Partners on the Path

45 Years in Retrospect . . . The life of Miracle Distribution Center – Part III

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

In celebration of the 45th 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)

Bud Mendoza and Beverly help build MDC’s new location in 2001.

Through our forty-five 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 supporting this work. Both my mom and dad have transitioned into the next experience of life eternal. Still, 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 Tona’s passing in 1997, we have been blessed by a series of wonderful receptionists: Monica Castillo, Gina Wolf, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Roxana Spencer, and presently, Tess Patton, who continue to provide the same love and nurturing spirit my mom started back in 1978. I know this makes my mom smile.

For all of you now, when you call the Center during our regular office hours of 9am-4pm (Pacific Time), you have spoken with Tess Patton. Her kindness, grace, and Course knowledge have blessed many. She is a caring spirit, and since MDC is the only Course organization with a live person available, she is a busy lady. People can also access all of the Center’s services and information via our interactive website 24/7 and send emails to the Center, which are always quickly answered. I know that when someone has a question, they seek an answer immediately, not a week or so later; we ensure every request is responded to promptly and with kindness.

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 learned 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 passed, 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. It is not cliched to say that the Center would not be where it is today without Darin’s expertise and wisdom.

Paul McNeff, Beverly, Jeffrey, Conrad Hanson,
Roxie Spencer, Darin and Maria Zakich at MDC in 2010

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 holding one of each hardcover book. 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 daily. Conrad retired at the end of 2010 after twenty-five years of service. In 2018, Conrad laid his body down to become a continuing light in our lives.

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 continued to grow, Maria met that need along with her work facilitating our Prison Project. Cassettes have gone the way of 8-track tapes. We still duplicate onto CDs, but now the popular choice is watching the livestream of our meetings and the on-demand options, 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, bringing us into the information age. We owe a great thanks to Steve for designing our website in 1996 and for his incredible help livestreaming many of our events. Bud (who made his transition 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.

Bill Kasal & Tess Patton

As our office family grew, our partners on the path began to find their own partners. Those partners have become part of our family as well.

When I married in 1988, my husband Paul became vital to MDC. His nearly fifty years of choral music direction and vocal performance allowed us to add the inspiration of music to our conferences, retreats, and 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 consistently 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 eye, 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 is Ed Foote, who lives in Pennsylvania and serves as our ambassador-at-large, who helps spread the word about the Center’s services. In 2013, we welcomed Bill Kasal into our “family” and appreciated his professional help with video production. Bill now oversees weekly video livestreaming of our meetings and our on-demand seminars.

Finally, we are thankful for our friends across the country who have stepped forward to help us. When the pandemic hit, everything changed, and the move to remote experiences became the norm. We are grateful to those worldwide who have stepped up to help and support our work.

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.”

Read the previous installment: Part II: “What Do We Do Now?”
Read the next installment: Part IV: “Divine Decisions”

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