Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

A Southern Interpretation of Sacred

06/12/18 | View Comments

In the hills of Northeast Alabama, a new network of 18 Sacred Places is about to begin taking shape.

Photo by Elijah Hail on Unsplash

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Get briefed: The Connection between Mental Health and Nature

05/03/18 | View Comments

This week marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one-in-five Americans is affected by mental health conditions, and they impact the young as well as the old – and everyone in between.

While there are many potential culprits as well as treatment measures, this we know: being in nature helps fight depression and improve mental health and wellbeing. And the benefits of nature can be immediate.

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What exactly is a Firesoul?

04/20/18 | View Comments

A champion of community & a catalyst for change.

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Baltimore prepares to meet national 10 minute walk campaign challenge

03/16/18 | View Comments

Just a few months ago, a bold and ambitious new challenge was laid down by a coalition of nonprofits seeking to bring meaningful greenspaces within a 10-minute walk of every American. Among the 134 mayors who were already signed on at launch — Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, whose vision for the city smartly integrates a strong green component.

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Creativity blooms in Northeast Alabama

03/09/18 | View Comments

Community foundation accepting grant applications for 18 Sacred Places that will take shape this year

Seven hundred miles from the site of the first TKF Sacred Place, a new network of 18 – spread across nine counties in Northeast Alabama – will begin appearing later this year. The spaces, supported by a health fund established close to a century ago, represent a modern interpretation of what it means to foster the health of a community.

This is the first instance of the TKF concept for creating healing greenspaces being picked up and used as a pattern to create a whole network of new spaces at once.

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Parents, communities take note: Teens need nature too.

02/09/18 | View Comments

Over the past decade, parents of young children have been told repeatedly by experts of many stripes: make sure your children are given ample opportunity to spend time outdoors. The benefits to young bodies and minds are many: Greater confidence, increased creativity, reduced stress, to name a few.

Yet, similar missives have been largely absent when it comes to teens. Sure, as a parent, the challenge of encouraging a 14-year old, who would rather be in her room on her smartphone, to amble outdoors is an altogether different situation than chasing after an eager six-year-old itching for the opportunity to climb a tree.

But the fact is, with experts sounding an alarm about the swelling rates of depression and anxiety among teens, we should be thinking of nature as equally essential to our older children as to our younger ones; equally essential to their health and wellbeing.

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A DC Firesoul takes a trip down South

01/26/18 | View Comments

Steve Coleman meets with Alabama Community Foundation as it prepares to bring “Sacred Places” to the state

A few months ago, we received an email from a community foundation in Alabama; the kind of mail that sends a ripple of excitement through our office. The foundation, one of several we’d mailed a copy of our book — Open Spaces Sacred Places: Stories of How Nature Heals and Unifies — had been struck by what they saw and read.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, which serves nine counties in the northeast corner of the state, saw in the Sacred Places concept, a new path for working to improve community health. Our message had resonated; in this area of the country far removed from our current footprint, we had successfully planted a seed.

To help introduce the idea to their community, they asked that we send someone to speak at the foundation’s annual gathering of state and community leaders; community members and foundation trustees and supporters. We turned to one of our longest serving Firesouls, Steve Coleman, who is also the longtime executive director and president of Washington Parks & People.

Steve was a Firesoul before we coined the term. The greenspaces he’s helped cultivate are found in some of DC’s most challenged neighborhoods. They include Meridian Hill and Marvin Gaye Park. He’s worked for decades bringing together people and nature.

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Meet Elizabeth!

01/24/18 | View Comments

When you’re a mighty, nimble organization with big goals, you’re conscientious about who you ask to join your team. Not everyone is willing to eat, drink and sleep All Things Nature Sacred—while keeping an organized, cool head about it.

Which is why we’re delighted to introduce you to our latest hire, Elizabeth Dandy. Elizabeth embodies a unique DNA that aligns beautifully with the Nature Sacred culture—she’s a true believer in the healing powers of nature, a deep thinker, a passionate citizen. Further, she’s got the organizational chops from over 15 years experience serving fast-paced employers: an impeccable attention to detail, clear communications, a penchant for planning. You know, the things you need to keep everything moving swimmingly.

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Urban escape.

01/12/18 | View Comments


“…This is a place to ‘know’ your dreams and feelings about life can almost come true,” Holly continued.

This Bench Story comes to us from West Baltimore—the neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. This Sacred Place is tucked within a busy city intersection—an intersection working to restore health, hope and wellbeing to a community grappling with decades of poverty—and the challenges that can bring. This is the Intersection of Change. Learn more its story here.

This small, but meaningful park was built where dilapidated, vacant row homes previously stood—and offers its community an accessible, nearby means to heal, restore itself and dream. As Holly did.

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Erin Robertson: Looking ahead to 2018

01/12/18 | View Comments

TKF’s new Executive Director, Erin Robertson, talks where TKF is today, and what you can expect from us in the coming months and year.

I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be leading TKF. This is an organization that has worked incredibly hard for more than two decades to bring nature to individuals and communities, particularly those challenged and in distress. From day one of our existence, at a time when saying “nature heals” was considered fringe thinking, we’ve understood that this nature connection is essential to our basic wellbeing.

And this profound connection is evidenced in the hundreds of thousands of entries we have collected from the little yellow bench journals we’ve collected through the years and shared via our blog with the title Bench Stories.We are repeatedly humbled by the stories that surface; the voices of men, women, and children who, given the opportunity to pause and reflect in nature,  share truly profound thoughts, raw feelings and emotions as they process the fast-paced world around them. As they heal, strengthen and grow — through nature. It’s this work, directly supporting and enabling moments like these, to which we’ll return our focus in 2018.

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    TKF Foundation

    410 Severn Avenue,
    Suite 216
    Annapolis, MD

    Tel: 410.268.1376

    Contact Us

    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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