40 Years in Retrospect . . . The life of Miracle Distribution Center – Part III
by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Center, throughout the next several issues we will be sharing its journey with you. Even though the Center was founded by Beverly and Richard Hutchinson, it has developed a life of its own. These articles will share the Center’s birth, growth, life and purpose as it continues to evolve and support students of A Course in Miracles.
Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping step to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do. (T-26.V.2:5)
Through our forty years of service, we have had the opportunity to take the hands of many brothers, and each one has brought a blessing to Miracle Distribution Center (MDC.) I have written in previous articles about how my brother, Richard, was the moving force in starting the Center, but I also want to mention the impact that our parents have had on MDC’s growth, for it truly has been a “family affair.”
As students of A Course in Miracles, our parents spent many long hours in support of this work. Both my mom and dad have made their transitions into eternal life, but during the years they graced us on this earth, it was common to see our dad, Clarence, repairing a leaky faucet, changing a light bulb or helping out in any number of ways. Tona, our mom, was a familiar voice to many since she was often the voice you’d hear when you phoned the Center. She was an invaluable helper to us, and we fondly called her our best secret “weapon,” for she was our ambassador of love to all who called or visited MDC.
Since our mom’s death in 1997, we have been blessed by a series of wonderful receptionists: Monica Castillo, Gina Wolf, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Roxana Spencer and presently Tess Patton and Maria Zakich, who continue to provide the same love and nurturing spirit my mom started back in 1978. I know this makes my mom smile.
My family has been involved with MDC from the beginning, but another part of our “family” joined us in 1982. At that time, we were growing and needed to become more knowledgeable in the ways of business. Darin Zakich, who has a degree in Economics, came on the scene and was an answer, quite literally, to prayer. He found out about A Course in Miracles through his mother, Rhea Zakich (creator of The Ungame and an international lecturer on inner healing). Darin became a student of the Course and began attending our study group. As time went on, it became apparent that he was the missing piece in our puzzle. He became a part of the Center and now serves as our administrator.
In the “old days,” when the Course only came in three hardcover volumes, we were sent large cases of individual texts, workbooks for students, and manuals for teachers. These books were then repacked into small boxes which held one of each of the hardcover books. It was a tremendous job to repack hundreds of sets of the Course each week to be mailed out to eager students — we needed help!
Darin invited two friends to come and help us at MDC — Susan and Robert Perry. From this beginning in 1985, Susan remained on as the receptionist of the Center for four years before moving to Arizona. Robert, whom Darin had known since high school, was also involved with the Center and assisted in editing part of our recorded series with Steven Halpern and collaborated with us on the writing of a booklet entitled An Introduction to A Course in Miracles. His involvement with the Course started at Miracle Distribution Center and from there he has gone on to form his own organization, The Circle of Atonement.
Also in 1985, we invited Conrad Hanson to join the Center as director of education and counseling. He had served for years as director of counseling at the Crystal Cathedral. With over two thousand study groups worldwide, he had the mighty task of updating the listing on a daily basis. Conrad retired at the end of 2010 after twenty-five years of service.
In the mid 1980s, Howard and Donna Sell found the Course through Gerald Jampolsky’s book, Love is Letting Go of Fear. The Sells became invaluable to MDC. If you recall, in the mid 1980s, personal computers were just coming into fashion, and the Sells were the first to get us set up on computer so our study group information could be digitized. They also helped us produce the first issues of The Holy Encounter magazine.
For years, Donna came into the Center to volunteer her time and to help us duplicate our study group meetings on cassette tapes. After Donna retired from this volunteer position, Mary Mount stepped in to take over. Mary’s dedication was invaluable. After she retired, Maria Zakich filled the void without missing a step.
As the popularity of MDC’s recorded study group meetings continues to grow, Maria continues to meet the need. Cassettes have gone the way of 8-track tapes. We still duplicate onto CDs, but mp3 downloads are now becoming the popular choice and so is the video stream of our meetings on-demand, so things are changing!
No mention of “partners on the path” would be complete without the names of Bud Mendoza and Steve Doolittle. These two dedicated friends completely rebuilt and improved the Center’s computer system and brought us into the information age. We owe a great thanks to Steve for designing our website in 1996 and for his incredible help with live streaming many of our events. Bud (who made his transition into eternal life in June of 2007) will always have a place in our hearts not only for his expertise in fixing computer malfunctions, but for his loving spirit that touched every aspect of the Center. We truly miss him, but we are grateful that these two “miracle workers” continue to touch our lives.
As our office family began to grow, our partners on the path began to find their own partners. Those partners have become part of our family as well.
When I was married in 1988, my husband Paul became a vital part of MDC. His forty years of choral music direction and vocal performance allowed us to add the inspiration of music to our conferences, retreats and group meetings. As an ordained Baptist minister (back in his youth), Paul brought a deep understanding of the traditional perspective of Christianity delivered in the Bible which has allowed us to understand and address questions students raise in light of the Course’s revolutionary approach.
Darin’s wife, Maria, and Tess’s husband, Tim, have also joined the family. The children that have come from these unions have also touched the life of MDC. Darin and Maria’s two girls, Lauren and Emily, Tess and Tim’s girls, Casey and Tara, and the apple of my and Paul’s eyes, Jeffrey, provide us with the best lessons for joy and learning than any of us could imagine.
There are so many other dear friends who have touched the life of MDC. We have been truly grateful for each and every one of them. Whenever there was a need, a loving brother was directed our way. A good example of this is Ed Foote who lives in Pennsylvania and serves as our ambassador-at-large, scouting new locations for our Holy Encounter Weekends across the U.S. and helping to spread the word about the Center’s services. A few years back we also welcomed Bill Kasal into our “family,” and have appreciated his professional help with video production. Bill now oversees weekly video live streaming of our meetings and our annual conferences.
Finally, we are thankful for our friends across the country who have stepped forward to help us with the events we present in other states. For instance, subscriber and supporter Arlene Thompson in Illinois assisted us with a recent Holy Encounter Weekend in the Chicago area. We are always so honored by the support of those who are blessed by the Center, proving lesson 126 from the Course, “All that I give is given to myself.”
Thanks to these earth angels, even though we work long hours, the task of the Center has never seemed difficult, for “Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother’s hand and keeping step to Heaven’s song, is difficult to do.”