Natural Living & Education Center in Asheville NC

Blue Ridge Mountains

Interview with ED Jonathan Frappier

Jonathan Frappier is OM Sanctuary’s first full-time Executive Director. Raised in North Carolina, Jonathan has an extensive background in nonprofit executive management. He is also a husband and father, who enjoys spending time with his family and taking part in many of the practices that OM Sanctuary values, such as: yoga, meditation, connecting with nature, and living a vegan lifestyle.

Shelli Stanback the founder and president of OM Sanctuary states: “Jonathan brings diligence, nurturing, creative thought, repair, leadership, respect and patience to our teamwork, making the dream work come true.”

In this interview, Jonathan reflects on his first year here at OM Sanctuary, his greatest accomplishments and challenges, and finally his passion for empowering others to live up to their full potential.

What initially drew you to OM Sanctuary?

I grew up coming to these mountains and once these mountains get into your being they become a part of who you are. I’ve travelled extensively throughout the US and bits of the rest of the world, but there is really something special about these particular mountains and they hold a lot of memories and a true calling for me. There is a sense of ancient wisdom here. This is magnified at OM Sanctuary because our mission is outward-facing and service-based.

My wife and I met here, and then our careers took us away from Asheville for several years, but all we wanted to do was return as soon as we could. We knew we wanted to raise our son here in Asheville, be close to our families, and live out our lives here.

My background is in non-profit executive management and as a yogi, meditator, and vegan this position blends my work experience and my values very well. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to be a part of the OM Sanctuary team.

What are some challenges that have occurred while directing OM Sanctuary that have provided opportunities for growth?

What I’ve realized in the last year is that every challenge we have with our facility has been an opportunity to bring the facility closer to our mission. An example of this would be the Sanctuary Garden, originally a beautiful English garden during the time of the Richmond Hill Inn; it was well-sculpted with ornamental species from around the world, and the overall facility had a staff of 100 at its peak. As the garden fell into disrepair, the boxwoods became diseased, the soil became overly acidic, and the bulbs clumped together; the flowers would bloom beautifully and then brown out shortly because they didn’t have the right conditions. We knew we needed to revitalize the garden because it’s such a focal point here and we wanted it to reflect our mission, so we removed the invasives and brought in more native species and pollinators and we carved out a labyrinth in the garden for walking meditation. These are positive growth challenges- opportunities for us to come closer to our mission as a holistic educational retreat center.JF family_Craggy

What do you feel have been your biggest accomplishments here so far?

I think my largest accomplishment has been being discovering the potential of the Executive Team relationship. This was critical to the board. As a non-profit organization, while the board doesn’t make all the day-to-day operational decisions, they create and govern the overall structure and the budget. What they [the board] said in this model was that the founder absolutely needed to be part of (at least for the first several years) the carrying out of the vision to a point of sustainability because we are in a new business growth period. It was really important to them that they found someone who would honor the relationship of a founder working with an executive director and who would make the most of that for the organization.

That may look like maximizing revenue opportunity, which we’ve done considerably. For instance if you look year-to-year we’ve had a 250+% growth in revenue and have begun receiving more donations as well. In relation to the overall care and rebuilding of the facility, we have put together a great facilities and maintenance operation. And you could go on down the line and say the same about our incredible team in programs, guest services, housekeeping, etc. The fact that we have people here across the entire team—no matter the person or the department—who all really want to be here and believe in what we’re doing, and that to me at the end of the day says that I’m doing something right. Because I need to be able to get deeply into challenges and empower others to use their skill sets fully, and then step away and trust that’s going to happen, perhaps monitoring it closely, but still being able to go on to myriad other things. To have a team that is working together in this way is the greatest joy. My biggest accomplishment is the accomplishment I see in others because it tells me that we’re all truly living this important mission.

JF_Lake Lure

What are your favorite aspects of areas of OM Sanctuary?

There’s a special spot on the Tranquility Trail… that’s my spot. I think a lot of staff and return retreatants have one of these, whether it’s on the trail or somewhere else on property. I’ve found little niches that I don’t go to everyday necessarily, but that I know are there and are a sanctuary for me. I feel this place doing its work on me everyday. It’s beautiful.

OM Sanctuary is easily a dozen integrated businesses in one. We are a sanctuary for retreat, a lodging facility, a full commercial kitchen, an incredible outdoor campus, and all programmatic areas encompassing mind, body, spirit, and nature. From an operations perspective, it’s remarkable how many business types intersect into this one place.

My biggest motivation, however, is that I get to live and breathe the mission of OM Sanctuary and its values everyday. To be able to combine my personal practices with my work experience, at a growing organization that I believe in fully, is the greatest gift. I love coming to work everyday: for our people, our practices, and our potential.

What one can take away from this interview with Jonathan is that through the transformation of the property from the Richmond Hill Inn to the retreat center it is now, OM Sanctuary has become, and will continue to be, a place where individuals can come to seek respite from the chaotic tow of daily life, spend time reconnecting with their inner rhythms, and leave with a refreshed sense of energy. For more information about Jonathan, view his Linkedin profile by clicking here. Jonathan will be attending the Yoga Journal Conference in Florida this fall on behalf of OM Sanctuary.


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