April 7, 2021

Preparing to Reopen: A Q&A with IMS’s Senior Development Officer

 As IMS prepares to reopen this fall, Leah Giles, Senior Development Officer, discusses the work that needs to be done, including upgrades that can only be accomplished while campus is closed, and how donor support can make these projects possible.

IMS’s 2021 Spring Appeal focuses on essential health and safety upgrades. What are some of these projects, and how will they help IMS prepare to reopen?

I’m really excited about this work—because it gets us one step closer to welcoming yogis back to IMS! At this moment, with no retreats at our centers, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in crucial improvements to support the well-being of all who practice, teach, and work at our precious refuge.

Last March, we made the decision to close IMS to protect our community’s health and safety, and the same commitment guides our thinking around reopening. So in addition to continuing to closely follow what’s happening in the larger world, we have identified several key infrastructure projects that must be completed before it will be safe to welcome yogis back to the Retreat Center and Forest Refuge. This work includes:

  • Cleaner air: We’re enhancing the filtration and air movement protocols in our existing systems and also adding standing air filtration systems in critical areas—steps recommended for Covid-era safety that will also help in cold and flu season.
  • Dormitory upgrades: We’re renovating the bathrooms in the Shanti House dorm to create greater privacy and improve air flow. I think everyone who has stayed in Shanti House will appreciate having individual, separate shower and bathroom spaces like the other dorms have!
  • Campus safety: A variety of other projects will enhance our community’s health and security, from installing a new exterior lock system to replacing roofing to repairing a fire escape.

All of these upgrades will help IMS prepare to welcome yogis once again. They are also important to our ongoing efforts to be accessible and inclusive for all.

What are the costs of these upgrades, and what is the timeline for completing them?

The total cost is about $560,000. Some of that comes from our annual facilities budget, but our goal is to raise $300,000 to fully fund and complete this essential work over the spring and summer months in preparation for a hopeful reopening this fall. Because there aren’t any retreats going on at the moment, it’s actually easier to do these upgrades now without causing any disruption to yogis. So that’s a huge benefit of doing the work while campus is still closed.

Once residential retreats resume, will IMS continue to offer online programs?

Yes! Made possible by generous donor support, IMS Online served over 13,000 meditators in 2020 through a variety of programs–four times the number we typically serve in a year through residential retreats. A year ago we couldn’t have imagined that our wish to provide opportunities for practitioners to open their minds and hearts would bear such great fruit in online practice spaces around the world.

We have learned that the virtual format can augment what we do on-site in ways that truly support yogis everywhere. Online programming also opens possibilities that would simply not be possible in a silent retreat environment. We have recently welcomed the first-ever Director for IMS Online and will be working in the coming months to shape IMS Online 2.0, with input from our Board, teachers, staff, donors, and yogis.

The key question guiding our efforts: how can we best serve yogis through online programs? As IMS’s co-founders Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg have said, the future of IMS Online is truly exciting and it will be interesting to see where it goes!

What message would you like to send to our donors as IMS looks to reopen?

You are doing amazing things and making a difference every single day! The outpouring of love, support, and financial gifts you have offered this past year is truly humbling and inspiring. We are so grateful for you and our dedicated sangha, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to IMS. Or greet you for the first time!

I’d also say that your ongoing support matters more than ever. It will only be because of our donors that IMS will be able to reopen and continue to offer online programs. The generosity of our extraordinary community has enabled IMS to serve our mission for 45 years, and with your help we look forward to the next 45 years of sharing this path.