How Volunteers Made ALL the Difference for the Edgar Cayce Work
By Kevin J. Todeschi
The Edgar Cayce work stands on the shoulders of three generations of volunteers who gave their commitment, their time, their energy, their financial assistance and their passion. To be sure, the vast majority of these individuals committed themselves behind-the-scenes with neither fanfare nor recognition but their work created study groups, and community gatherings, and opportunities to hear a lecture or interact with others who have been touched by this Work. They picked up speakers and worked at registration tables, sold books and contacted local individuals by phone or email to publicize local events. There were other volunteers whose tremendous efforts brought them some level of personal prominence within the Work, becoming “movers and shakers” in their own right and adding their own sense of destiny to the organization. Volunteers have given to such an extent it is no exaggeration to state the organization would not be where it is today without their collective efforts.
For decades, the Edgar Cayce work has relied upon the efforts of volunteers both at its Virginia Beach headquarters and throughout the rest of the country – even the world. These volunteer activities have included every facet of the Cayce Work. For example, some of the early volunteer efforts had to do with helping individuals understand the readings themselves. On occasion, individuals would ask for assistance understanding their personal reading. When this occurred, people like Gladys Davis, Hugh Lynn, and even Edgar Cayce himself often volunteered to help in this manner. However, there were also numerous instances when the individual who received a reading was referred to someone else who had had a reading as well, or to one of the organization’s official “regional representatives.” As one example, in 1932 a woman living in San Francisco who had received a couple of life readings from Edgar Cayce was referred to A.R.E.’s Regional Representative in San Francisco, Mr. Ralph Taylor [Background 5640-2]. Additional referrals included the following:
Report File 1728-2; 8/23/30 Edgar Cayce’s letter to Mr. :
Dear Mr. 
We are enclosing a copy of your life reading, which was obtained this morning. I certainly hope you will find this both interesting and worthwhile, and that it will get you settled in the proper way and manner. If there is anything you do not understand, don’t hesitate to ask us concerning any portion, as we are only too glad to try and explain it to the best of our ability. I think Mr. Thomas J. Sugrue, a member of the Historical Committee of the Association, would be able to help you interpret this reading.
Report File 2990-2; 8/15/43 Gladys Davis’s note to Ms. :
I would suggest that you get in touch with Miss Florence R. Edmonds, 611 Pennsylvania Ave., Norfolk, Va. - phone 32562. She is the leader of the Association prayer group and healing work. She would be able to help interpret your reading, and I believe you will find much in common. According to your Life reading and hers, you two have worked together in past lives.
For much of this work’s history volunteers have emerged from the Study Group program – individuals studying and applying the information contained in A Search for God, Books I & II. First compiled by Study Group #1 in Norfolk, Virginia, additional groups began to appear throughout the 1930s. In the beginning, groups received a “charter” authorizing them to be part of the Study Group work, such as the following granted to a Birmingham, Alabama group (Study Group No. 4) in 1933:
Study Group No. 4 - BIRMINGHAM
The ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH AND ENLIGHTENMENT, INCORPORATED, in accordance with its aims and purposes as set forth in its Charter granted by the State of Virginia in July, 1931:
“To conduct and carry on psychic and scientific research ... to conduct study groups and classes,” grants to Study Group No. 4 - BIRMINGHAM, all rights and privileges as a regular study group, functioning in accord with the Ideal of the Association to be of service to mankind.
Study Group No. 4 - BIRMINGHAM, is herewith recognized as an Active Unit of the Association, holding a group Active Membership carrying with it all the privileges of such a membership.
In the spirit of true fellowship, Study Group No. 4 - BIRMINGHAM, is welcomed as a unit of this Organization.
