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Camphill Companion Cory Kuntz, shown here with visitors Willard Kenzie and wife, Karen. Cory will be speaking at the 5th Annual Camphill Ontario Community Action Tribute Dinner, April 20th. Tickets still available at CamphillOntario.Eventbrite.ca

International explorer and Barrie’s first mayor Willard has been everywhere it seems. Australia, Nepal, Africa and Peru… even Antarctica. But recently, on a snowy morning, Camphill Dinner Chair Laura Wilson met the Kenzies at their Barrie home to guide them to one place they had never been: Camphill Ontario’s 290 acre homestead. As the ‘one man charity branding agency’ and publicist for the Annual Dinner, I came along to report the fun.

Our destination is the rural community of 5 group homes, woodshop, ceramics and arts studios, farming and gardening centres that Camphill supports and maintains. Both here and in Barrie, Camphill offers training and skills development, supportive community work and volunteer placement. The shared goal is to help adults of diverse abilities enjoy quality of life and personal growth. Through arts and understanding, the ‘companions’ of Camphill are gently brought the into the regular, everyday experiences most of us take quite for granted. If you are wondering what this genuinely means, come to the Dinner to witness inclusiveness firsthand. It will be a night to remember.

The Annual Community Action Dinner is now five years old. Our goal is ‘friendraising’, to simply to become known amongst Barrie’s various social neighbourhoods. Each year we honour an activist from a different set of frankly influential people. Politics, Medicine, Business, the Arts. This year, Willard, as a founding father of Barrie and plucky world explorer, stands for the many who literally built Barrie from the gound up as a city. It is our hope that as news of our work spreads, we will gather like-minded partners throughout Simcoe and beyond. Helping make each Dinner a what I try to do as the freelance blogger and local charity branding agency.

As we drive along the twisting road into Camphill, passing frozen gardens and greenhouses, group homes and studios, we pass the barn in the woods where Highland sheep gaze in our direction. It’s a blustery, chilly day but the warmth and gung ho spirit of the Kinzies heats up the car.

Even through the snow we see companions at their daily routines, some keeping the cattle, others finding their way from home to workplace. Camphill is part of a worldwide organization, dedicated to bringing an enthusiastic life to intellectually challenged adults through the arts and comradery of rural living.

Karen and Willard Kinzie at the Woodshop at Camphill Communities Ontario. Photo by Mike Beard, Charity Branding Agency.

Karen and Willard Kinzie stop by the Camphill Wood Shop for a chat with the resident companions. Don’t miss Willard and Karen at the 5th Annual Camphill Ontario Community Action Tribute Dinner, April 20th. Tickets still available at CamphillOntario.Eventbrite.ca

Our first stop is the Tamarak residence, where we meet Larry Palmer, Executive Director of the Ontario organization. He shows us downstairs to experience the pottery workshop first hand. All arts and crafts created by Camphill companions find their way to buyers. These blend in with the work of established artists at the new Camphill Store, on Dunlop Street, in Barrie’s downtown shopping area.

Willard and Karen are always interested in everyone, and their passion for life (and each other) is on full display. Even here, deep in the woods, the combined histories of people and places meld as it seems Willard stands for everyone, and has been everywhere. Remembered dates, places and times, whether in Southern Ontario or points beyond, light up faces in recognition througout the low-beamed room – strewn with hand tools and carefully crafted objects.

At lunch we are treated with biodynamic spices and preserves from the generous larder. I find the pickled garlic particularly delicious! Bottles and jars are stuffed into bags and pockets as we make our way back to town.

Pottery, Woodworking, Farming, Animal Husbandry, Textiles, Watercolour, Spice Making… all part of the ethos that defines the Camphill brand – worth getting to know. The undertaking grows a little bit every year, as more realize what can be accomplished.

Two years ago my small charity branding agency here in Barrie, designed Camphill’s new logo.  That six-month branding process, meant to be inspiring for them, inspired me.

Tickets for the 5th Tribute Dinner, to be held on April 20 at the Barrie Golf Club are on sale now! at CamphillOntario.Eventbrite.ca. Don’t wait. This is an inspiring evening. It sells out every year, with good reason.

Mike Beard, One Man Charity Branding Agency