How does one go about having a property valued at over $8M gifted to a cause? It starts with a desire, a belief in something for the highest good. At least that is how it started for SWSI. SWSI is the acronym for Sweet Water Sustainability Institute which is located on a 144 acre historic former boarding school campus located near the base of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Scottie Cloninger is a visionary. Scottie is also an AVEDA salon stylist who lives with his partner, Eric in the small east Tennessee town of Sweetwater. Living just steps away from this beautiful campus with its picturesque rolling hills, castle like buildings and Japanese cherry blossom trees. Yet there was something amiss in Scottie’s mind. The campus had sat empty since March of 2007 when the Japanese high school, Tennessee Meiji Gakuin had closed due to lack of enrollment. What he saw was a gorgeous, historic property sitting empty, alone and crumbling but the best part was, that wasn’t all he could see. He saw a resurgence of energy there, a place for all ages and walks of life. A place for art, agriculture, wellness and sustainable living practices.
Although he had shared this vision with a few of his clients, friends and neighbors it wasn’t until I re-connected with him after 20+ years that it began to sprout. Scottie and I had met when I was 18 and he was 22, we had become instant friends but had lost each other along the way of life. After reconnecting via facebook, my children and I visited Scottie at the salon where he mentioned briefly the campus and what it ‘could’ be. Being a visionary myself, I acknowledged the potential but had no idea what would occur in the months to follow from Scottie’s brief suggestion implanted into my mind about the campus.
Weeks later in meditation, the campus appeared. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant but had learned to watch thoughts float by in meditation without attaching more thought to them. Like a cloud floating along the sky off it went. Then next day, and the next brought the same cloud of thought about this mysterious campus. Finally after several days, I decided that it must have meaning attached to it so I investigated via the internet. I discovered a couple of interesting things upon first glance.
The campus sat upon 144 acres, on the corner of highway 11 and highway 322. I looked up the satellite view of the campus on the internet and upon viewing the word SOLAR came across my mind. I was intrigued to say the least, so I telephoned Scottie and relayed the story about the meditations and the appearance of the campus into my psyche.
Scottie laughed and was delighted at my new found interest in something he had been consciously dreaming about for years. As we spoke on the phone and began to daydream collectively about all of the possibilities the campus had to offer, our imaginations ran wild! We found ourselves instant messaging on-line as if our ideas and visions already existed.
My interests prompted me to share the possibilities with some friends of mine. One of the first people I shared it with is highly intuitive and her response to me was, “Oh, Tricia! I see it, I see it all and it happens all very quickly!” I thought to myself, wow, really? How could it be? After all, we were just visioning, right?
As we continued to talk about the property I began connecting with other people and sharing it’s existance and the level of interest in creating a place for the southeastern United States for holistic, integrative learning. The thought of creating something like this rang true for several people within my network of friends which was exciting! The circles expanded and interconnected.
On January 27, 2010, I mailed a letter snail mail to the owner of the property, the Japanese university Meiji Gakuin, inquiring about the campus and our desire to tour the facility. In just a little over a week we received a favorable reply. According to the letter, the university had been longing for someone to do something with the campus and our concept had touched them in some way.
I won’t discount that there are Divine forces working within the Universe or Multi-verses and that energy was working with the synchronicity of all things surrounding this story. And as we all have discovered along the way of this vision, it has certainly been woven out of that kind of essence.
The response went on to state, that depending on, our group and our detailed plan that the university would be willing to ‘provide’ us with the campus. Provide? Provide? What did that mean? Instantly, it came to me that this campus was going to be a gift.
And so that was it, a gift. Less than one calendar year later and many trials and tribulations, the deed was transferred for the campus to be transformed into a multi-functional, educational, non-profit institution available to all ages, from children to elders, concentrating on health, wellness, creative expression, agriculture, and sustainable living practices encompassing all aspects of the mind, body and spirit.
To support the cultivation of ecological sustainability with the practices of organic farming and gardening, permaculture, composting systems, green building, alternative and appropriate energy technologies including solar, wind power, locally sourced art and hand crafts.
To become a model of a truly sustainable community, that will support the health and quality of life of present and future generations and to recognize the need for fairness, and for physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural, and spiritual sustenance.
The property of this GIFT includes 144 acres of land, 14 buildings with 111,000+ square feet of indoor space that include two gymnasiums, fitness center, indoor competition size pool, recreation center with café , multiple classrooms, administrative offices, dormitory buildings with over 100 rooms, 8 apartments, science lab, 250 seat cafeteria, ¼ mile track, baseball field, stable, fields, forest and meadows.
A vision, a thought, a dream brought forth from the ethers into our field of reality. What forces were at play for the manifestation of a miracle such as this? With the gift comes great responsibility of everyone to be good stewards of what has been given. This is a place for everyone. A place to come and experience a holistic, integrative lifestyle that teaches as it is done. As we begin this transformation we call forth to those who know to share with others how to do it. We call to those who have resources to share for the transformation. Some may come with checkbooks and pens who can write numbers with many zeros. Others may come who possess skills for building or alternative energy sources. Some will come who have compassion and wisdom to guide the ones who need guiding for the doing that will need to be done. My deepest desire is that those who feel called to assist in this grassroots journey will come to SWSI to be a part of the transformation and assist with solutions and ideas of creating a model on this land and within the walls of all of the buildings there.
Every one of us comes to this lifetime with skills and knowledge and purpose. SWSI is about being engaged in that purpose whether it is being healed or being a healer, to teach or learn, to nurture or be nurtured, to express creatively by dance, voice, instrument or artistically.
SWSI has many chapters yet to be written to reach its goal of becoming the south’s premier holistic and sustainable living institute and SWSI needs you and me and who ever feels the call to be a part of that process. SWSI needs funding and beds and shovels and rakes. SWSI needs hearts, hands and heads to come together to co-create the vision and assist in manifesting more miracles. SWSI is a place for everyone, and you are invited to participate in any way you can. Visit our web site at www.swsiusa.org and connect with SWSI.
Wellness, creativity, personal growth, agriculture and living sustainably upon the planet all sustain us in our human experience. Upon those tenets we achieve balance in mind, body and spirit. Being balanced is living in a way to manifest miracles daily. I purposefully left one thing out of the story until the end, prior to the campus being a Japanese high school it was a military institute. Now that’s a paradigm shift!