A Manual for Teachers was developed (Report File 262-100) essentially as a means of educating individuals to lead a study group meeting and enabling greater numbers to become “teachers and leaders for group work.” The need for additional volunteer leaders was further developed with an expansion of the Regional Representative program announced at the annual membership Congress meeting in 1938. Any member who felt he or she could contribute “a small amount of time and energy” was encouraged to contact the Virginia Beach headquarters for additional information. Individuals like Hugh Lynn Cayce also contacted specific members and asked them outright to consider becoming a Regional Representative. The activities of these representatives were outlined as follows:
A. To distribute literature of the Association.
B. Be prepared to assist an individual in preparing questions for either a Physical Reading or a Life Reading.
C. Be prepared to discuss and explain either Physical Readings or Life Readings with individuals who receive them.
D. Assist individuals interested in following up any phase of the Association’s work in making proper contacts with doctors or research workers in their sections.
E. To assist in extending the sale of publications prepared by the Association.
Regional Representatives will be furnished with a working manual containing data on readings and details of the Association’s program. They will have the names and addresses of all members in their section and be in touch with doctors and research workers who are interested in the Association. (Report File 254-101)
After the death of Edgar Cayce in 1945, Regional Representatives continued as a point of contact for the Cayce work in their areas. However, rather than helping people with their readings, the focus instead turned to study groups and the management of lecture programs featuring A.R.E. speakers in their areas whenever the occasion arose. These excerpts are from the June 1958 and November 1958 A.R.E. Bulletins, respectively:
San Jose Announcements
Mrs. Irene Winter, an active member in San Jose for several years, has been appointed regional representative for that area. Mrs. Winter has managed lecture programs in her city since that introduction and has been in charge of its annual conference for the past five years. She is being succeeded as leader of the local study group by Mrs. Lorraine O’Neil, at whose home … the group will meet.
David Aberegg Named Representative in Ohio
Mr. David C. Aberegg of Columbus, Ohio, sponsoring member for many years, has been appointed A.R.E.’s regional representative for the Columbus area.
Two local groups, now meeting in Columbus under Mr. Aberegg’s guidance, are planning to sponsor a Spring Conference for the state. Local members will be advised of the plans as they develop and their cooperation will be appreciated.
The new representative will be available for consultation with new or existing groups regarding organization and group activities. He will schedule taped and live lectures in Ohio and assist in obtaining the various study materials from headquarters.
Bobbie Jones, another longtime A.R.E. member and volunteer recalled in 2006 how her small group of volunteers had gotten Hugh Lynn Cayce to speak in their small hometown in the early 1960s:
The place was a small Texas town – pretty much in the middle of nowhere – at a local Civic Center filled to capacity with folks eager to learn about the “Miracle Man of Virginia,” the amazing “Sleeping Prophet,” Edgar Cayce.
Our little group, which had midwifed this event, was delighted. Just a month or so earlier we had driven to Corpus Christi, two hours away to hear Hugh Lynn Cayce speak … During informal visiting after the lecture, we asked Hugh Lynn what it would take to get him to our area. “Just gather a dozen interested folks together and I’ll be there,” he replied. So we did. We returned home, made our plans, rented the Civic Center, placed ads in all of the local papers, set up posters around the area and gathered our 200-plus folks. As promised, he came. It truly was an evening to savor.
He left the next day, having scheduled a radio talk show in Corpus Christi, but Elsie Sechrist had accompanied him and stayed, shoring up our fledgling Study Group, analyzing our dreams, increasing our meditation skills, and, sadly, assuring us that there was a reason for everything that showed up in our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly – depending on how we chose to handle our co-creatorship. She challenged and inspired us. We loved her.
(Venture Inward; Nov./Dec. 2006)
It was due to the efforts of A.R.E.’s volunteer resources throughout the country that annual multi-day retreats were established (many of which continue to exist to this day) in places like Palestine, Texas; Seabeck, Washington; Toronto, Ontario; Asilomar, California; Whitewater, Wisconsin; Wildacres, North Carolina, and so forth. For example, this January 1972 notation from the A.R.E. News announced the establishment of the annual Tennessee retreat:
At the request of Hugh Lynn Cayce, five members (including Mary Virginia Cobb, Regional Director, and Dennie Sanders, Council Chairman) of the Memphis, Tenn. A.R.E. Council joined him at Nashville, Tenn. To work with sixty-two inquirers to form the first A.R.E. Study Groups there. Hugh Lynn lectured at a Christian Church, at Vanderbilt University and at the local Unity church. A study group workshop was also held. The outcome was that the first statewide Tennessee A.R.E. Conference is being planned to take place May 19-21, 1972 in the Inn at Montgomery Bell State Park. Featured speakers will be Charles Thomas Cayce, Ph.D. and Elsie and Bill Sechrist.
