Heartbeet in the News: The Christian Science Monitor

Hannah and Heartbeet were featured this month in The Christian Science Monitor’s “People Making A Difference” section!

She lives with, and takes an inclusive approach to, those with special needs

BREAKING BARRIERS

In 2000, Hannah Schwartz helped establish Heartbeet farm to offer care and opportunities for growth for adults with developmental disabilities.

 

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In the basement of a house set into the side of green Vermont hills, half a dozen “friends,” or people with developmental disabilities, worked with volunteers to create wool feltings at Heartbeet farm one June afternoon.

In the middle of them was Hannah Schwartz, who established the farm with her husband, Jonathan Gilbert. She needled away at a felting of a small barn with Sequoia Cheyenne, one of the friends, turning away occasionally to check on the progress of others in the craft workshop.

In the midst of content murmurings, giggles, and felting consultations, another friend excitedly reminded Ms. Schwartz that it was her birthday the next day. With a warm smile and equal enthusiasm, Schwartz affirmed, “It’s my birthday tomorrow!”

Schwartz has spent many of her birthdays with these friends, as she lives with them. “I’ve been in Kaspar House since 2005, running this house,” she says of one of the six houses at Heartbeet farm. “It’s kind of the hub of the community.”

Schwartz brings a lifetime of relevant experience to Heartbeet. At the Hardwick, Vt., campus, she’s worked to create an integrated setting where her family, as well as co-workers and volunteers, all live with the residents. Schwartz’s work also goes beyond Hardwick: She speaks worldwide about the kind of model Heartbeet provides for adults with developmental disabilities.

“She’s incredibly dedicated,” says Democratic state Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano, who lives in East Hardwick and has been following Heartbeet’s progress. “The residents are so well treated and are well received: It’s like they don’t have disabilities.”

Schwartz’s parents worked at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills in Pennsylvania, and that’s where she grew up. “I loved my childhood,” she says.

Of the lessons she took away: Everyone should be included, Schwartz says, “and self-esteem is key.”

After attaining a college degree in special education and spending some time in the “real world,” Schwartz had some uncomfortable realizations.

“What was shocking was getting into the world and seeing how little is understood about community,” she says. “There’s such a commitment to paid work in our culture that neighborly care becomes almost odd.”

At home at Heartbeet

People looking to embrace a more community-oriented, neighborly lifestyle find themselves at home at Heartbeet. Marcianna Morse and her husband, Dan, are raising their child there.

Ms. Morse, who has been on the staff for 4-1/2 years, says she decided to live at Heartbeet after having lunch there one afternoon. “I stayed because of the commitment to the human relationships and the opportunity to heal and share and grow,” she says.

Her family joins Schwartz, the other co-workers, volunteers, their families, dogs, cats, and 17 residents who live in the Heartbeet houses.

Outside the residences, the farm has a renovated barn for dairy and beef cows, goats, chickens, and pigs. It also has a greenhouse, garden, and wood shop.

In pursuit of sustainability, between 50 and 60 percent of the community’s food is produced on the farm, Schwartz says.

While everyone rotates in and out of barn chores and housekeeping, she says, Heartbeet also runs vocational workshops that are organized according to residents’ interests.

On that June day, for instance, residents Suzannah Dickinson and Ann Blanchard were in the garden helping place wire cages around some wilting tomato plants.

“The reason why I chose this place to live is so I can learn different skills,” Ms. Blanchard says. At one point before moving in 16 years ago, she adds, “I was with my parents, and that was kind of boring: I watched a lot of television and sat around twiddling my thumbs.”

Both women have extended their work past the farm. Ms. Dickinson packages cheese at Jasper Hill Farm in nearby Greensboro, and Blanchard just retired from helping out at the local food co-op.

Residents have other opportunities to be involved in the region, too. The felting artwork – which is framed by residents in the wood shop – gets sold throughout the Northeast, and residents can lead demonstrations in community classes.

Never lonely

Loneliness, Schwartz says, is never a problem at Heartbeet. “You get a group of people and you learn how to create meaningful lives,” she explains. To help with that process, each house meets weekly to discuss social events and conflicts, and each person gets a three-minute “check-in” to talk about how he or she is doing.

“We end up being able to take care of each other,” Schwartz says.

That care can go both ways. Co-worker Nora Demuth, who moved to Heartbeet this year, says being there is “life-affirming.”

“This is actually what [life is] about,” Ms. Demuth says as she does a felting with a resident. “It feels genuine to me. It’s a good life.”

Schwartz cofounded Heartbeet in 2000, after coming upon two people with developmental disabilities who were living in Hardwick. Seeing the inadequacies of their two options – home care or independent living – she felt there was a better way.

