ANNAPOLIS, Md., Feb 25—Nature Sacred, an Annapolis-based nonprofit that for nearly 25 years has partnered with more than 150 communities across the country to infuse nearby nature into places where healing is often needed most, is embarking on a new chapter. Shifting from a grantmaking family foundation, formerly known as the TKF Foundation, to a private operating foundation, Nature Sacred will continue to work toward its existing vision that centers on connecting people with nearby nature—but with even greater urgency. As the foundation looks to exponentially increase its impact, Nature Sacred has added a new CEO, Alden E. Stoner, who has served on the Nature Sacred Board for nearly 15 years.
Previously, Stoner led the social impact department at Participant Media, an award-winning media production company that focuses on entertainment that inspires social change; while there, she and her team drove transformative change on issues related to environmental sustainability, hunger in America, and veteran health. Most recently, she headed marketing and operations at Quantified Ventures, an outcomes-based capital firm that aims to improve the health of people and the environment. Her background will be integral as Nature Sacred charts its new path toward amplified impact.
“Every stressed and urban community needs a meaningful and peaceful nature space where everyone has the opportunity to spend regenerative, mindful time to heal from the acute and daily stressors of the world in which we live,” Stoner said. “This is our ultimate goal.”
Stoner is encouraged by the influence of the growing body of research, research like that of Dr. Eugenia South, one of the many scientists the organization has supported over the years. Nature Sacred and Dr. South collaborated on a recently-released report titled The Healing Power of Nature that summarizes some of the most compelling, recent research quantifying nature’s impact on both individual and public health—think lowered depression rates and reduced gun violence. This report builds on the National Nature Sacred Awards program which saw an investment of more than $5M into research and designed spaces; the awards funded five cross-disciplinary teams of designers, research social scientists and community-based organizations that created and studied a series of new public green spaces. The intent: to provide the opportunity for a deeper human experience through a personal connection to nearby nature in cities.
It’s research like this that is increasingly gaining the attention of policymakers and city planners and decision-makers. And this growing recognition should help encourage more potential funders, and more communities, to support and embrace nature-based community initiatives.
Nature Sacred has spent decades immersed in communities, working to determine how to collaborate with them to create spaces that reflect their cultures and needs. The organization created a process and model that others can adopt, helped grow the body of scientific evidence drawing a direct line between nature exposure and health, and funded wholly or in-part over 150 Sacred Places across the country serving populations as diverse as under-resourced urban residents to the incarcerated to hospital patients and their families.
In this next chapter, Nature Sacred will be working urgently to:
- Expand the number of easily accessible, open nature spaces, exponentially increasing the number of mindful moments spent in nature;
- Grow the tent of organizations investing in meaningful community green spaces so that we can realize our vision,
- Continue to nurture the Nature Sacred Network, continuing to learn—and pass on what we learn—to communities throughout the country.
“We have witnessed the outcomes of the sacred connection between humans and nearby nature. It’s profound. When people have a sense of internal peace they often look to improve themselves and their community,” Stoner said. “Establishing this nature-human connection translates to a better world for us all.”