Some of the regional representatives went on to become lecturers and workshop leaders in their own right as demonstrated by this newspaper clipping about Helen Ruth Schroeder:
Lecture Speaks of Edgar Cayce
Bakersfield Edgar Cayce study groups will present the first in a series of lectures at 7:30 pm tomorrow in the Gold Room of the Title Insurance Building on 17th Street and Chester Avenue. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Guest speaker will be Helen Ruth Schroeder of Anaheim. Mrs. Schroeder is western director of study groups for Association for Research and Enlightenment, Incorporated (ARE) a foundation dedicated to the study and application of the concepts and information obtained from the readings of psychic Edgar Cayce, according to Roberta Williams, spokesman for the group.
Mrs. Schroeder holds a B.A. in psychology from University of Texas … She became an ARE member in 1957 and joined an ARE “Search for God” study group in Dallas, Texas.
“Although I had always had an insatiable curiosity about all philosophies and religions, the material I found in the Edgar Cayce readings answered questions no other philosophy had been able to answer for me,” Mrs. Schroeder said.
She has held numerous ARE positions in the Southern California area and organized the first ARE family camp program at Asilomar.
(The Bakersfield Californian; Feb. 22, 1977)
The regional representative model spread throughout the United States and Canada and even championed one appointment in Japan:
Rin Jubishi Named Regional Representative for A.R.E. in Japan
At its June meeting the Board of Trustees gave unanimous approval to the appointment of Mr. Rin Jubishi as Regional Representative in Japan.
Mr. Jubishi, a businessman of Tokyo, has been a sponsoring member for two years. He has translated the Millard biography and arranged for its publication, written and published several articles based on the readings, and is in touch with Dr. Gina Cerminara regarding the translation of her book, Many Mansions. With the help of Mrs. Jubishi, he is translating Searchlight articles for duplication by mimeograph.
Realizing the vast work of translation required to make the Cayce readings available for study in Japan, Mr. Jubishi hopes to enlist other competent translators in his own country – and invites Japanese-speaking American members to take part in the undertaking.
(A.R.E. Bulletin, June 1959)
A.R.E.’s enthusiasm for the potential of a Japanese A.R.E. activity led the organization to solicit contributions from A.R.E. members in the United States a few months later:
Will You Help Launch A.R.E. in Japan?
BIG PLANS, BIG EXPENSES
In spite of the enormous task involved in organizing A.R.E. activities and making publications available in another language, the Japanese group has not asked Headquarters for any financial help.
To raise funds for their ambitious program, Rin Jubishi has assumed all the financial risk of publishing and selling the Millard biography of Edgar Cayce.
We believe that the nearly 2000 A.R.E. members in this country will admire the initiative and energy of our Japanese friends, and will welcome the suggestion that we demonstrate our admiration by volunteering financial support for their efforts.
With this issue of the Bulletin we are enclosing an envelope addressed to Rin Jibushi. We invite every member to use the envelope to send whatever contribution he feels able to make to the support of A.R.E.’s work in Japan.
Checks may be written to “A.R.E. Japan.”
Unfortunately, the endeavor was short-lived and did not resurface again until 1993 with the establishment of the Edgar Cayce Center in Japan (ECCJ), under the direction of Shigeru Mitsuda. The Center in Japan continues to be the organization’s largest and most active international center.
