Belfast, a dangerous sheep outside of Liverpool. We were on a mission. We were doing something that mattered. Hearts awake, spirits high, the mind clear with purpose. Continue reading

Help Mark Yaconelli Bring Food to Refugees!

France-Calais-Migr_2709772aHearth founder Mark Yaconelli is seeking to raise $750 BY FRIDAY, MAY 13, in order to deliver food to refugees in Calais, France.

Mark is working in Wales teaching local towns to develop their own community storytelling projects. As part of the training he is leading a storytelling event entitled, “Stranger in a Strange Land.” This event will benefit and include stories told by Syrian refugees. To better understand the plight of refugees from war-torn countries Mark has procured a truck and in cooperation with Christian and Muslim groups, will deliver food to refugees from war-torn countries. His hope is to fill the truck with needed food items (canned fish, beans, tomatoes, etc.).

Please contribute using the donate button below. Donations are tax deductible. All those who donate will receive a written account of Mark’s experience.

Mark Yaconelli Trains Hearth Communities in Wales

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In the spring of 2015, The Heath founder Mark Yaconelli was invited by The Church in Wales to lead a day-long workshop on community storytelling in the town of Bala. The invitation came because the Church in Wales, was concerned about the decline of “social capital” (the network of relationships that allows a community to address problems and increase a sense of well being). Although the Church in Wales has a religious mission, they felt that The Hearth model (non-religious) could help communities address the increasing loneliness, alienation, and breakdown of social relationships.

In February of 2016, Mark accepted an invitation to do a six month residency as a “Community Innovator” for the Church in Wales. Central to his role will be to train twenty teams to develop their own local community storytelling projects in North Wales. In an interview with the BBC, Mark highlighted the importance of storytelling within communities: “When we tell stories in community settings we increase understanding, bridge differences, reduce shame, and uncover the values that matter most. The Hearth is simply a new packaging of a set of old medicines. When people gather together to share stories, food, song, and service they discover meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging. Communities that have a healthy sense of belonging have less addiction, less violence, less loneliness and are more likely to address suffering and promote the common good.”

Mark is holding a number of training events across North Wales. The culmination of the training will be a Hearth event in the town of Llangollen. The theme will be “Strangers in a Strange Land” and will include stories from recent refugees seeking asylum within the United Kingdom. Proceeds from the event will benefit Share, an organization working in North Wales and England to assist homeless and refugees.

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“Seeing Color” in Medford and Grants Pass February 10th and 11th

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Our next Hearth event takes place in Medford (Inn at the Commons) on February 10th and Grants Pass (Tap Rock Event Center) on February 11th, from 9am to 12pm. The theme is “Seeing Color” and 7 locals will share a true story of race in childhood. This event is FREE but you must register at the link below. Following stories we will have a facilitated conversation on race in Southern Oregon. Storytellers include Jennifer Ware, Marquis Malcom, Norman Wakefield, Victoria Bencomo, Raf Mesta, Mary Lingenfelter, and Larry Slessler. Facilitators are Gilda Montenegro-Fix and Jennifer Ware. Hosted by Mark Yaconelli with music by Antonio Melendez and Gene Burnett.

To register to attend in Medford go here.

To register for Grants Pass event go here.

Both Hearth events are FREE.

The Hearth Holiday Gathering: Collected Stories with Mark Yaconelli

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December 17th from 7:30 to 9:00pm at Temple Emek Shalom

The Hearth founder Mark Yaconelli will share some of his favorite stories at this special holiday fundraiser. Accompanied by musicians Kim Starkey, Daniel Sperry, and Duane Whitcomb, the evening promises to be a mixture of true, heartwarming tales set to live music. If you want to laugh from the belly and cry from the heart then you won’t want to miss our special Hearth Holiday Gathering. Suggested donation is $10-$20 at the door. This is our yearly fundraiser for The Hearth so bring your friends and your checkbook.  Mulled wine, spiced cider, and homemade holiday treats will be available. Doors open at 7pm

Special Hearth Event November 14th “Rising to the Challenge”

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The Hearth is hosting a special storytelling event in support of The Ashland Climate Challenge. The theme is “Rising to the Challenge” and we have 6 storytellers from Ashland and across the west coast who will share true, inspiring stories of facing difficult challenges. This is co-sponsored by Oregon Shakespeare Festival and will be held at the Thomas Theatre on Saturday, November 14th from 7 to 9pm. Cost is $5 and funds will support renewable energy projects for the Ashland school district. The event will be hosted by Mark Yaconelli, tellers include Tonya Graham, Lesley Adams, Shaun Franks, Jacob Lebel, Scott Denning, and Leslie Becknell Marx. Music by Mysha Caruso. Only 275 seats, so show up early and bring your neighbors. This will be an important event for mobilizing to reduce and prepare for climate change.

Down and Out This Thursday Night!

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The Hearth will present “real stories by regular folks” on October 29th from 7 to 9pm at Temple Emek Shalom in Ashland. The theme is “Down and Out” and proceeds from the event will benefit Uncle Food’s Diner–a weekly community meal for the homeless and economically disadvantaged. Tellers include Claudia Alick, Lucinda Weatherby, Kay Brooks, Leigh Madsen, Kelly Cruser, and Fred Grewe. Music by Mark Gostnell, Wendi Stanek, Duane Whitcomb and friends. Hosted by Mark Yaconelli. $5 suggested donation.

Klamath Falls Holds Opening Hearth on Friends: Lost and Found

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Every seat (over 80) was filled at the Klamath County Library to hear six local members of the Klamath Falls community tell true stories on the theme Friends: Lost and Found. This was the inaugural event for The Klamath Falls Hearth, a program which seeks to help communities build relationships, eradicate shame, and support local non-profits through personal stories. Three community members from Klamath Falls received training from Mark Yaconelli, founder and director of The Hearth in Ashland, Oregon last spring as part of a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation and The Ford Family Foundation. The opening event presented a mix of heartfelt stories of friends found in Tibet, a birthing class, a hospital ward, and a car accident to friends lost in childhood. The music, by a series of local musicians, presented a beautiful mix of folk and classical pieces that matched the stories. The Klamath Falls Hearth will now be a regular storytelling series sponsored by the Klamath County Library. Congratulations to Charla Oppenlander, Ruth Chamberlin, and Debbie Plummer for all of their work in organizing this important community gathering.

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