Nestled in the middle of over 100 communities nationwide — urban neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and prisons — resides a bench. A unique bench set in the heart of a meaningful green space, a Sacred Place, intentionally designed to help communities heal, strengthen and come together. The bench offers more than a place to sit — it serves as a platform for renewal. Over the years, Firesouls have shared stories — from the profound to the joyous to the heart-rending — of life that is shaped by their Sacred Places and time spent on the Nature Sacred bench.
“This Nature Sacred bench changed my life” — we’ve heard this more times than we can count. And from our yellow journals we understand the impact these spaces have for people at the most fundamental levels. These spaces are not amenities, they are essential to our health, our human experience.
And the process and story behind the creation of each bench is just as layered and profound as the bench’s ultimate purpose and future in the Sacred Place where it will ultimately reside.
Nature Sacred benches are crafted by workers at the Western Correctional Institution, a place we first became acquainted with through the creation of a Sacred Place there. Response among the incarcerated men there to the process of creating that space, and to the bench and resulting meditation garden, was so positive that Nature Sacred was asked to develop a program there to create benches for other Sacred Places. Today, a small team of men are taught a craft. They learn to transform reclaimed wood into something meaningful and beautiful with purpose. The impact of this program has created positive ripples in lives and communities well beyond the Institution over the years. It has spurred a former benchmaker and returned citizen to create a Sacred Place in his own community and even launched at least one landscaping career and business.
Built-in journal for mindful reflection. The simple act of expression has empowered people to grieve, express joy, untangle their thoughts—and even correspond with one another.
Up-cycled materials—with a story. Baltimore-based Brick + Board provides the bench wood—salvaged bones of 19th- and 20th-century local homes set for demolition—restored by city residents looking for a second chance in life.
Enjoyed by its community. Many Sacred Places exist in distressed communities that previously had no access to nature—helping people heal, renew and come together.
We’re charting a course to bring the Nature Sacred model and bench to countless other communities across the country that are eager to have a green space of their own.
Join this circle of social good. Help us further this movement—restoring hope, health and harmony to communities in need, while providing work and opportunity to those who create them—by funding this effort.
Nature Sacred benches are found in every Sacred Place that we, with your support via programs like our Community Healing Initiative, help create. Beneath the seat in every bench is a pocket that holds a journal that collects the nature-inspired musings, from the whimsical to the profound.
Meet Alex and hear how one former bench craftsman today runs a landscaping business employing returning citizens and collaborating with Nature Sacred.
Even the wood that is used to construct the bench is storied and has a past life. It is lovingly restored by the Brick & Board team before being reborn as a Nature Sacred bench.
Over the years, we have heard countless stories of how the Nature Sacred bench has changed lives at the most fundamental levels — from births to healing, from marriage proposals to seeking sanctuary in a time of strife, from gratitude for the moment to the passing of a loved one. We share five of those mini stories here.