Hard Times
Orren Whiddon

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.

– Stephen Foster

No doubt about it, hard times have come again. And for many reasons these hard times are likely to be as long lasting and transforming as the recession of the eighties, perhaps more so. The signs have been plain for years now and many of us saw this one coming; in fact our Board of Directors made the decision to buy the camp way back in 2003, and bought it in 2005, based on an expectation of severe financial hardship by 2008. Since then Four Quarters has been putting every spare dollar into paying down the camp mortgage and installing the foundation of our much needed camp infrastructure, taking advantage of the good times while expecting those “Hard Times Come.”

For those of us living at Four Quarters, we are going to ground, adopting “cockroach mode” as we call it. We look at everything to find those places we can cut back; cancelling a phone line, taking the truck off the road, no winter stipends for the “inmates” and planning for a big garden in '09 to name a few. Gifts from Members also make a huge difference, all of Four Quarters currently registered vehicles are recent gifts. We know that every dollar saved in our living expenses goes directly to supporting the Land.

Four Quarters as an institution is tightening up too. We have always known how to pinch a penny, and in 2009 we will make `em scream! You can see this with the calendar in your hands, as we have returned this year to black and white after seven years of color. We have stripped the annual Members mailing to the basics and have been stocking local foods for the Starvin’ Artist’s use in the coming season. We are scaling back on construction plans for the coming season, while making sure that the funding is in place for the projects we are committed to. In fact, because of the pledges of our Members to the building fund, and tight fiscal management, much of the budget for our 2009 construction projects is in the bank. We expect a substantial drop in income this year, but we feel we are prepared for tough times. We hope!

Many of our Members are also stressed and suffering in these hard times. Folks call and apologize because they must reduce or end their donations. Or drop from a Promoting to a Sustaining Membership because they know they can’t make it out as often in the coming year. Jobs lost or down scaled. Benefits in doubt. Tough times all around. We know and understand, because we are all affected.

If hard times are lingering `round your cabin door, Four Quarters will do everything it can to help a Member. Give us a call about your situation and we will bend policy, make payment plans, invoke the “way-back machine,” eat humble pie and dance on our hats to help you and your family stay connected. If you are more fortunate and feel relatively secure from this economic downtown, consider sharing your blessings with a pledge or donation. Or buy a Member you know to be hurting their membership for the year. Every dollar you can give will help Four Quarters subsidize a Member in distress.

The important thing is to keep our eyes on the prize. The Land will remain open, the Stones will rise. We are all in it together and we will persevere, singing:

“There’s a song that will linger
forever in our ears;
Oh Hard times come again no more.”