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25 for 25 #7: Sue Wilke

This is the seventh installment in our series 25 for 25: one story per week from Hope Springs' history to lead up to our 25th Anniversary Celebration, June 18-21, 2020. Sue Wilke, who was on the first Hope Springs Board, remembers her first visit to Hope Springs.

It was a hot summer day the first time I saw what was to become Hope Springs Institute.

I remember driving down a long gravel driveway and seeing the farmhouse for the very first time. I had come with Suzanne and some other friends to help with cleaning. I first met Suzanne Stevens when she co-led a team building workshop at Procter& Gamble where we both worked. Our paths continued to cross because of my corporate role focus on women’s issues, and most importantly, we both became part of a circle of care for a coworker who was dying of breast cancer. Later, I attended the first Walk With Women at her then home in Batavia, Ohio, a forerunner of future programs at Hope Springs. Suzanne had told me of her dream to start a women’s retreat center, and I knew she and Al had been looking at property and how excited she was when she told me they had bought property in Peebles, Ohio in Adams County at auction.

The farmhouse had been uninhabited for some time and in need of great care. An upstairs wall was covered with more ladybugs than I had ever seen, but as it turned out, these little creatures were a sign of the positive energy that would always surrounded Hope Springs. There was a large piano upstairs as well, and we speculated with wonder how it got there. We began our cleaning different rooms and chores. I took over cleaning and painting some cupboards in the room off the kitchen - now the store for books, jewelry and other objects. We were soaked to the skin by the time we finished that first day, but I am sure each of us felt much satisfaction in just being a small part of helping Suzanne realize her dream. There were many other visits for me over the years sometimes as helper, sometimes as participant, sometimes just to walk the land.

Over the twenty five years, I have participated in workshops with Rocky Delaplaine one of the best yoga teachers ever, learned with Alexandra Merrill about Patterns of Fate in astrology, had impactful discussions about race with Ruth King, and enjoyed massages from the magical hands of the late Katherine Stewart. During those early years, I was also honored to serve on Hope Spring’s first board of directors. Over the years, Hope Springs Women’s Center became Hope Springs Institute, added the Studio and Spirit House to the property, hired an executive director and continues to offer high quality programs and of course, there’s the food.

When I drive out to Hope Springs, I always feel like I am leaving the stresses and issues of daily living behind. I am entering a place of quiet and peace, a place where you can see the stars in the sky on a clear night and hear the chirping of crickets seeking a mate. It is a place I feel belongs to me in some constant way since I was there at its creation. It is still hard to believe twenty-five years has passed just like that.

On one of my very first early spring visits, I was walking out in the meadow before it had been mowed and took the picture of a butterfly at the top of this post. I am reminded of this poem by an unknown author:

A Butterfly Lights Beside Us

A butterfly lights beside us, like a sunbeam…

And for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belong to our world…

But then it flies again and though we wish it could have stayed We are so thankful to have seen it at all.

I am forever grateful to have been a part of seeing Suzanne realize her dream, and like the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly, seeing Hope Springs' emergence into the wonderful gift it continues to be for all who venture there.

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