“Their lives were so deeply dysfunctional,” she says. “Both of them would have really thrived in community living, but there wasn’t a setting.”

At that moment, she was “called” to bring the Camphill model to Vermont. The groundwork was already in place: The state is made up of small towns, emphasizes direct access to elected officials, and values the environment.

“The embedded values of the state, the natural fabric of community – that still exists,” Schwartz says. “It made so much sense.”

She chose the site of a former 150-acre dairy farm in Hardwick, a onetime quarry town. It was located on Town Farm Road, on land previously used for the “town farm,” where work and shelter were provided for those on the periphery of Vermont society during the early 19th century.

Town farms aren’t necessarily a good chapter in the state’s history. “Very minimal services, no care,” Schwartz says. But, she adds, “It was the beginning of awareness that we need to take care of our vulnerable population.”

Two centuries later, she says, state officials worked with her to build upon – and improve – that legacy. But establishing Heartbeet wasn’t exactly easy, she notes: “It was a long journey both for the state and us.”

Now, Schwartz is working to bring more people from the region to Heartbeet. The organization just bought 58 more acres in the neighboring town of Craftsbury, with plans for a new house and therapeutic riding center that will be open to the public.

Heartbeet also has an almost-completed community building where various organizations, businesspeople, and performers will hold events. “Every event will include adults with developmental disabilities,” Schwartz says.

A standing ovation

This past spring, she and some residents visited the Vermont State House at the invitation of Representative Troiano.

“It was just heartwarming,” he says. “They got a standing ovation, which is not out of the ordinary. But boy,… there’s nothing like it.”

Troiano says he has been continually impressed with what Schwartz has built. “This is the model,” he says.

Schwartz says she’s gotten a lot of support for that model in Vermont, and she now regularly travels to spread it further. She most recently returned from giving a talk in Israel.

“There’s more now than ever, growing awareness and exchange,” Schwartz says. And yet, “there’s still not enough. We have a long way to go, I’d say.”

For now, she stays positive by living at Heartbeet and interacting with the residents. Noting that she continues to learn from their ability to embrace and love others, she says: “They’re an inspiration.”

Heartbeet in the News: Goddard College Spring E-Newsletter

Hannah was featured in the Goddard Spring E-Newsletter as their featured alumna! Hannah’s connection to Goddard College brought her to the Northeast Kingdom, and we’re sure glad it did! Read the full article below, and check out Goddard online!

Alumna Hannah Schwartz (IBA ‘01) Constructs a Cultural Hub for the Northeast Kingdom

Hannah (right) and Connor, a resident of Heartbeet

Hannah (right) with a resident of Heartbeet

 

“Goddard is the reason I came to this area,” says Hannah, the executive director and co-founder of Heartbeet Lifesharing, a community that is home to 47 adults, including 16 individuals with special needs.

Heartbeet Lifesharing in Hardwick, Vermont is wrapping up a $2.2 million dollar campaign to build a community center in the Northeast Kingdom that is dedicated to inclusion and the arts.

This building’s mission is collaboration and inclusion; it will be a place for people to come together across abilities to celebrate community and the arts. Future plans for the Heartbeet Community Center include performances, classes, concerts, the exploration of interfaith conversation, and community meals.

Here, Hannah speaks in her own words about her Goddard experience and how she came to live, work, and build this intentional arts community:

Photo of Hannah with her children

Photo of Hannah with her children

“At a turning point in my life I went searching for a college that I could philosophically align with, and one that would allow me the flexibility to be a mother of two. I was living in Canada at the time working for a wonderful community-based organization as the head gardener and doing direct care for adults with developmental disabilities.

“With only two semesters left until graduation, I was excited to finish up my studies. As soon as I encountered the Health Arts program at Goddard I was certain that I had found my home for this next step. Every moment from that point forward was directive in connecting me to this area. The land, the people, the connections and the general mood of the area called to me.

“My family landed in Calais, a small, warm community that encircled us. Goddard learning, with its self-directed study approach and community building residency weeks, fit my learning style, with just enough freedom within a clear framework to get it all done! I can honestly say that I would not have found this area without Goddard and can’t imagine where I would be at this time.

My Goddard experience definitely birthed my leadership skills and helped me form my adult vocational contribution. I have gratitude for a very a magical two years confirming that higher education can be woven in with life.”

***

For more information about Heartbeet Lifesharing, or to join a community tour, call (802) 472-3285, or email info@heartbeet.org. Also visit them onFacebook, or at their website, www.heartbeet.org

Heartbeet in the News: The Stowe Reporter

Connor Henesy was featured in the Stowe Reporter this week, giving an interview about his experience snowboarding with Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports!

