Past Events

  • Heart & Soul Talks
    Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    Gathering, listening to, and sharing stories strengthens the fabric of the community by bringing people together in conversations about what they love about where they live and what they’d like to change. Hearing from residents can also lead to discoveries that the community immediately rallies around, such as an 1870s African-American church in Pennsylvania or a historic theater in Colorado.  Three speakers, each with different but meaningful experiences, share how storytelling enriches a community and leads to positive change.


    - Mimi Iijima is the Director of Programs and Special Projects for Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Mimi leads PHC’s effort to strengthen communities through the humanities and by bringing Community Heart & Soul to towns in the Keystone state.  

    - Dani Smith is the great-great-granddaughter of a Civil War soldier who served in the U.S. Colored Troops. Story gathering by the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul Project led to the discovery of an 1870s African-American church and cemetery, where Dani’s family discovered their ancestor. Her family has since been instrumental in the early steps of preservation of the church and cemetery.

    - Elaine Brett is a resident of the North Fork Valley in Colorado. She was active in that community’s Heart & Soul project and played a key role in creating the nonprofit that bought and renovated the town’s historic Paradise Theatre, relying on a state grant and funds raised locally and globally online. She has over thirty years of experience in facilitation, strategic planning and management in commercial, non-profit, and governmental sectors.  Currently, she is on the boards of The Friends of the Paradise Theatre, the Western Colorado Community Foundation, and Downtown Colorado, Inc.   

    -Fran Stoddard is a communications consultant with Orton and will serve as the moderator for this event. A national award-winning producer of video programs, Fran served as producer and host of Vermont Public Television’s weekly “Profile” interview program for more than a decade.  She frequently serves as moderator for community events and has served on numerous non-profit boards including the Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Journalism Trust, Vermont Mozart Festival, Burlington City Arts, Vermont International Film Foundation, and Vermont Public Radio. 

  • Conference Session
    Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 3:15pm - 5:15pm Eastern

    MODERATOR Alece Montez-Griego, Director of Programs, Orton Family Foundation


    • R. Mimi Iijima, Director of Programs and Special Projects, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
    • Chris King, Community Organizer, Galesburg, IL
    • Jane Lafleur, Senior Consultant, Lift360

    Using the fun, inspiring and entertaining PechaKucha format of 20 slides-20 seconds each, presenters from communities around the country describe the transformational results of the Community Heart and Soul process. Heart and Soul enhances the competitive strength of communities and creates resiliency and wealth. This innovative process identifies what matters most to your community so you can carry out programs, policies and investments with confidence that they are the right ones for your community. Data on new jobs, businesses, vacancy rates and new people running for office will demonstrate the convincing and transforming qualities of this approach.


    • Participants will learn how Community Heart and Soul engages all voices to discover what matters most to residents.
    • Participants will learn tangible results from Heart and Soul, and how it positively changes community wealth and prosperity.
    • Participants will learn of the support network from champions and coaches to begin their own Community Heart and Soul.
  • Heart & Soul Talks
    Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    Deep community engagement gives local leaders the courage to take risks that lead to positive change. The Orton Family Foundation pioneered the community development method Community Heart & Soul® based on that premise. On this call, you’ll hear how three leaders went beyond a "check the box" approach to engagement, working with residents to create ambitious plans that have led to dramatic and lasting results in their towns.


    --Jim Bennett, city manager, Biddeford, Maine, and past ICMA president. Community engagement led the city to buy and tear down an incinerator in the downtown, spurring major revitalization. Jim has an impressive history of public service in Maine, beginning at the age of 21 as an elected municipal official. Over his 35 years of municipal service, the communities he has served have received a number of recognitions, including All-American City designation. He has been recognized by ICMA for several outstanding programs implemented under his direction as well as awarded the Manager of the Year by Maine Town and City Managers Association. 