With the growth of study groups throughout the country, “councils” were created to oversee groups within their respective jurisdiction (many with their own council chairs and treasurers). For a time, the role of Region Director of Study Groups also existed in various portions of the country. As conference programming expanded throughout the United States, the role of Lecture-Symposium Chairperson was created, as well, to be responsible for many conference activities. Many of the volunteer structures reported back to different offices in Virginia Beach. For example, the Lecture-Symposium volunteer reported to the Field Conference office; the Councils reported to study groups; the Regional Representatives reported to the office of A.R.E.’s president. Speakers’ Teams reported to the Director Research, and so forth. In part, it was this sometimes confusing communication at the local level that led to the creation of the Region structure in the late 1980s.
In 1973, the A.R.E. News featured an update on the role of Regional Representatives in its August issue:
WHAT IS A REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE?
If the A.R.E. had a Liaison Corps, no doubt it would be primarily composed of its regional representatives. Appointed for a two-year period by the President of the Association, these informed and dedicated members devote many hours each week to the development of all phases of the work throughout the United States and Canada. Monetary compensation is a minimal coverage for travel expenses.
Directly in touch with the President of the A.R.E., its trustees and all department heads, these traveling exemplars of cooperation-in-action are uniquely qualified to channel information to and from Headquarters and the field. As key resource persons for the councils and groups in their areas, they supply current information from the Virginia Beach offices and assist in the valuable exchange of ideas between councils. In addition, they convey suggestions from their councils to the trustees and staff.
Wherever there are needs in the field – for lectures, conferences, workshops, literature or advice on procedures and specific activities – the regional representatives render invaluable service in seeing that they are met … As the work of the A.R.E. continues to expand, the contribution of these personable, knowledgeable men and women will increase proportionately, further proving their service to be a strong and indispensable link between the A.R.E. Headquarters and its members.
The ongoing expansion of the regional representative program was highlighted throughout the 1970s when numerous issues of the A.R.E. News membership newsletter featured updates such as the following:
A.R.E. INTRODUCES NEW REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES
Introducing Fred Hall, newly appointed Regional Representative for the Province of Ontario, Canada. Fred has been an A.R.E. member since 1968, when he visited Virginia Beach for the first time. Helping to organize the first Study Group in his area, his efforts have been instrumental in the rapid growth of the A.R.E. in Ontario. He has served as a Council Chairman, undergone extensive training at Virginia Beach, and lectured for the A.R.E. at the Beach and in the field. Fred has a vast territory to cover, as it stretches from above New York State to the North Dakota border, and 1,100 miles to Hudson Bay …
Over the years, one of the annual traditions for longtime volunteers became the A.R.E. Membership Congress. The existence of A.R.E.’s Congress event is traceable to 1931 when, during the course of a reading dealing with membership, Edgar Cayce suggested that the A.R.E. should begin an annual tradition in which members from around the country would be encouraged to get together. The reading recommended that the event take place somewhere between June 15 and July 1; and that the purpose would be for these members to hear speakers and collectively “renew the faith, confidence, purposes, aims, of the work itself.” (254-57) The annual event came to be called the A.R.E. Congress.
The first annual Congress was held June 27 to July 1, 1932. The agenda featured psychic readings by Edgar Cayce on the following subjects: (1) “The Great Pyramid”; (2) “Training Children in Psychic Development”; (3) “The Life of Jesus before His Ministry”; and (4) “The Sphinx.” The total number in attendance was not well documented – one of Gladys Davis’ notes on file simply states: “Room crowded with Group members [Norfolk Study Group #1] and visitors.” (5749-2)
A couple of years later, the 1934 Congress (third annual) was heralded as “the most successful so far attempted,” and boasted attendees from Alabama, New York, Michigan, Georgia, and Virginia.” The following year, the A.R.E. was pleased to announce that it had 244 members, and a mailing list of approximately 3,000. By the 1940s, Congress was attracting individuals from throughout the United States and Canada.
Over the years, all of the “service activities” at A.R.E. have relied upon volunteers at one time or another. Volunteers have always been a part of the Glad Helpers Prayer Group, volunteering their time for the weekly prayer meeting, as well as volunteering to be a part of the daily prayer work. Volunteers serve in the Library, the Visitor Center, Conference programming, the Prison program – the list goes on and on.
