Protestors not happy with temporary closing of Happehatchee Center

It hasn't really been a happy place at Estero's Happehatchee Center since its environmentalist founder Ellen Peterson died, supporters say.

Nearly 25 patrons, volunteers and teachers gathered on Tuesday night outside the eco-spiritual center near the intersection of Corkscrew Road and U.S. 41. They were there to protest the center's temporary closing and what they say is the mistreatment of staff.

Protesters were calling for Genelle Grant, the center's board president, to step down.

They waved signs that read "Happe is not Happy," "Genelle Grant Step Down" and "Keep the Happe at Happehatchee."

Peterson, the center's founder, died in October. Six months later the board of directors announced the center would close for two months because they wanted to "restructure" it.

Happehatchee, the Seminole word for "happy river," offered affordable yoga classes and other spiritual classes. Peterson conceived of the idea for the center in 2005, according to the center's website.

Bobbie Lee Gruninger, a former board member and a close friend of Peterson, said Peterson would want the center open for the community.

"We want the board to realize what they have done to the community by displacing everyone," said Gruninger, who resigned from the board two weeks ago.

Once the center reopens, former teachers will have to reapply for jobs, protesters said.

"I do not believe that there will be equal opportunity when the center reopens," said Salima Silverman, a yoga teacher for two years.

Protesters said they plan to gather at the center every Saturday going forward. The center needs a board that believes in love, compassion and kindness and stops operating with fear, anger and exclusivity, Gruninger said.

"There hasn't been the love, compassion or respect for people in our community since Ellen passed away," she said.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 9

Beachglow writes:

Just more necessary trimming of the budget. Get real used to it as long as Obama is in office.
Everything is collapsing.

MisterK writes:

in response to Beachglow:

Just more necessary trimming of the budget. Get real used to it as long as Obama is in office.
Everything is collapsing.

These teachers are paid in on-the-spot class donations. The budget for teachers is zero. I'm not privy to the details, but I think what's happening here is a power grab. Ellen created a place for the practice of yoga, meditation and retreat. The value of her center has grown over and above the cost to participate. I believe this board is commercializing on the center. Something Ellen would not have allowed. Ellen was a fighter for Florida's natural environment. Her story is worth a look.

b writes:

Happehatchee sits on what has been described as the most valuable, per sq ft, real estate in Estero.
Does board seek way to trim budget -or-
a bundle of moolah payday?
We shall see.

b writes:

Long live the spirit of Ellen Peterson.

Martha_Simons writes:

Ron, I didn't know you were a fan of Ellen's. I am happy to hear that.
Board members please do not commercial Happahatchee. Just reopen and restore staff and teachers as they were.
I don'thave a dog in this fight but I knew Ellen and worked with Ellen. I have never known Bobbie Lee to stray from her friendship with Ellen or not speak the truth.

ravenhawk writes:

in response to b:

Long live the spirit of Ellen Peterson.

Ellen's spirit will always be with us. How ya been, Ron?

Indyvote writes:

in response to Martha_Simons:

Ron, I didn't know you were a fan of Ellen's. I am happy to hear that.
Board members please do not commercial Happahatchee. Just reopen and restore staff and teachers as they were.
I don'thave a dog in this fight but I knew Ellen and worked with Ellen. I have never known Bobbie Lee to stray from her friendship with Ellen or not speak the truth.

I can back up everything Martha states here as well.

swamp4ever writes:

What? A bunch of imported tree-hugging libs can't get along with someone? Wow, what a surprise.

ravenhawk writes:

in response to Martha_Simons:

Ron, I didn't know you were a fan of Ellen's. I am happy to hear that.
Board members please do not commercial Happahatchee. Just reopen and restore staff and teachers as they were.
I don'thave a dog in this fight but I knew Ellen and worked with Ellen. I have never known Bobbie Lee to stray from her friendship with Ellen or not speak the truth.

Martha, if you had been at one of Ellen's memorials you would have seen that she had a huge following. I only made the one at Happehatchee and it was amazing. Hope to see you again soon.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features