How 3 women are building community by following their passions and sharing with others

Passion – it is the best word I can come up with to describe how Chelle Lindahl, Paula Youmell, and I approach life and our life’s work. By living and breathing our passion, each of us has carved our niche in building community. We are building Local Living Venture, Hands on Health, and Deep Root Center, and we have each become experts in our fields during this ongoing process.

Paula Youmell

Through our organizations, all three of us are deeply committed to education that takes a holistic approach and informs the whole person; that promotes life long self-directed learning; that helps to sustain the earth and its people; that advocates social justice; that teaches about healthy, whole food and the local food system for dynamic, robust people and the economy; that encourages creativity; and that supports a growing, vibrant North Country community.

Yes, we are teachers, but when you look closely at each of our organizations, we are so much more. Paula, Chelle, and I are collaboratively committed to offering our skills to the community as our obligation, our gift, and our privilege.

Cooperating, collaborating, and community support are concepts that have tangible meaning and a deep, enduring history here in the North Country. This land would not have been developed if not for neighbors helping each other through the hard times. These ideas hold especially true for the three of us, two locally grown and one transplant, who are working to bring these constructs back with an initiative to share thoughts, time, and resources between our own organizations and with any other groups who would like to join us.

Chelle Lindahl – Local Living Venture

Chelle grew up in working class San Francisco, the child of flower children in the 60s. Activism came early, with years of dedication as V.P. to the S.F. Chapter of the National Organization for Women, administration of Mission MediaArts (youth media activism training,) and helping to found a neighborhood dispute resolution service—all while still a teenager. As a restaurant owner, television producer, graphic artist, and avid rower in a cosmopolitan city in her twenties, she was none-the-less compelled to seek simpler ways to –live—and found it when she came to the North Country in 1987!

After an 18-year career at Sun Feather Natural Soaps and creating or supporting multiple other local initiatives, including the North Country Sustainable Energy Fair & Home Tours, Chelle continues that dedication to activism here in the North Country as the Co-Coordinator, and Administrator of the Local Living Venture (formerly the Sustainable Living Project). The LLV is an educational non-profit that promotes the sharing of life skills that fosters sustainability and growth, through workshops and the Local Living Festival held every 18 months, here in the North Country. Their ongoing “resourceful living skills” workshops and the creation of a “homesteading college” to encourage more diversified farming in the area are some of the plans their ambitious organization is committed to for the future.

Paula Youmell – Hands on Health

Paula Youmell grew up in Brasher Falls and is the founder of Hands on Health in Hannawa Falls. She explains that her educational journey toward holistic healing started as a wake-up call during her first few weeks of nursing school at SUNY Canton, 30 years ago. She quickly realized that she needed to gear her life toward healing, not just controlling disease symptoms. Her passion for real, natural, holistic health was ignited, and her holistic healing path lay before her! She describes it as an “amazing, scenic hike beside many wonderful healers, who have shared their wisdom and healing skills. With every step on my path, it is clear to me that life is about living in sync with nature; nature is who we are. When we live as intended, health and healing flow freely. I love my path working with people to improve their health in body, mind, and soul!”

Paula has also written two books in The Whole Food Kitchen Series: Hands on Health, published in 2013 and Early Morning Donuts and Coffee, available to purchase this Fall. Both of these books are written as guides, or as Paula describes them “trail heads.”

Through Hands on Health, Paula provides group classes, one-on-one client services and consulting, workshop presentations, and she recently started the Whole Health and Healing Academy in conjunction with the Local Living Venture.

Maria Corse – Deep Root Center

I also spent my childhood in Brasher, three doors down from Paula, and we graduated in the same class at St. Lawrence Central. After a few detours, which included starting a family of my own, I went back to college and earned a degree in Anthropology. As a non-traditional student, I discovered that people learn best when they are excited and interested in the subject. I also identified my passion for building community through education, voluntarism, and social and environmental justice.

Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning (DRC) is a culmination of learning, observation, hard work, research, and experimentation that I have experienced over the last twelve years. Deep Root Center in downtown Canton is a non-coercive educational option for youth between the ages of 7 and 18 in the St. Lawrence Valley. Students and their parents build an academic plan with their DRC mentor and have the opportunity to participate in classes, one-on-one tutorials, social opportunities, independent research, community service projects, hiking and outdoor activities, and internship or shadowing opportunities. DRC is also collaborating with staff and students at St. Lawrence University to provide an after-school enrichment program to students who attend the local public school.

All three of our organizations have begun as a twinkling, a small kernel of an idea that we have each fostered through passion, dedication, hard work and a life-time commitment to the health of our community.

Through our initiative of encouraging collaboration, cooperation, and sharing among our own and other organizations, we envision a vibrant and thriving North Country economy that fosters and supports new businesses, young farmers and diversified farms, activists, social and economic equality, outside-the-box thinkers, true healing of health challenges, and, most importantly, happy, fulfilled citizens.

This vision is what brings us together as sisters and what enlivens our work in and for the community. We invite others to join our circle or to welcome us into yours. That is how “community” grows.