Since the very beginning, members of the organizations’ Board of Trustees also came from volunteer ranks. And over time, many individuals have held more than one volunteer position at the same time. As volunteer efforts grew throughout the country and hundreds of individuals held volunteer positions related to study groups, councils, lectures, regional representatives, etc., the concept of Congress changed slightly for several years during the late 1970s from an “all members are invited” to a more focused program for A.R.E. volunteers that included training segments for speakers’ teams, volunteer outreach, study groups, publicizing programs and so forth. During this time, local members and volunteers were encouraged to “elect” a Congress delegate to represent their area at the annual program. The idea was short-lived and by the 1981 Congress (50th annual), Congress was once again attracting members from around the world for a week of community, education, and “brainstorming” ideas related to the future of the Cayce work.
In terms of world outreach, without a doubt A.R.E.’s international activity received its strongest volunteer boost in the form of Elsie and Bill Sechrist. Bill, an engineer and a successful businessman, and Elsie, a former nurse, had both received several readings from Edgar Cayce beginning in 1943 and from that time forward remained committed to the organization, leading study groups wherever they lived: California, Texas, and eventually Virginia. Funding their own travel, together the two were responsible for countless tours to six continents (every continent but Antarctica), speaking in front of many thousands worldwide, and laying the groundwork for many of the international Edgar Cayce Centers that exist to this day. As an example of their worldwide outreach, what follows are some of the notes of a “five-month-world tour” in 1972/1973:
FIRST INTERNATIONAL A.R.E. CONFERENCE A SUCCESS
Outside Schloss Schöneck [Germany], the castle near the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers where the conference was held, there were snow and icy winds, but the conference sessions were held in front of a blazing, hard-wood open fire in a huge fireplace. Conferees included, besides Germans and Americans, some from Sweden, Holland and France. Language difficulties were overcome by Elsie Sechrist’s fluency in German … (A.R.E. News, February 1973)
FROM A.R.E. WORLD TRAVELERS ELSIE AND BILL SECHRIST
Lectured in Nairobi [Kenya] three times. A study group is being planned, another one (or two) in Tehran, one in Jerusalem, same in Athens, Sweden, Germany.
In Durban [South Africa] an audience of 600 crowded the hall to hear Elsie’s talk and responded with great enthusiasm. As a result she invited all those who were interested in group study to meet with her the following evening at the private home where she was staying. An attendance of 110 resulted and six groups were formed, representing different parts of Durban as well as outlying districts …
(A.R.E. News, March 1973)
THE SECHRISTS VISIT MALAYSIA
A clipping sent us from the daily press of Penang in Malaysia tells of the arrival there of Elsie and Bill Sechrist, the A.R.E.’s International Representatives, who were met at the airport by the local Lion’s Club president and the international relations chairman. Elsie addressed the Club and a large gathering of their friends at their annual Chap Goh Meh dinner at the Dragon Palace. (A.R.E. News, April 1973)
SECHRISTS “WOW” SOUTH AFRICA
Correspondence from Johannesburg, South Africa waxes enthusiastic about Elsie and Bill Sechrist’s visit there. They were there for five days, giving four lectures to an average attendance of 300, and radio interviews in both Johannesburg and Pretoria. Workshops also were held. Result: eight study groups and a spirit expressed thus by our correspondent: “Elsie and Bill, your visit was a WOW! We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please come back soon.”
(A.R.E. News, May 1973)
SECHRISTS WIND UP SUCCESSFUL WORLD TOUR
On March 14, the Sechrists arrived in Tokyo from Kyoto on the bullet train. That evening Elsie met with Tokyo Study Group No. 1.
On the evening of the 15th Elsie lectured to Group No. 3, which is made up entirely of Japanese members and interested people of the Japanese community. Mr. Uritani, editor of Tama Publishing Co. – which plans to translate and publish Dreams – Your Magic Mirror sponsored the lecture. On Saturday, Mr. Uritani accompanied the Sechrists to Tokyo Community College, where about eighty women attended the lecture.
