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Heart & Soul

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Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul

The power of stories & how you can help

In Spring 2016, Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul Project collected a story from Harriet Gumby of Mount Holly Springs. Her family’s deep roots in Mount Holly inspired the community to take action to ensure the memory of Mt Tabor AME Zion church and cemetery is not lost to the community.

The church was built by Harriet’s grandfather, Elias Parker, for the African American community in the 1870’s. Parker was a former enslaved person and member of the United States Colored Troop in the Civil War. The little log cabin church he built served the African American community until 1970 when the dwindling congregation shut its doors.

The story of Mt Tabor left the memories of many people in Mount Holly Springs, but it stayed with the Gumby family as it connected them to their heritage. When Harriet shared her story of growing up in Mount Holly Springs, and specifically her desire to save the memory of the little church on the mountain, the community rallied around her and this forgotten piece of Cumberland County history. Throughout 2016 volunteers came forward to offer help – Mount Holly Springs Specialty Paper donated 3-D scans of the church and cemetery; the United Way’s Day of Caring organized volunteers from Ahold to clear out the items in the church and plant shrubs in the cemetery; and members of the community offering manual and financial support towards the project.

Danielle Ward Smith beside the grave of her great-grandfather with her children; Mt Tabor Cemetery

Most importantly, Harriet’s story opened up a new understanding of family ties and history to the Ward and Smith families. Having undertaken extensive search into their African American ancestors, the family believed they had gone as far as they could, but the church opened a new avenue in which they found the grave of their great-grandfather, a US Colored Troop in the 25th infantry. This is the first piece of tangible history the family has found on their ancestors and it is a piece of history they can pass on to the next generation.

This is the power of storytelling. By gathering stories on what we value and fear losing communities can come together in the most unlikely ways. This is what Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul works to achieve. Last year we collected over 600 stories from individuals living, working and playing in Greater Carlisle, and we learned that our community values outdoor spaces, the region’s landscape, history and heritage and a vibrant downtown. In 2017, we are using these stories to take action. We are continuing to work with the Mt Tabor project to ensure Harriet’s wishes are fulfilled. We are partnering with regional and state-wide organizations to discuss the community’s concerns for preservation of our outdoor spaces, landscape and history. Lastly, we are working to promote your values and heritage through hands-on activities such as a living history block party, walking tours and talk and building off of 2016’s successful heritage festival a week of heritage events in September. We are working to ensure our community’s values are celebrated and that your culture does not become another piece of lost history.

To achieve these goals Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul is excited participate in the Partnership for Better Heath’s Match Madness campaign during the month of March. The Partnership for Better Health is offering a $50,000 stretch fund to participating organization, and this will be used to match individual donations to Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul. We are asking for your support. No matter what your giving level is, every gift, large or small, will make a difference to Heart & Soul. Please visit – Match Madness Contribution to Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul – to donate to Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul. 

Thank you for your support!

 To hear about Mt Tabor Church and Cemetery and the community members involved in the project please watch this video produced by the Orton Family Foundation.

From Stories to Action: How one woman’s story led a community to rediscover its past

Learn more about Heart & Soul and its impact in the Greater Carlisle Community

2016 Review of Heart & Soul in Greater Carlisle

With support and funding from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Orton Family Foundation and South Mountain Partnership, Greater Carlisle Project implemented its Heart & Soul initiative in 2016.

Beginning in January, Greater Carlisle Project hired a Project Director, Dr Lindsay Varner, and throughout the year staff and volunteers with Heart & Soul have set up tables at events, recorded interviews at community days and partnered with local organizations to collect stories. There are just some of the events and places you found Heart & Soul in 2016:

  • First Annual Black History Festival, Hosted by Hope Station at the Carlisle Community Center

    Thank you to Leo's Ice Cream for donating a container of ice cream for the root beer floats

    Thank you to Leo’s Ice Cream for donating a container of ice cream for the root beer floats at the First Friday Block Party

  • Heberlig-Palmer Park, Neighbors Helping Neighbors
  • Lindenwood Park Tree Planting, Dickinson Twp.
  • Hope Station Block Party
  • Mount Holly Fishing Derby
  • Bosler Library


