Eleanor Zimmerman lived in Pine Lodge at the Fellowship Community for over 26 years. She shares how she came to work and live at the Fellowship, her experience of the fire, and her hopes for the future.
Tell us about how you first learned about Waldorf Education and Rudolf Steiner?
I was a public school teacher in Florida in the early 1990s, and I opened up the newspaper one day and there was an article written by a friend of mine who was doing research on Waldorf education. I called her about it, and said what is this all about? She told me a little bit, and there were two study groups in town which I started attending.
To follow that interest in Waldorf education, I took a week’s workshop in Spring Valley, NY at Sunbridge. And then the following year I took a week’s workshop in Colorado.
That lead me to bring certain things to third graders in the public school, and I started getting responses that I had never seen before. And so I became very interested in what Dr. Steiner had brought forward.
I took a sabbatical from public school teaching, and took the orientation year at Sunbridge.
How did you discover the Fellowship Community at that time?
I started volunteering at the Fellowship in the 1990s once a week while attending classes at Sunbridge Institute. I would come for Supper, and stay after Supper and help do the clean up.
I became acquainted with people there, and I met people from all over the world. I saw people of all ages, families that were raising their children in the Fellowship in a certain way that interested me greatly because I had grown up in a small community, a farm situation, as a child myself.
I came to live at the Fellowship in 1993 and work as a Co-worker.
What kind of work did you do over the 24 years that you were a Fellowship Co-worker?
I did a wide variety of work. We all learned [elder] care, we all spent the night [in Hilltop House] once a month. We did gardening work, we did clean ups. We processed food [from the farm]. Just a wide variety of the activities.
I also continued studying the work of Rudolf Steiner in study groups at the Fellowship.
Could you see applications of Steiner’s teachings in the work of the Fellowship?
Absolutely. The medical work was of tremendous interest to me, in how that has played out, in my own life. The social aspects of working towards a better social situation for the whole world is very meaningful to me.
After 24 years, it seemed like time to transition to become a Member. Was there ever a thought of retiring somewhere else?
I never wanted to go anywhere else, this was my new home. In some ways like the farm community that I had grown up in as a child.
How long did you live at Pine Lodge?
26 years! That was the first building I had lived in at the Fellowship, and I never moved.
Were you there on the day of the fire in Pine Lodge?
I was volunteering my time in Hilltop House, facing the fire, and watching the smoke come. I was not in the building.
What was your experience like during, and after the fire?
Tremendous shock. We’ve had fire drills before, the firemen would come and put out whatever it was. That’s what we expected this time, and it was not the same at all.
It was a tremendously different experience. We were in shock watching our beautiful building burn down right before our eyes.
I’m very grateful that all of the members got out safely.
And I’m very grateful for the incredible response from the fire departments.
After studying Steiner for a while, the philosophy, one can have the feeling that things happen for a reason that we can never quite understand.
Maybe not even in this lifetime.
It sounds like a strange thing to say, but maybe something will come from this. That it will bring transformation that we cannot foresee.
Do you see yourself moving back to a Member home in a newly constructed building to replace Pine Lodge?
Definitely, I would like to be offered a space in the new Pine Lodge.
Is there anything that you could visualize or hope for this new building?
I’m trying to keep an open mind. Of course it was wonderful to have the Weavery there, and it was wonderful to have it as a guest center. But, whatever works out I’m sure will be well thought through.
The idea is have other activity come into a building so it’s not just elderly people living in their apartments, and some perhaps isolated, but to open the building to other activities. So I hope that part can continue in the future.
Why is the Fellowship Community a worthy place to receive someone's donation?
It seems to me that the Fellowship stands as a model for a future way of living. A more socially friendly way of living. People not isolated in their own homes. People of all ages, families… with children, who can see this way of life, this farming way of life, as part of their experience. I hope this would be considered a model for the future.
I really truly believe in what is happening here at the Fellowship Community.
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The Fellowship Community is a 501(c)(3) non-profit inter-generational community serving the needs of elders through the phases of aging, from independent apartment living to more direct care, all the way through the end of life, based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy.
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