How Listening Can Lead to Change

Heart & Soul Talks: Stories to Action–How Listening Can Lead to Change
Orton Family Foundation

Gathering, listening to, and sharing stories strengthens the fabric of the community by bringing people together in conversations about what they love about where they live and what they’d like to change. Hearing from residents can also lead to discoveries that the community immediately rallies around, such as an 1870s African-American church in Pennsylvania or a historic theater in Colorado. Three speakers, each with different but meaningful experiences, share how storytelling enriches a community and leads to positive change.


  • Mimi Iijima is the Director of Programs and Special Projects for Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Mimi leads PHC’s effort to strengthen communities through the humanities and by bringing Community Heart & Soul to towns in the Keystone state.
  • Dani Smith is the great-great-granddaughter of a Civil War soldier who served in the U.S. Colored Troops. Story gathering by the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul Project led to the discovery of an 1870s African-American church and cemetery, where Dani’s family discovered their ancestor. Her family has since been instrumental in the early steps of preservation of the church and cemetery.
  • Elaine Brett is a resident of the North Fork Valley in Colorado. She was active in that community’s Heart & Soul project and played a key role in creating the nonprofit that bought and renovated the town’s historic Paradise Theatre, relying on a state grant and funds raised locally and globally online. She has over thirty years of experience in facilitation, strategic planning and management in commercial, non-profit, and governmental sectors. Currently, she is on the boards of The Friends of the Paradise Theatre, the Western Colorado Community Foundation, and Downtown Colorado, Inc.
  • Fran Stoddard is a communications consultant with Orton and will serve as the moderator for this event. A national award-winning producer of video programs, Fran served as producer and host of Vermont Public Television’s weekly “Profile” interview program for more than a decade. She frequently serves as moderator for community events and has served on numerous non-profit boards including the Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Journalism Trust, Vermont Mozart Festival, Burlington City Arts, Vermont International Film Foundation, and Vermont Public Radio.