On Saturday, Mr. Uritani … accompanied the Sechrists by train to Hitachi City (about 160 kilometers north of Tokyo) for a lecture sponsored by Dr. Kamashida’s Society for Spiritual Understanding. About 280 people attended … On Sunday, Elsie lectured to the International Community of Tokyo at the Grew House of the U.S. Embassy apartment complex …After still more lecturing in Hawaii the Sechrists finally arrived home in Texas … (A.R.E. News, June 1973)
This international activity led to a groundswell of interest throughout the globe and eventually the establishment of several dozen “Edgar Cayce Centers” in places like the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Greece, Australia, etc., and even a bi-annual international Congress for about 10 years in an ever-changing European city. The good news was that volunteer efforts at the international level shared both the Cayce work and the study group activity with the world. The importance of the global volunteer commitment cannot be understated. These individuals took it upon themselves to translate materials, create conferences and retreats, host study group meetings and so forth. The challenge was that a “franchise” model or contract was never created, resulting in each center (and level of volunteer activity and interest) being very different from one another.
As mentioned previously, the existence of various volunteer positions throughout the country each often reporting back to different departments at A.R.E. Headquarters resulted in a number of communication problems in local areas. For example, a local Lecture-Symposium volunteer might know of an A.R.E. speaker coming to the area but this information was not always shared in a timely manner with other local volunteers such as the Regional Representative, the Study Group Council, or the local Speakers’ Teams.
Between 1985 and 1987, Field Support Services Director, Lyn Costaldo, began a series of meetings with volunteer groups throughout the country to address existing problems with the Field Volunteer structure. Keeping in mind that this was at a time before the internet, email, Skype, etc., one of the key premises was the need to improve communication and create some measure of unification between existing volunteers by city, state and region. In the end, the idea of creating 10 Regions throughout the United States became the proposed structure. The first official Region became the Southeast (consisting of six states: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina) and longtime member and local speaker, Jean Barker of Miami, Florida, became the first Region Coordinator. Launched in 1986, the creation of the Region was announced to the general membership the following spring:
Pilot Southeast Region is scene of increasing activity
Activity in A.R.E.’s newly designated Southeast Region is in full swing, including a scheduled headquarters meeting between Region Facilitator [Coordinator] Jean Barker and key staff members of Field Support Services.
“The meeting,” according to Field Support Services Director Lyn Costaldo, “will serve to finalize travel plans and programs within the six-state area during the remainder of this year for the pilot program.”
… the new field structure will be tested for 13 months. If analysis at the end of 1987 indicates that the new structure has been successful, similar regions will be established in the future.
Major innovations in the Southeast Region include formation of a 24-member Core Team, from which the Region Facilitator was selected …
(Venture Inward, March/April 1987)
In order to launch the Region, the Southeast was provided with a $20,000 stipend, which would be continued for up to three years, enabling the Region to begin to support itself primarily through Region Coordinator programming. The “success” of the pilot project was going to be judged on a number of factors, including the following:
· Unification and Communication between existing volunteers within a Region
· Increased face-to-face interaction with members throughout the country
· Potential increase in members throughout a Region
· Potential increase in contributions from members who feel more connected
Assuming that the pilot project proved successful, A.R.E.’s “roll out plan” for the remaining Regions was, as follows:
· The $20,000 stipend was to be used for a small remuneration for the Region Coordinator, as well as travel expenses and a Region newsletter. This stipend would be discontinued within three years so that it could be used to support another Region initiative.
· No more than 2-3 Regions would be underwritten by A.R.E. Headquarters at any one time.
