In November 2016, the Lyons Vineyard was donated to a new Island nonprofit by Tim and Julie Lyons. While the Lyons were searching for the right owner, five people connected with each other through their shared interest in Washington Island and sustainable living; from diverse backgrounds in education, entrepreneurship, and land stewardship, Sue Dompke, Margaret Foss, Laurel Hauser and Russell and Alessandra Rolffs began a conversation about agriculture and sustainability and now form the board of directors of Gathering Ground: Planting for the Future.
Sue Dompke, Treasurer of Gathering Ground, Owner of Sweet Mountain Farm
Margaret Foss, Educator at the Island School
Margaret was raised in the city of Chicago, attending both public and private school there, and enjoying many cultural and political opportunities while growing up. Her main preoccupation at the time was ballet, and she spent many hours training at several studios. During her growing up years, Margaret was also very lucky to spend summers on the island, making friends, working in local establishments, and coming to love the land, water and local community. When she and her husband Kirby decided to marry in 1982, the island became her year-round home. Margaret then traded her toe shoes for dirt between her toes, when she discovered a passion for growing flowers.
In 1984, Margaret joined the teaching staff at the Washington Island School. She has taught in various capacities there ever since. She and her husband raised their daughter on the island, sending her first to the Washington Island Preschool, and then the Washington Island School. Nurturing children as they grow is Margaret’s greatest joy.
Margaret recently became a grandmother to little Clara Nikolai, the latest addition to her family tree. She anticipates retiring from teaching in the near future, in order to concentrate on her family. The creation of Gathering Grounds affords her a new opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for all of the island’s children in the form of education about sustainable practices. Margaret thinks of all this as the “cycle of life,” and is thrilled to be a part of an organization that hopes to help preserve the island for generations to come.
Laurel Hauser, Managing Editor of Washington Island Observer
Alessandra Rolffs, Secretary of Gathering Ground, Freelance Writer
Alessandra is a poet, PhD student at UWM, freelance writer, educator and farmer. She wears one hat, a sun hat, in all of these roles. She grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the midwest in 2008 to get her Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University. Since then, she’s progressively moved north: Chicago, Milwaukee, and now Washington Island.
Alessandra loves being outdoors, on the water, and working in the garden; she loves writing, teaching, and she loves things that overlap. She’s excited that so many of her loves come together at Gathering Ground. As secretary she not only takes notes at board meetings, but runs the Gathering Ground blog and helps develop educational programs.
Russell Rolffs, President of Gathering Ground, Owner of Hoot Blossom Farm