Stowe Adaptive Sports: Catching up with Connor Henesy

Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016 6:00 am | Updated: 3:06 pm, Thu Mar 3, 2016.

Connor Henesy is 29 years old. He has lived at Heartbeet Lifesharing in Hardwick for the past 10 years.

Heartbeet is an adult community where people with developmental disabilities live and work side by side with co-workers and volunteers.

Connor is an avid farmer and loves having meaningful work. He takes pride in providing milk and eggs for the people he lives with.

This is Connor’s first year snowboarding with Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports. We caught up with him to ask a few questions:

Q. Connor, is this your first time snowboarding?

A. No. I have tried a few times with my friend Jonathan but this is the first time I am having lessons.

Q. Will you stick to snowboarding or do you want to try skiing next winter?

A. Snowboarding all the way! It’s so cool! (hang-ten hand gestures)

Q. Who is your adaptive instructor?

A. Eileen. (This is Eileen Sinopoli’s first year as an adaptive coach at Stowe Mountain Resort)

Q. What is the best thing about snowboarding for you?

A. That my instructor Eileen is so awesome!

Q. Do you enjoy any after shredding treats?

A. Hot cocoa, yum!

Kaylin McCarthy, who runs Connor’s house, said: “Connor’s enthusiasm for life knows no bounds. He greets each new day and activity with a refreshing energy that is a blessing to those around him. He hopes to be involved with the Special Olympics snowboarding team next year and wants to win a trophy.”

Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that raises money all year to provide athletic scholarships to any Vermont resident with a physical or developmental disability. Funds are also raised to buy equipment and train instructors. To learn more about the Friends or make a donation: stoweadaptive.com or its Facebook page.

See this article on the Stowe Reporter website! 

Heartbeet in the News: Camphill Association Blog

This article written by Heartbeet’s very own Jon Flint was published this week in the Camphill Association Blog! 

The Advent Season at Heartbeet Lifesharing

This post was written by Jonathan Flint, a coworker since 2013 at Heartbeet Lifesharing. Jonathan served in our AmeriCorps program and is also involved in the Camphill Foundation as a Board Fellow. In Heartbeet his responsibilities include management of the grounds and estate, in addition to fundraising and working in forestry.

This year at Heartbeet Lifesharing, a Camphill community for adults founded in 2001 among the scenic hills of Hardwick, Vermont, we will turn our attention in Advent to the abundance of natural gifts (pasture for animals, soil for the garden, rocks and timber for dwellings, wells of clean drinking water) that we have taken over the stewardship of at Heartbeet.  Our Land Group, composed of landscapers, farmers, gardeners and foresters, will share a series of community studies on the four elemental kingdoms of nature-spirits.  We are learning about our responsibility to become co-creators with the spiritual world in reshaping the landscape at Heartbeet.

IMG_1705Advent in Camphill communities has a number of rich traditions.  It is the season of the Shepherd’s Play!  Coworkers and friends prepare for the Christmas plays that are attributed to the Germanic people surrounding the town of Oberufer.  Town players passed down the stories, from generation to generation, the parts in three plays that depict the Nativity story, Creation, and the Three Kings.  The “mystery plays” date back to the earliest dramatic works of medieval Europe, but were only written down and published in the mid-nineteenth century.  The Heartbeet players will present the Shepherd’s Play this year for the ninety children at our local Waldorf school.

A group of coworkers read the Paradise Play this year, which tells the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of humanity from abundance and innocence.  This reading occurs prior to the performance of the Shepherd’s Play.  In the play, the birth of Christ offers the shepherds an opportunity to “shift” perspectives, from their anxiety of unmet needs and fear of not having enough, to appreciating the daily work each of them does and recognizing the abundance in each man that he can offer to this new baby.  As one shepherd, Muckle, reminds the others in reflection on meeting the child:

On Earth is he born in this poor fashion
So that on us he have compassion
And make us rich in Heaven great
That like to angels shall be our state
Yea, poorly is he born this day
That so from pride men turn them away,
And choose not riches and glorification
But to live content in humble station.

What will I take away from this advent season?  A deep sense of gratitude, for all the gifts of this past year, and particularly for the gift of being able to work on the land.  I lead the endeavors of the estate crew.  This year, we completed landscaping projects, recovered from flood damage and cleared new pasture, harvested apples and raspberries, built new structures, and created a beautiful safe play area for the youngest members of Heartbeet.  Advent also means the promise of winter in Vermont, when snow covers the past years’ work in shades of white and grey, and hides any unfinished projects from sight and mind.  My anxieties and accomplishments will be buried for now, and what remains is to try to live content, through the winter, in humble station.

