Staff

Mark Yaconelli

Mark Yaconelli

Mark Yaconelli is a writer, retreat leader, community builder, spiritual director, storycatcher, husband, and father. He is the founder and executive director of The Hearth. Previously, he co-founded and served as program director for the Center for Engaged Compassion where he helped develop a unique set of practices and training programs for assisting individuals, organizations, and communities in cultivating compassion.

Mark is in demand as a speaker and retreat leader. He speaks to a variety of audiences each year across North America and the United Kingdom including The Greenbelt Arts Festival, The Ford Family Foundation, Compassion International, The National Youth Workers Convention, Princeton Theological Seminary, The Center for Congregations, The Global Gathering for Spirituality and Justice, The Oregon Community Foundation, and many other events and organizations.

Mark is the author of five books including The Gift of Hard Things (IVP 2016), Wonder, Fear, and Longing (Zondervan 2009). His most recent book The Stories Worth Telling will be released in 2021. Mark lives in Southern Oregon with his wife Jill. They have three children–Noah, Joseph, and Gracie.

Susannah Cole

Susannah Cole

Susannah is the Director of Operations at The Hearth. She is a native Ashlander who attended story gatherings in the inaugural year of The Hearth in 2010. Over the past decade she has performed music at Hearth events, produced video testimonials of Hearth Certificate participants, schlepped chairs and food at Hearth story nights, and consulted on Hearth marketing campaigns. Susannah left the valley to get her B.S in Organizational Communication at University of Portland. Before serving The Hearth she worked in film and event production, marketing/social media, and nonprofit administration.

She is passionate about bringing people together through shared experiences, and believes the essence of human connection can be traced back to the tradition of storytelling. When not running The Hearth’s operations and assisting Mark with “technology issues,” Susannah likes to spend her time outdoors. She is an avid podcast listener and enjoys using her hands in metalsmithing (a hobby taken up during Covid sequestration).

Erica Alexia Ledesma

Erica Alexia Ledesma

Erica Alexia Ledesma is a first-generation xicana born and raised in Southern Oregon with ancestral roots in México. Erica is a visual artist, youth mentor, and community organizer currently based in Takelma Land (Medford, Oregon). Her work centers visual art and story sharing to build community and address her cultural identity.

In 2018, Erica co-founded a project called Noche de cuentos, which works with the Latinx members to craft and share their story in the community. In 2019 Erica partnered up with The Hearth– becoming the director of the Latinx Story Project creating a project called De La Raíz (from the roots) that focuses on gathering stories and sharing them online.

She believes in the power of telling and reclaiming our stories as a means of remembering and spiritual healing. Erica received Bachelors degrees in Ethnic Studies, Cultural Anthropology and Spanish from the University of Oregon. But she would say that a lot of her experience comes from being chismosa and curious.