Contact: Lettie Haver
260-637-2273, ext 8
by Megan Cooper
University of Saint Francis
You should know ACRES Land Trust is run from a house. Just a residence-designed plot of wooded land. Sure, we call it “office.” What we mean is viewtiful vista in the woods.
And to think, it only took a pooling of five bucks from each of the twelve founders in 1960 to get this whole organization off the ground. What you see now as the large, looming protective entity called ACRES is, after all, housed in a home. When Jane and Tom Dustin moved from Fort Wayne deeper into the Indiana wilderness, they set up camp perched over Cedar Canyon.
Today, ACRES calls the Dustin home headquarters; work takes place in the former bedrooms of the Dustins and their three children. A few ordinary walls, a nifty and immersive back porch, all encasing the huddled figures and wild dreams of the original ACRES crew as they whispered plans for the first winds of change on the Indiana landscape.
Speaking of starting from seeds, what faith: To place everything they had and loved, their passions and each other, into this cauldron for a cause they’d rather give all trying to bring to fruition than stand by and watch it spoil. To put themselves on the line for work they would never see reach its fullest potential.
The beginnings of the ACRES mission started like the slow-motioned drawing out of a rubber band—potential energy, building. We won’t see how this band fires off until many more passing years of slowly, intentionally drawing it back, working toward our goal. When it snaps, when this energy is released, we can see it, though largely in retrospect: the land’s healing and safekeeping. We can’t hear the sound a band creates when it’s initially plucked. Once the tension of time is released, the band puts on a show and jumps. That’s when the founders’ wild dreams can best be seen. They knew that going in, yet they trusted their hearts to get this far. ACRES can go even farther—scratch that—it is.
The key here is getting a distance between small stepping stones of action (i.e. tossing in five meager dollars into the foundation’s fund vault, connecting more willing hearts and hands to the land, our mission protecting it). One of these was the first donation of 64 acres by Edna W. Spurgeon. She, too, was a wild one, tossing aside caution to build upon her passion and trusting the land she loved to the hands of the ACRES people.
The meaning behind ACRES keepers’ has never faltered. It has always been about the land, the life on it, and making a lasting impact for more than one generation’s eyes to behold. Its mission remains the same, even now as the organization surpasses 5,900 acres of protected and preserved land in 2016. The fire lives on in the members and workers behind the ACRES Land Trust name. The earth given to them is loved just as the givers wanted.
I’m starting to see this ideal virtually everywhere and in everything ACRES touches: When ACRES makes a promise to keep, we mean forever. Yeah, I just said “we.” If you live here, you’re like the original crew—an impactful, pivotal part of the living land itself.