Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Supporters,
The first time I discovered the work of Nikwasi Initiative, I was awed by the creativity that must have welled up in this community in order to achieve such extraordinary outcomes. Not many local groups could be so effective, and I allowed myself to feel a bond to a collection of people who can faithfully work together to translate big dreams into brilliant reality. Yours is a very special neighborhood of people.
Perhaps, what is most exciting to me about Nikwasi Initiative is that it is about life — the lives of yesterday, the people of today, and those that will follow, tomorrow — all woven together in culture and heritage.
Suddenly, I am elated to find myself humbly filling the role of Executive Director for Nikwasi Initiative. In this role, I recognize that my responsibility extends well beyond the core of the organization, to the entire community and even to the region. It is your culture and your heritage that I hope to preserve and to elevate through education and awareness, even nationwide.
And, I don’t think any river of activity, in my experience, has flowed smoothly without the churning influence of rocks in the watercourse, or stormy whitecaps turned up by the wind — and the arrival of Covid-19 has definitely flooded the well-established plans for my first weeks with Nikwasi Initiative. But rivers find new channels, and storm floods bring new growth, so the amazing Board of Directors at Nikwasi Initiative is working closely with me to adapt to the “shelter-in-place” situation. You see, I’m sheltering on a mountain in Oregon, where I have lived for the past decade. I was planning to be in Franklin by April 1, to greet you in person. In fact, I am living amidst the canyons of cardboard boxes that were packed and ready to go on a U-Haul truck last week. So, please be assured, this gifts me with plenty of time to begin the planning, paperwork, and communications that are so much a part of an Executive Director’s work. Like you, I will make do and seek opportunity where it arises.
Perhaps you are wondering who I am, and why I’ve been selected to guide Nikwasi Initiative in its next steps. Like with each of you, my story is a lengthy and interesting one, so I’ll share the basics. I am a woman who has contributed her life to the intersection of people, cultures, and landscapes. I have been an Executive Director with three prior organizations — an outdoor education center, a large river and landscape restoration organization, and a healing arts start-up. At the same time, I consulted for countless other nonprofits. I studied forestry in undergraduate school and received a master’s degree in business leadership. But, if you really want to know the person who will guide Nikwasi Initiative forward, it would be good to look to the many other jobs I’ve enjoyed, including time spent as a teacher, farmer, forester, wilderness guide, ski patrolman, and knitting instructor. I’ve volunteered in Hospice, Girl and Boy Scouts, Meals-on-wheels, and many community groups. Currently, I serve as an advisor to the EPA on Environmental Education. I love to write, walk, jog, garden, recite poetry, learn languages, and play music. So drop me a note sometime at Nikwasi. I’d love to learn about your interests too.
There is one final message that I’d like to share: The people who have dedicated long, hard hours to kindle the flame of Nikwasi Initiative are extraordinary! From the wise consultants at Catalpa Partners, and the knowing staff at Mainspring Conservation Trust to local leaders, and especially those who stepped up to join the Nikwasi Partners and Board of Directors, each person I’ve met sets my heart to pumping with excitement, because every single individual is stellar. Together, they seem to create a positive energy that is unstoppable. I’ve worked with a lot of groups. This one exceeds the capacity of all the others I’ve encountered. So, if you aren’t familiar with the work of the Nikwasi Initiative, or if you want to learn more, please join us at a meeting or event and learn how you can become a part of this extraordinary energy too.
And… to you, your loved ones, and family: May you find health in the coming months, strength in the challenges that linger before you, and peace in your daily contemplations.
With Deepest Sincerity,
Elaine Eisenbraun, Executive Director