    --Mike Bestor, former city manager, Golden, Colorado, and ICMA member. Empowered by the input of more than 2,000 local residents, city staff revamped development review guidelines to ensure growth aligns with what residents want for their town’s future.

    --Kirsten Sackett, community development director, Ellensburg, Washington. Kirsten led a Community Heart & Soul project in Cortez, Colorado that got a diverse group of residents participating in local government and built bridges to underrepresented communities. She liked the results so much she’s doing the same thing in Ellensburg.

    Presented in partnership with International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

  • Citizens' Institute on Rural Design
    Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    Pooling resources and cooperating across town boundaries is a great way for rural communities to gain efficiencies and improve quality of life. Join our free 60-minute webinar to hear how small towns are working together to support each other.

    Speakers on the webinar are:

    - Brett Schwartz, program manager, National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation. NADO offers a myriad of programs aimed at cross-border cooperation including training, research, and peer networking services in the areas of economic and disaster resilience, transportation, and sustainable community development.

    - Sarah Lucas, AICP, regional planning department manager, Networks Northwest. Sarah works closely with local governments, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders in northwest Michigan on a variety of community issues, including housing and economic development. She also coordinates and facilitates public outreach strategies and conducts in-depth community research and analysis.

    - Lori Meadows, executive director, Kentucky Arts Council. Lori has headed up the Kentucky Arts Council since 2005. Her work has included convening a 54-county Appalachian region to initiate economic growth and development through arts-related tools, resources and ideas.

    - Susan DuPlessis, program director, South Carolina Arts Commission. Susan has a wide range of experience in creative, place-based work including co-directing several significant partnerships including the four-state Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission, South Carolina's Rural Promise Zone and the Riley Institute at Furman University. Susan will share highlights from a pilot project, The Art of Community: Rural SC, which is part of the South Carolina Promise Zone initiative.

    This event is brought to you by Orton Family Foundation and the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design™.

  • Conference Session
    Friday, November 11, 2016 - 11:00am - 12:00pm Eastern
    How can partnerships with philanthropic organizations help state humanities councils expand their constituents, audiences, and ability to shape how we understand and respond to the major challenges of our time? With case studies from Pennsylvania and Michigan, this roundtable discussion will examine how foundations are looking to the humanities to address issues of critical relevance to contemporary society and make real changes in the nation. Michigan and Pennsylvania council staff will discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by new initiatives created by partnerships with foundations, and representatives from the Kellogg and Orton Family Foundations will share their perspectives on collaborating with state humanities councils in order to make social change.
    Speakers: Robbe DiPietro, Michigan Humanities Council; Joe Cialdella, Michigan Humanities Council; Laurie Zierer, Pennsylvania Humanities Council; David Leckey, Orton Foundation; Mimi Iijima, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
    Moderator: Shelly Kasprzycki, Michigan Humanities Council
  • Heart & Soul Talks
    Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    From farm-to-table restaurants and food co-ops to craft breweries and tech startups, it’s an exciting time for small town businesses. Cultivating those businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs is key to thriving local economies. Our panelists, who have owned businesses, worked with entrepreneurs, and helped make their downtowns vibrant, share the secrets of their success.

    Speakers are:

    Becky McCray, business owner, author, and publisher of Small Biz Survival, a blog about the challenges and successes of doing business in a small town. Her no-nonsense perspective on local economies lands her in publications from The New York Times to The High Plains Journal. Home is Hopeton, Oklahoma (pop. 30).

    Joe Wasson, business owner;  founder,  McComb Economic Development Organization;  project coordinator,  McComb Region Heart & Soul.  Joe owned and managed his family’s furniture business in downtown McComb, Ohio, (pop. 1,600), which closed in 2013. Since then he has worked tirelessly to recruit new businesses to town, forming the McComb Economic Development Organization and securing a grant for a regional Community Heart & Soul project.