However, once the first Region was launched, every area of the country wanted to be regionalized immediately. Although the first few were given the annual stipend, later Regions were so eager to launch that more than half launched without the $20,000 annual amount. Over the next nine years, every area of the country and Canada became part of the Region structure. What follows is the Region area, the year of launch, and the initial Region Coordinator(s):
· Southeast in 1986 with Jean Barker
· Northern California in 1988 with Grethe Tedrick and Suzanne Keehn
· Southwest in 1989 with Nadean Phillips
· Heartland in 1990 with Toni Romano
· Northeast in 1991 with Win Howie
· Mid-Atlantic in 1991 with Patty Finlayson
· Pacific Southwest in 1992 with Helen Ruth Schroeder
· Pacific Northwest in 1993 with Shirley Anne Schaudies
· L.O.V.E. (Lake Erie – Ohio Valley) Region in 1993 with Robert Heath
· Rocky Mountain in 1994 with Darlene Bodnar
· Canada in 1995 with Nancy and Frank Thomas
Although Regionalization did increase conference programming throughout the country and it certainly improved local volunteer communications, there were challenges. For example, once a Region was launched with the $20,000 stipend, it was not financially able to move toward discontinuing the stipend within the three-year timeframe. Some of the later Regions decided to launch without the annual stipend and then pressured A.R.E. Headquarters to provide some annual financial assistance. Eventually, direct financial underwriting from Virginia Beach headquarters to the Regions had to be discontinued. By the early 1990s, requirements for additional local financing led A.R.E. headquarters to turn over a portion of Field Conferencing revenues and all local book sales to the Regions. In spite of the initial plans for success, the Region initiative showed no measurable growth in membership and in some areas a negative impact upon contributions as some members decided to redirect their contributions to local needs and activities.
In time, the biggest challenge with Regions occurred when a number of the Region Coordinators decided to retire and – in a number of instances – no local volunteers wanted to take on the responsibilities of coordinator. At the same time, the proliferation of email, social networking and the internet also helped to further spread and communicate the existence of the Cayce work.
Canada became the first area to drop out of the Region structure in 2000 when through the efforts of local volunteers it decided to become an international center instead. In time, other Regions began to dissolve and combine with others:
· The Mid-Atlantic Region gave its oversight to A.R.E. Headquarters in 2007
· Northern California and the Pacific Southwest combined in 2008
· The Pacific Northwest dissolved into the Northern California Region in 2009, creating an West Coast District
· L.O.V.E. dissolved into Heartland in 2009
· Northeast dissolved into Mid-Atlantic (under A.R.E. Headquarters) in 2010
· Southwest splits between Heartland and Southeast in 2014
As of this writing (November 2016), many areas are moving toward a model in which local Area Teams work directly with A.R.E. Headquarters. The strongest Region at this point remains the Southeast Region.
In 2013, under the direction of Levan Burgin, Field Volunteer Outreach Coordinator, and CEO Kevin Todeschi, A.R.E. undertook a survey of Field Volunteers to essentially assess the answers to these three questions:
1) What are your needs for the future?
2) How can you imagine technology impacting your future?
3) If you had unlimited funds at your disposal, what would you most want for your respective area(s).
The information from that survey was utilized in the ongoing Strategic Planning processes and the creation of “objectives” undertaken during 2013-2015 by A.R.E. Senior Management, and helped to inspire a number of activities such as greater technological outreach and more online activities/courses. The responses to that survey were also presented by Management to A.R.E.’s Board of Trustees at their spring 2015 meeting. That meeting helped to inspire the Strategic Activities Committee of the Board of Trustees to work with management and National Outreach to do an even more comprehensive survey during 2015 to further assess the needs of A.R.E. volunteers. Between the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016, a group consisting of Levan Burgin and Board members Martha Loveland and Lora Little met to address all suggestions contained in the survey. Once survey results had been obtained, a Field Volunteers Resource Team was created at A.R.E. Headquarters to address each of the recommendations that resulted from the survey.
The core initiatives that have resulted from the survey include: a centralized “Field Volunteer Resource” on the web, providing volunteers with key information and materials for their volunteer activities throughout the country; a renewed emphasis and staffing in the Study Group department; and a more a focused travel and communication plan for the Field Volunteer Outreach Coordinator to interact with volunteer areas and Regions throughout the country.
In addition to the above, since the survey the organization has attempted to do a better job communicating the core importance of volunteer activities. For example, a “Local Handout” highlighting both Study Group activities and Volunteer Opportunities at the local level was created for Field Conferences, and the March/April 2015 issue of Venture Inward magazine recognized the importance of all volunteers:
From the Desk of Kevin J. Todeschi:
A BIG THANK YOU to A.R.E. Volunteers!
