Friendship Village: Building a Dream

9 Dec

Nearly 25 years ago I walked into the Learning Center for Human Development in Mayfield Heights, Ohio and met the woman who was to become my Spiritual Mentor and Elder, Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha.

I also began an incredible adventure that is still unfolding.

What is today a beautiful Retreat and Conference Center in the scenic hills of southeastern Ohio’s Noble County, Friendship Village has been a nearly quarter-century labor of love for a group of volunteers from all over the world.

Unlike many facilities, this was built without grants or public funding. A committed group of volunteers, myself included, gave of our time and resources to build a dream – a place, in the spirit of the traditional indigenous Peace Villages of Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha’s people, where people from all walks of life could gather in Respect – to visit, to live, to rest and renew. It was also a place where visionaries could come to share their dreams of humanitarian projects or personal aspirations and have support from others.

From its modest beginnings of turn-of-the-century 2-story farm house and a century old barn, Friendship Village International Retreat and Conference Center grew into a facility that includes 4 cabins that can be rented; a public lodge with semi-private rooms and dorms where individuals, families and groups can stay; a gift shop, and Bear Lodge, a conference facility that can accommodate 50-60 people for meetings.

Also on site is an Ancient Village – constructed solely by volunteer labor and funding as well – tracing human development through early forms of housing and shelters. There’s a Stone House, Stick House, Mud House, three eras of Log Cabins, a Ceremonial Dance Arbor and a 7-sided Council House that was used by the southeastern woodlands people for self-government (utilizing Principles and practices that served as some of the foundations for the U.S. Constitution), as well as a Summer Kitchen and Pavilion (all of which can be rented).

Countless weekends I left work on Friday, drove 2 hours from Cleveland and worked like crazy through late Sunday night. As an “extended family” we worked hard but we also spent evenings singing and drumming together, listening to stories from Grandmother Pa’Ris’Ha, and enjoying wonderful feasts! Sometimes I got back just in time to shower and go to work Monday morning. I was one of many with the same commitment – some who drove a lot further than I.

I remember one year we had a building deadline we needed to meet by the first of the year. So a handful of us decided to spend Christmas through New Years to get the job done. I will always remember working on laying tile on the floor of Eagle Lodge (the public lodge) close to midnight on December 24th. The front door opened and in came Grandmother Parisha singing Christmas carols to us!

We worked and feasted and made our timeline of completion that season, despite some bone-chilling cold and other challenges. It was one of the best holidays of my life!

Over the years we’ve had resident staff with children who have since grown and are making an impact on the world as the result of the rich experiences they had while growing up at Friendship Village. We hosted international guests, including a Tibetan Buddhist Lama on several occasions, and many other distinguished teachers and leaders from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Christmas is approaching and if you live nearby, Friendship Village, located in Summerfield Ohio, is easily accessible from Interstate 77, about 35 minutes north of Marietta Ohio. It’s 2 hours from Columbus OH; 2 hours from Pittsburg PA. There are plenty of local attractions to round out a family weekend, or group retreat.

There’s an intangible that people speak of when they come to Friendship Village: a feeling of Serenity; Peacefulness; a Renewing of Spirit. Personally, I think they’re connecting with all the laughter and love that’s gone into its creation. Many of us spent a fair portion of our lives building the dream.

The reward of our labors is having it filled with people who enjoy it and return often!


©2010 Deborah Adler. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Friendship Village: Building a Dream”


  1. Tweets that mention Friendship Village: Building a Dream « Deb Adler's Weblog -- - December 10, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan Gee, Kasia Brown. Kasia Brown said: Friendship Village: Building a Dream « Deb Adler's Weblog: … Friendship Village International Retreat and Conf… […]

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