    Patrick Wright, executive director, Gardiner Main Street;  economic and community development coordinator, Gardiner, Maine (pop. 6,000). Patrick has been front and center in the revitalization of Gardiner’s downtown. In addition to being a partner in the town’s Community Heart & Soul project, Gardiner Main Street is one of three partners in the Gardiner Growth Initiative, an incentive program for  drawing businesses to the town.

  • Conference Session
    Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 10:00am - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 10:00am Eastern

    Find Orton staff and Heart & Soul towns at the 2016 NADO Conference in San Antonio, Texas. 

    Learn the Identity of Your Community and Reach Those Missing Voices

    Sunday, October 16, 2016


    Rio Grande Center/West

    This hands-on learning lab will introduce participants to Community Heart & Soul™, a resident-driven community development method. Field-tested for more than a decade, Heart & Soul increases participation in local decisionmaking and empowers residents to shape their communities based on what matters most. Using experiential exercises, participants will conduct a mini “community network analysis” to identify and engage missing voices; explore how personal stories are used to understand what matters most to a community; and learn strategies for employing a community’s heart and soul to drive local decision-making and action. Resident experts who have gone through the Heart & Soul process will share strategies and techniques from their experience. 


    Creative Public Engagement Methods

    Monday, October 17, 2016


    Regency East 1 – 3 

    This session will highlight creative methods for engaging diverse groups of residents so that everyone can have a say in the future of their community. Hear how towns have used the Orton Family Foundation Community Heart & Soul™ method to involve new voices, and through the process, created plans that both endure and thrive.

  • Conference Session
    Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:30pm - 1:30pm Eastern

    Hear how Community Heart & Soul incorporates creative placemaking at Next Generation: A Rural Creative Placemaking Summit. The summit is designed to enhance cross-sector collaboration, elevate intercultural perspectives within the field, and build policy presence for deeper consideration of rural creative placemaking.

    The Orton Family Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque have been working together on Community Heart & Soul,™ a process designed to increase participation in local decision-making and empower residents to shape the future of their communities. Workshop participants will be inspired by examples of arts & creative placemaking projects in Heart & Soul towns and learn how to use storytelling to identify common cause and employ community values to shape the physical places where people work and live.

    Panel Members:

    • Alexis Halbert, Senior Associate of Programs, Orton Family Foundation, Paonia, CO
    • Jason Neises, Community Development Coordinator, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

    More information and event registration:

  • Heart & Soul Talks
    Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    The arts can be a creative, meaningful, and effective way to engage residents, particularly those who might not otherwise get involved. In this free 60-minute talk you’ll hear how communities come together using the arts as part of Community Heart & Soul™.

    Presenters include:

    Lindsay Varner, project director, Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul in Pennsylvania. Lindsay is using her background in oral history to inspire storytelling efforts in Carlisle.

    Debbie Moreno, project coordinator, Galesburg on Track in Illinois. Galesburg has tapped local artists in a variety of creative ways, including a portrait project, logo contest, and expressing residents’ ideas as art.

    Vasanthi Meyette was an active volunteer in her town’s Community Heart & Soul project in Essex, Vermont, which included a community-wide arts project called Mobilize Essex. More than 70 volunteers and dozens of students from six schools teamed up to create mobiles. The mobiles represent the shared community  values that emerged from Essex’s Heart & Soul project and hang for all to see at businesses and public buildings in town.


  • Heart & Soul Talks
    Thursday, August 18, 2016 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm Eastern

    One of the long-term benefits of Community Heart & Soul™ is the partnerships that are created. Heart & Soul helps organizations and institutions connect and work together in ways that they might not have otherwise.

    In this free call you’ll hear from individuals representing organizations large and small that have benefited from connecting through Heart & Soul.


    • Laurie Zierer, executive director, Pennsylvania Humanities Council
    • Delilah Poupore, executive director, Heart of Biddeford in Biddeford, Maine
    • Richard James, volunteer, Heart of Williamsport in Williamsport, Pennsylvania