To read more from the Camphill Association Blog click HERE!

Breaking Ground for the Heartbeet Community Center!

The Heartbeet Community is delighted to announce that we are breaking ground for our long awaited Community Center! We hope that you will join us for a celebration of this event on October 23rd, 2015. All are welcome! Please RSVP to info@heartbeet.org so we can count you in!

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Heartbeet in the News

Bob Stuhlmann, father of Chris who lives in Konig House, has written an article that has been featured on www.kidsvt.com. Read on:

A Father’s Expectations Change When His Child is Born With Down Syndrome
By Robert Stuhlmann

Article originally published in www.kidsvt.com, December 2, 2014 (link to article here)Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.15.38 PM

In the summer of 1978, my wife, Tess, and I lay on the grass at an outdoor concert, strains of Mozart flowing through the air. “Here,” she said, placing my hand on her swelling abdomen. I could feel the baby moving to the music. We speculated that our child would become a dancer or a musician — or a football player.

Our healthy baby boy was born early, rosy and in a caul, completely encased in the thin membrane of the amniotic sac. Legend says that children born this way will never drown. It’s a sign of good luck.

We counted his fingers and toes: Ten of each. But when the doctor finally arrived an hour later, he said, “I knew something was wrong. A little Mongolism, maybe.”

His words pierced us like a knife. He was referring to Down syndrome. We’d done everything right. How could this happen?

The day after the birth, a bedraggled social worker arrived at the hospital. It was Saturday, and we could tell she didn’t want to be with us. “You don’t have to keep this child, you know,” she told us. “There are places for children like him.”

I was stunned. Tess was defiant. “He is our son, and we will love him no matter what!” she said.

Still, I had doubts. Seeking guidance, I called a priest friend, Mark, who had adopted a child who was later discovered to have profound disabilities. “I don’t believe in a God who causes children to be born with disabilities,” Mark told me. “I believe in a God who reaches out to us with arms of love.”

Those words resonated with me. In a complicated situation, one thing became clear: Our expectations, not our child, would have to change. Our son wasn’t some sort of karmic payback. Raising him would become an exploration into the meaning of love. We named him Christopher, which is derived from Greek, meaning Christ-bearer.

Chris grew more slowly than other children. He moved at a different pace, and needed constant reminders to complete simple tasks. We had to keep vigilant with schools and the agencies that were required to help him achieve his goals. Fiercely protective, Tess spent the next 20 years advocating for him.

Chris was 29 and living at a residential school in Connecticut for adults with disabilities when he met Annie, who also has Down syndrome. I came over to his apartment one morning to find that she had slept over. Soon after, we took Chris and Annie out for dinner, and she approached me. “You’ve got to talk to Chris about a ring,” she said.

I was happy Chris had found love, but was still concerned about some of the choices the two of them were making. Chris and Annie spent a lot of time together at McDonald’s and were putting on weight. It was clear they needed a healthier lifestyle and more supervision.

Every parent I know with such a child has the same fear: What will happen when we’re gone, or no longer able to care for him? I learned that Chris had a similar fear when I read one of his poems:

The rambling man
Like the preacher’s son
Is looking for a place
To call home. 

Chris found that place a few years ago when he moved to Heartbeet Lifesharing in Hardwick — one of 11 “Camphill communities” in the U.S. and Canada. At Heartbeet, adults with disabilities live and farm together with an experienced team of residential staff.

Annie wasn’t sure she wanted to move to the country. But when she visited Chris there, she changed her mind. The couple decided they wanted to live in a committed relationship. She moved in six months later.

Over the next five years, Heartbeet staff helped Chris and Annie identify their goals and improve their relational skills. Chris needed to speak up for himself; Annie needed to reduce her tendency to speak for him.

Last May, the two of them got engaged in an outdoor ceremony at Heartbeet. With a ring in his hand, Chris knelt on one knee and proposed to her. “Yes! I will!” Annie replied, and he placed the ring on her finger. After a long embrace and dramatic kiss, she held up her finger and jumped for joy.

Knowing that your child has found a caring community and a loving partner is one of any parent’s greatest joys. When the Heartbeet staff told me, “Chris will always have a home here,” tears welled in my eyes. My heart was full.

Chris didn’t become a dancer, or a musician, or a football player. But he sure can swim. He can beat me easily in a 20-yard race, his lean body cutting through the lake waters.

And Christopher has lived up to his name. He has a kind and gentle demeanor and, at times, helps me see to the heart of things.

In a world filled with displaced wanderers looking for a home, Chris has found a place to be with friends — and his love — close to the land and at peace with himself.  And I am grateful.