Some of our readers may not be aware of the fact that A.R.E. volunteers are the heartbeat (and remain at the core) of so many of our ongoing activities! These events occur in Virginia Beach, throughout the United States and Canada, and even in dozens of places around the world. Our volunteers help sponsor local conference programs. They host ASFG Study Group meetings in their homes. They present local inquirers meetings. They provide all manner of educational materials at local events. They help ship books to prisoners. They work in our volunteer call center, answering every kind of question. They commit to daily working with prayer and sending out healing energy. They work in every department at A.R.E. Headquarters: from the Library and the Visitors Center to Conferences and Buildings and Grounds. The officers on the Board of the Edgar Cayce organizations are all volunteers. In a very real sense, our volunteers make the work of A.R.E. possible.
In Virginia Beach alone, last year our volunteers logged a total of 16,886 volunteer hours in 24 different departments! If we simply calculated having to pay $7.25 per hour (Virginia’s minimum wage), that accounts for more than $122,000 in non-paid labor! We are so grateful to our volunteers!
In terms of the greatest number of hours logged at headquarters by any one group of volunteers that distinction goes to the Board of Trustees. In addition to meeting in Virginia Beach three times per year (at their own expense), the board collectively logs more than 5,000 hours each year in Board phone calls, committee meetings, and on site visits. Thank you, Board Members!
Next to the Board, the next five most active volunteer areas consist of:
1) Helping at A.R.E. Conferences in Virginia Beach;
2) Taking part in the Glad Helpers Healing Prayer Group that meets each Wednesday morning (and is open to the public);
3) Talking to callers and answering members’ questions in our volunteer call (and email) center;
4) Volunteers giving the free daily lecture at our Visitor Center; and,
5) Working in our Prison Program – opening and logging mail and mailing out books to inmates throughout the country – in fact, our Prison Program gets more mail than any other department at the organization!
In terms of opportunities outside of Virginia Beach, there are dozens of ongoing volunteer teams throughout the United States, involving the efforts of hundreds of individuals. These volunteers help A.R.E. Headquarters put on conferences and retreats in their areas, as well as hosting their own local conferences. At over 100 various programs each year, they work the book tables, the study group information tables, and the membership tables. They write articles for local newsletters. They update website information. They answer calls from local inquiries. They take “road trips” to surrounding communities and provide every manner of information about the Cayce work. They give conference speakers rides to and from the airport and wherever else needed. They open their homes for regular meetings. A conservative estimate is that they collectively account for more than 30,000 volunteer hours each year! Many of our volunteers also gather each year at our annual Membership Congress.
Our international activities at dozens of Edgar Cayce Centers throughout the world are also made possible by volunteers. For example, the biggest Edgar Cayce Center outside of Virginia Beach is in Japan. There all of the Board members are also volunteers. Volunteers help the center publish its magazine and newsletters. Volunteers help the center translate the Edgar Cayce Readings into Japanese. (In fact, the Center plans to have all readings translated into Japanese by 2020!) During the Center’s 20th anniversary conference last year, ten volunteers helped host more than 300 participants. According to Shigeru Mitsuda, the Center’s president, “Without the help of volunteers, we could not continue to carry out our activities!”
On behalf of all of us, I wish to extend a big THANK YOU to all of our volunteers for making this work possible!
A.R.E.’s volunteers have been essential to the organization since the very beginning. For that reason, the Edgar Cayce work remains committed to nurturing and facilitating the ongoing efforts of volunteers wherever they may be. Volunteers have helped and guided the Edgar Cayce work in every way imaginable. Most have remained unsung heroes in the many decades of outreach and activity of the Cayce work and yet their work made so much of what was accomplished possible.
There is no doubt that even as technology changes the ways in which we communicate, promote and disseminate this Work, volunteers will continue to be at the core of this Work. Without the collective efforts of volunteers and their ongoing efforts, Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. could not exist.