Big Laurel Learning Center
Seed Scale Grows Community 
Grace, Jean, Justin, and JacobBy Grace Williams, Director
     Tashi’s gray, fuzzy back enters the camera shot as her paws tiptoe across my keyboard, her tail swishing onto everyone else’s Zoom screen.
    The necessary string of blue letters, numbers, and symbols has instantly linked the Big Laurel dining room to the other rooms already gathered on the screen in front of me.
    A lit Christmas tree peeks out from behind someone’s shoulder. In another home, a dog can be seen snoozing on the floor. Kathy and Gretchen join us from St. Joe’s, their cozy kitchen in the background.
    We are coming together to grow and sustain Big Laurel, technology offering each of us an intimate glimpse into the respective homes and lives of our community of leaders.
    So what exactly does community development in 2020 at Big Laurel entail?
    It doesn’t look like anything we could have anticipated. There are times when we are uncertain and frustrated. But we are also sharing many memories, stories, laughter, and ideas. In some ways we are more connected than ever through lots of phone calls, videos, and emails.
    When our normally bustling schedule of visitors, retreats, and camps seemed to screech to a halt earlier this year, we found ourselves searching for guidance and growth. As if on cue, I received an email invitation for an online course.
    After a few phone calls, prayers, and scholarships, I was enrolled in Future Generations University’s Intro to Community Change class.
    Every Thursday morning, despite the challenges of spotty internet service, civil unrest, and a global pandemic, activists in India, Nepal, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and the United States join a virtual classroom.
    Our assignments in the course involve learning and implementing the SEED (Self Evaluation and Effective Decision-making) Scale method of development in our own communities.
    SEED Scale brings into focus small groups of people who share common hopes and dreams. Then, instead of looking at our problems and needs, it allows us to identify our assets, resources, and local successes. This positive perspective encourages growth and creates momentum.
    As you know, our Big Laurel community is spread out across the country. You are our friends, donors, volunteers, campers, mentors, students, alumni, and board members. Together, through conversations and action, we are developing community and initiating change.
    In a way, through your dedicated support, Big Laurel has been practicing SEED Scale for decades.
    This course has simply offered us another lens. Over the past few months, mentors, donors, teachers, and board members have been hosting regular online Zoom meetings.
    We are learning how to grow and improve a few of our local successes:  the intentional environment that puts campers and students at ease and allows them to express emotions in healthy ways; the culture of acceptance and diversity that welcomes each person just as they are; the encouragement for students to set obtainable goals; and the inclusion of parents and family members in the larger Big Laurel community.
    During the 2021 spring semester and summer camps, we plan to implement a curriculum that promotes social and emotional learning through healthy connections with the natural world.
    We have received a generous grant from the Pallottine Foundation of Huntington that will fund this process and allow for our staff and volunteers to receive evidence-based training on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma-informed teaching approaches, and integration of social and emotional intelligence within outdoor education.
    We are excited for our next success and we hope you’ll join us! Do you have ideas, expertise, or resources that you’d like to share?
     Interested in supporting us financially? While we have received a grant for this program, many costs such as salary, insurance, maintenance, and utilities are still not covered. Donate today at
    Just want to listen in and learn more? Email us and we’ll get you looped into our next team meeting.
    Finally, we always need your continued prayers, love, and positive energy! 
Mother Jones Award
    We are proud to announce that Sr. Kathy and Sr. Gretchen are the most recent recipients of the West Virginia Mine War Museum’s Mother Jones Hellraiser Award.
     As a part of the 3rd Annual Red Bandana Awards, Kathy and Gretchen are recognized for their embodiment of Mother Mary Harris Jones’ commitment to justice and for their work with children and families.
     Our friends at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum in Matewan recently reopened in their new, larger location. We hope you’ll check out their exhibits the next time you’re in Mingo County!
In Loving Memory of Patrick Barnes
    This newsletter is dedicated to Patrick Barnes, nephew of Sr. Kathy, son of Norman Barnes and Sherry O’Hagan.
    Patrick traveled from Glen Mills, PA to join us in loving service and community at Big Laurel during the month of October.
    Contributing his time and talents through tutoring, playing guitar, splitting firewood, caring for animals, and cooking, he was a joy to work and live with.
    Patrick went home to God on November 23, 2020. He is deeply missed and loved.

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PO Box 266 Kermit, WV 25674

Board of Directors
Sr. Lillian Jordan, President
Lydia Noyes, Secretary
Elizabeth Collins
Rebecca Hooker
Pat Mosunic
Jennifer Sartin
Jeff Varney
Jacob Zondag
If you or someone you know would make a good board member, fill out an application at


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PO Box 266 Kermit, WV 25674 | 304-393-4103 

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Big Laurel Learning Center · PO Box 991 · Kermit, WV 25674 · USA

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