    Lindenwood Park Tree Planting

  • Amelia Givin Library
  • Carlisle First Friday Block Party, Cumberland County Historical Society
  • Foundry Day, Boiling Springs
  • Mount Holly Marsh Preserve Clean-up
  • Juneteenth
  • Fountain Festival
  • Summer Picnic, Carlisle United Methodist Church
  • Claremont Nursing Home
  • The McClain Festival, Two Mile House
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Some of the stories Heart & Soul collected in 2016. On display in an exhibition in the Cumberland County Historical Society

Overall, the Project collected over 600 written, drawn, audio and video interviews from individuals living, working and playing in Greater Carlisle. In the latter half of 2016, Heart & Soul began to share and take action with these stories. In Mount Holly Springs a story has led to a community-driven preservation project where we are working to actively preserve the history and heritage of an c.1870 African Methodist Episcopal church and cemetery. We also took the special places and location told through the stories and held the first annual Heritage Day on September 10. On this day three locations were highlighted-Mount Holly Marsh Preserve, Allen Road stretch of the Cumberland Valley Rails to Trails, and AME Zion Church in Mount  Holly Springs. We also created a Greater Carlisle Underground Railroad and Civil War trail.

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Heritage Day. Tour and talk on the Mount Holly Marsh Preserve

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Clearing out Mt Tabor AME Zion Church in Mount Holly Springs

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United Way’s Day of Caring. Clear out of Mt Tabor Church

For 2017, our aim is to expand our story collecting efforts in Greater Carlisle. We have learned that people value the culture of Greater Carlisle – Landscape, downtown businesses, small town feel, history, parks and outdoor spaces. From this understanding we will share out what we’ve learned through a series of Heritage Days in conjunction with Cumberland County Historical Society. We will dig deeper into your stories to uncover more of what you value. We will also begin to share what you value with community members and local officials to work towards taking action and preserving what is important to the Greater Carlisle Community.



We got to teach that history. We got to let folks know where you really come from and why it’s so important. –Volunteer at Neighbors Helping Neighbors Clean up, April 16, 2016




For one day we will highlight what the community told us through their stories. Locations across the Greater Carlisle Area will be open to the public for one day. Stories collected throughout the year will be highlighted to show what’s important to our community and how we can protect the future. There will be organized talks and tours on history and preservation, as well as self-guided walking and cycling tours. Come out and learn what our community values and discuss ways we can protect what’s important to us.

Tours on the day will be a mixture of self-guided and organized tours/talks. If you would like to attend an organized you must sign up in advance and on the day bring along a signed liability waiver.

Go to the Heart & Soul Events page for more information.





In January 2016, The Greater Carlisle Project (GCP) received a one-year, $50,000 civic engagement grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) to implement a resident-driven approach to community planning and development. Additionally, the Greater Carlisle Heart and Soul Project was supported for $10,000 from the South Mountain Partnership

Following the Heart & Soul framework of the Orton Family Foundation, members of the Greater Carlisle Project, with the leadership of a new Project Director Lindsay Varner, will engage people from all segments of our community in telling, listening to and sharing stories about our community. Through the storytelling process, community members will come to know the “heart and soul” of the community – what we value, what matters most, how we relate to each other and to our landscape, and what we want for our future. The team will recognize and keep in mind that community members will answer these questions in diverse ways, and that hard work and an open and inclusive process is necessary to find common ground for actions that benefit us all. We will use the co-created knowledge of our place and ourselves to bring together residents, community organizations, businesses and public agencies in common cause for strengthening the Greater Carlisle community.

Project information also available from the PHC Project website for the Greater Carlisle Heart and Soul.

Long-Term Goal

  • Strengthen the community as a great place to live, work, play, learn and visit

Project Goals

  • Use storytelling to learn and share what the community values, what matters, how we relate to each other and our landscape, and what we want for our future
  • Assemble a diverse team that have the skills, knowledge, community connections and passion for implementing all phases of our Heart & Soul project
  • Produce and share storytelling products that have value and impact in the community
  • Create a Heart & Soul project roadmap that has ownership and support from multiple and diverse stakeholders in the community

Heart & Soul Partners

  • Greater Carlisle Project
  • Bosler Memorial Library
  • Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Borough of Carlisle
  • Dickinson College Center for Service, Spirituality and Social Justice
  • Dickinson College Center for Sustainability Education
  • Dickinson College Community Studies Center
  • Dickinson College Media Center
  • Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation
  • Cumberland County Historical Society
  • Hope Station Opportunity Area
  • Partnership for Better Health
  • United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County