Laying Down the Welcome Mat

A Report from the Thriving Communities Conference at The Whidbey Institute


Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
March 25, 2015

“What is home to you?”

That was the question asked of the 85 people gathered at the Whidbey Institute for a three-day conference on Shelter that began on Thursday, March 19.

If there’s a more soulful place to ask this most fundamental of questions than the Thomas Berry Hall at the Institute, it’s hard to imagine it. The hall, with its soaring roof, skylight to the heavens, stone hearth and artfully designed windows that draw the eye into the forest beyond, seems designed to both engender feelings of home and prompt ideas about connection and community. The massive image of earth that hangs over the hearth reminds us of the magnificence and vulnerability of our planet—a planet on which large numbers of people lack a home.

“The four pillars of the conference, and of a resilient community, are dignity, respect, trust and a sense of belonging,” said conference organizer Jerry Millhon. In pursuit of an accelerated way for organizations to find each other and collaborate, Millhon and his team (Aimie Vallat and Noah Dassel) spent an entire year scouting out small, innovative grassroots projects in both urban and rural settings and making short videos about them.

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