35. Transformations

There was a flurry of activity in and around the Eden Project in the weeks following the first, informal board meet-and-greet. At Rosemary’s insistence, the following day Edward held an “all hands” meeting of the junior lawyers at his law firm and parceled out a variety of assignments that needed to be seen to as part of setting up the Mueller Foundation. “This is going to cost you a great deal of money,” he warned Rosemary. “I don’t care” She replied. “We need to get this taken care of as soon as possible”. There was an urgency in her tone that he had seldom seen in his usually diffident friend.

Rosemary, Ralph, Madeline and the others at the retreat were all deeply engaged in the effort to design and build Eden. Between them they had held at least three dozen meetings with various combinations of people involved and the effort was beginning to show results.

The very first thing that Edward took care of himself was drafting a personal services contract for Madeline to handle foundation business even before there was a foundation per se. This way, Rosemary said, “no one will be able to say or think that she does not speak for me and the foundation with full authority. I want Madeline to be the face and public voice of the foundation and my hope is that she will have the full backing of the board from here on out.” Madeline was now working full time on foundation matters. Since she had been spending 3–4 days a week in Dare County she was already becoming a familiar figure not only in Barley Mill but also around the courthouse in Huttonsville.

As such things often do in small communities, word had spread quickly that a rich widow from Ohio had taken an interest in the recovery efforts in Dare County, even though Daniel’s newspaper had not been able to produce an issue since the tornado. The entire newspaper production facility had been directly in the path of the storm, and he had conceded that in all likelihood, it would never publish another issue. Madeline was often mistaken for that rich woman from Ohio, and found it increasingly difficult to walk down the streets of the county seat or to visit the disaster sites in Barley Mill or Cibola. “I’m not Rosemary Mueller,” she would tell people, “but I work for the foundation she is setting up.” In reply to the increasingly frequent requests for money for everything from rebuilding houses, to buying replacement chickens for those killed in the storm, her answer was the same. “This is a long term project and the foundation will be primarily an operating foundation. As Mrs. Mueller and the other board members have decided, we’re going to spend most of the money on designing and building the new community of Eden, but we hope to be as transparent as possible. We’ll let everyone know when the foundation is operational and what the funding guidelines will be.”

For the most distressing or compelling stories of need that she heard, Madeline kept the contact information and passed it on to the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, FEMA and the West Virginia Emergency Management office. Rosemary had made several million dollar gifts to each of these charities to use as they saw fit about the time of the board retreat, and she had also informed Madeline that she was prepared to give more when it was called for.

Back in Ohio, a junior member of Edward’s firm drafted a letter of gift after meeting with Rosemary to better understand her wishes, and then met with her several times again to discuss amendments, refinements and modifications to the letter. Rosemary thought the gift letter technically adequate but a bit too grandiose for her taste and made her seem like some sort of wise woman of unlimited charity and vision, but the lawyer convinced her that this was how these things were usually done. Like it or not, he said, she would now be remembered as a great philanthropist. “Imagine that!” She told June that same evening. “I can’t even rid myself of Harry’s money without all this fuss.” Her main concern, however, was that the letter of gift carefully constrained foundation activity to Dare County and Ralph Deigh’s rural community redesign effort. They had discussed this extensively in several meetings following up the original retreat, and she had the sense that there was a strong commitment to this effort among those involved in the board and the advisory committee, both of which were being formalized.

Jim Harbaugh, a partner in the Graham and Graham firm was now a full time resident of Dare County and consulted almost daily with Ralph, Madeline and others working on the Eden Project. Other lawyers experienced in corporate and tax matters handled the necessary corporate and charitable filing requirements of the Ohio and West Virginia Secretaries of State offices, the charitable reviews and the request for tax exempt status with the IRS. The foundation would be enabled to operate in both states, even though its principal activities would be in Dare County alone. Another partner in the firm specializing in real estate worked with Madeline to identify an office suite for the foundation in the same building as Harry’s old firm, and another satellite office in Dare County. The Dare County office of the Mueller Foundation was on “lawyer’s row” in Huttonsville, in the block adjoining the federal court house where Rosemary and Adam had first met. Madeline would have preferred the Dare County office to be in Barley Mill, but after the tornado there was no suitable office space available there, no electricity and no internet service. And there would be no buildings at all at the Eden site for at least another six months.

Another team of more than two dozen lawyers had worked full time under the direct supervision of Edward Graham, and with extensive input from Justin and other senior staff members of the firm, and a labor lawyer they brought in from Washington DC to help structure the ESOP.

Art Payne came in to the foundation’s new office in Huttonsville one afternoon while Rosemary was there talking with Madeline. She and Jerry had driven over that morning and she had brought with her a bundle of the key documents setting up the foundation and wanted to highlight a few points to make sure Madeline understood her intent. “You’re not going to believe this!” Art told the two women. “I’ve just met with Maynard Gouch from the Governor’s office. He told me that the state office of housing development could support rebuilding loans only for those people in Barley Mill who were willing to build on their existing lots in the exact footprint of the house that was destroyed. Of course, since Cibola doesn’t officially exist as far as the state is concerned, and Eden has not yet been built, there will be nothing available for people in either community. Any prospect of state support for Cibola or for those people willing to abandon their lots in Barley Mill and rebuilding in Eden is out of the question according to Maynard.”

“How many mortgages are we talking about?” Rosemary asked.

“I don’t have any real idea.”

At this Madeline suggested “Well, we may need a residents’ meeting of people from both communities to try to sort this all out.” Then she added, “It’s pretty clear that the State of West Virginia will have nothing for people from Cibola at this time. It’s going to be several years before the West Virginia and federal courts can even begin to sort out the question of their citizenship and birth rights.”

Later that same day Ralph and Lil. . . dropped by the foundation office in Huttonsville to show Madeline the preliminary drawings for the Labyrinth, the Mountainview Community Center and the transportation grid. Daniel had told Rosemary the previous week that rumors about about these controversial features of the Eden Plan had leaked out in Barley Mill and many locals, particularly the traditionals who had decided to rebuild their old homes on their existing lots in town, were enjoying many a good laugh over the idea of a concrete subway, sewer system and communications grid in a small Appalachian town. Others found the idea of a 30 story “sky scraper” combining schools, and community centers and “facing the mountain” even more amusing. But, most controversial of all for the locals was the plan not to allow any auto and pickup traffic in the town of Eden itself. “It’s a good thing the foundation will have enough money so that we don’t have to rely on public opinion in Dare County to make this whole thing work,” Daniel had told Madeline over a weekend dinner they shared with Ralph and Amy. They had invited Lil. . . and a friend of her choosing to join them but she had declined. No one, including Ralph, seemed to know anything about Lil. . .’s personal life and she seemed determined to keep it that way.

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