By Margaret Magnus
When Meher Mount’s fiscal year started on July 1, 2017, the year-long goal was to update the Master Plan. There was a community meeting in July along with an online survey to solicit comments for the next version of the plan.
TOP PRIORITIES FROM THE COMMUNITY MEETING & SURVEY
Following the community meeting and survey, the Board of Directors identified five major projects:
Baba’s Fireplace and Courtyard – Develop and implement a plan for improved use in a remembrance of Avatar Meher Baba’s visit.
Water System – Upgrade the system for greater reliability and simplicity.
Sustainable Revenue – Identify sources for ongoing revenue.
Volunteer Work Days – Create more on-site volunteer opportunities.
Planned Giving – Develop a planned-giving program with an endowment option.
Then, on December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire struck Meher Mount. It seemed initially that master planning would be set aside to focus on fire recovery. On the contrary.
MASTER PLAN GUIDES RECOVERY
The discussions from the previous months, which supplemented the existing Master Plan, served as guiding principles for fire recovery and renewal.
It was as if the recent planning process had been particularly designed to guide recovery projects. Specific actions outlined in the plan became part of the recovery and renewal effort.
A GREATER FOCUS ON BABA’S FIREPLACE
The Thomas Fire and high winds badly damaged Baba’s Tree. Steps were taken to help the tree survive and grow.
Now, Baba’s Tree is to remain in seclusion for several years while it recovers. As a result, the focus has shifted to other Meher Baba touchstones at Meher Mount.
The plan for Baba’s Fireplace has taken on even greater urgency. This fireplace was part of the guesthouse where Meher Baba met with His followers in 1956.
Specific fire-related projects – the use of wood from Baba’s Tree to create outdoor benches; installation of new doors and windows in the Visitor Center; removal of the burned Eucalyptus tree stand; and repairs to the Visitor Center – all became part of the plan for Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard.
Volunteers also started uncovering an original sandstone walkway leading to Baba’s Fireplace.
The fireplace and walkway are important artifacts from His visit – particularly since the 1985 New Life Fire destroyed almost everything else on the property.
WATER TREATMENT SYSTEM IS IMPROVED
One of the first priorities in fire recovery was getting the water system working. That effort took five months. In the process, new elements – not available in 2004 when the system was initially established – were put in place.
The system is still not simpler, because Meher Mount’s water is still complex. However, important parts of the system were upgraded for greater reliability and longevity.
A POSSIBLE SOURCE OF ADDITIONAL, SUSTAINABLE REVENUE
There will always be an Annual Fund Campaign to solicit donations to support ongoing operations. However, additional sources of sustainable revenue can give Meher Mount a stronger financial base.
The question is always – What are those sources of revenue?
The fire damage to Baba’s Tree created an opportunity. Both ashes and wood were salvaged. The wood was milled and stored for future use.
Individual supporters sent emails and posted on social media their suggestions for using wood from Baba’s Tree as a source of future donations.
The board is in the process of developing a policy and plan for use of the wood – both at Meher Mount and as a source of donations.
THE COMMUNITY SUPPORTS VOLUNTEER WORK DAYS
As news of the Thomas Fire reached the Meher Baba community, there were offers to help with fire clean-up.
Fire recovery spurred multiple volunteer days: fire cleanup, caring for Baba’s Tree, harvesting and storing Baba’s Tree wood, weeding and mowing to get ready for fire abatement inspection, and general repairs.
The community responded and volunteered, even coming all the way from New York. Thank you. There are more volunteer days scheduled.
Meher Mount also installed a new app — Volunteers for Salesforce — for Salesforce’s constituency relationship management (CRM) program.
Meher Mount is using this app to track volunteers and hours, starting with Master Plan participation.
PLANNED GIVING IS ON THE AGENDA
Now that fire recovery is completed, it’s time to turn attention to the next top priority: planned giving with an endowment option.
There is a board meeting scheduled for November 2018 to discuss feasibility, implications and the possible next steps.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE MASTER PLAN
Meher Mount’s Master Plan and the resulting projects are based on five guiding principles.
Facilitate the remembrance of Avatar Meher Baba – To maintain Meher Mount as a medium for remembering Avatar Meher Baba and to honor His presence at Meher Mount.
Nurture divine love and oneness through nature – To preserve the natural environment and to support opportunities for loving God through nature.
Support pilgrimage to Meher Mount – To facilitate day pilgrimage with the least impact to Meher Mount.
Be good stewards – To preserve Meher Mount for future generations with thoughtful and careful stewardship.
Provide opportunities for service – To honor Agnes Baron’s legacy by creating opportunities for selfless service.
A PLAN FOR ALL TIME
A master plan is a living, breathing and changing road map. Its role is to provide a rationale, a vision, continuity, and guidance for today and for the future.
Meher Mount’s Master Plan definitely served its purpose during fire recovery and renewal.