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Jim King

Executive Director

Jim came to Heartwood after many years of working in health and human services agencies and nonprofits.  He focused on at-risk youth for much of that time.  Wanting to make a lasting difference in the lives of young people he founded the If Given a Chance Foundation and served as its Executive Director for close to 20 years.  Over his life, Jim has been an avid backpacker, runner, and rock climber.  His love for the outdoors and interest in environmental issues lead him to serve on the Napa County Planning Commission for 12 years.  Once again Jim wanted to make a difference.  This desire led him to Heartwood.  He sees the focus and practices being implemented at Heartwood as the single most effective way of healing the earth while healing ourselves.

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Charlene Khan

Business Operations Manager

Charlene is originally from Massachussetts where she worked as a baker for 10 years. Additionally she lived and worked in Vermont for a Health Spa for 5 years. Charlene first came to Heartwood in 1986 as a 3 months students in the Life Exploration Program. She came back to Heartwood in 1987 to work as staff for 1 year. Upon returning in 1994 she has held a variety of staff and management positions over the years. She is currently working in the business office while also assisting in a variety of arenas along with assisting management as and when needed.

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Tony Fraser

Community Development and Hospitality Manager

Tony grew up on a small farm in Savanna-La-Mar, Jamaica with his family. After leading a simple life on the farm in Jamaica, Tony moved to Davis California for school in 1987. For 15 years, Tony worked in the natural and organic industries. Always seeking new challenges, Tony began Island Boy Company, manufacturing Jamaican style marinades in 1999.
Since 2009, Tony has lived and worked at Heartwood Institute where he has been responsible for programs, events, gardens and grounds. Tony has created an environment of preparation, hard work, and respect while at Heartwood. He has applied these same values to all his endeavors. Tony plans his activities for efficiency, is goal oriented, and takes the time to care for himself in order to continue the work he does.

Tony owes thanks to his upbringing and feels that that is the reason he has the work ethic he does, and it has assisted him in creating an atmosphere of honesty and respect.

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George Lea

Art Director

George brings three decades of experience working with both arts organizations and community development issues to the institute. Since the mid-seventies he has been involved with studio design and construction, gallery management, and artist agent services. In addition he has managed several independent studios. Working with a variety of community art centers and state arts councils he has conducted dozens of artist residencies throughout the United States. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and can be found in both public and private collections.
As the arts program coordinator George is working to establish both a residency program and class offerings that empower participating Artists and students to do more within the communities that they come from. He has imbued the arts programs at Heartwood with an appreciation for the environment, social change, and sustainability. George blends his experience and knowledge of the arts, ecology, and social issues, with non-profit business management skills. As an administrator he places an emphasis on project integrity and sustainability while staying in alignment with the institutes mission to be of service. As the institutes Art Director he is driven to provide opportunities for participants to develop as individuals while expanding upon professional skill sets. He invites further inquiries regarding the program and can be reached via email at:


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Natalie Varrallo

Culinary Arts Director

Natalie grew up in Woodstock, New York, where she was exposed early on to alternative forms of food, medicine, community, and lifestyle. Possessing an insatiable desire for travel and learning, she has studied extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, in pursuit of numerous disciplines and practices. From 2008 through 2014, she spent her summers in Taiwan, immersing herself in the traditions of Humanistic Buddhism through the Fo Guang Shan movement. Her role there resulted in positions with monasteries across Asia, where she played an integral part in their annual monastic retreats, which exposed students to the serious study of classical and contemporary Buddhist history, philosophy, and religion. Among the key elements taught was the practice of vegetable gardening and kitchen duty within a Buddhist monastery- specific duties that emphasize the meditative and spiritual qualities of food preparation and consumption.
After completing her degree in Botany and Sustainable Agriculture from the Evergreen State College in Washington, she went on to receive her certificate in permaculture design, and has since been working to combine the ritualistic and communal values of gardening and cooking that she learned in Asian monasteries with her formal background in botany and nutrition to arrive at the conception of a plant-based lifestyle that is wholly nourishing and ecologically sustainable. With a compassionate and friendly community as its bedrock, and bolstered by the studied cultivation of herbalism, forestry, soil science, fermentation, and mycology, the creation of food from a place of love can result in a distinct blend of science and sanctity that is thoroughly fulfilling, as well as uplifting.

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Christopher Gilles

Tech Support

Chris left his native Wisconsin and post-college big city life 20 years ago for Alaska, to reconnect to the natural environment and rhythms of nature, and to live in a small town. After 8 years in Alaska, wanting to explore deeper aspects of himself and life in community, he spent 5 years in Western Massachusetts living and working at Kripalu Center for Yoga. Chris arrived at Heartwood in 2005 after some globetrotting, insisting that he was “not planning on staying very long.”

A decade later he finds himself still nestled comfortably amidst the hills and culture of what he has come to know and love as home.
He spends most of his time at Heartwood taking care of technological aspects of the community, be it computer networks, websites, or other geeky stuff, and occasionally sharing his perspectives on community living. He is currently busy fixing, building, and generally counteracting the 2nd law of thermodynamics. He loves to listen to and play music, philosophize, travel, read, and create cool things.

He believes we are moving into a new era in which we are becoming explorers, pioneers and creators of practices and communities that help us understand our place in the world and sustain healthy relationships with ourselves, each other, and the planet we live on. “It is the remembering, creating, embracing, and enactment of such practices that reinforce aspects of life that support an environment where humans can actualize their potential.”

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Christina Zawerucha

Permaculture Director

Christina Zawerucha is a permaculture agronomist who is passionate about the exchange of ecological wisdom in multicultural contexts. Focused on working with immigrant populations, smallholder farmers and English Language Learners, Christina has developed participatory curricula with public, non-profit, and higher education institutions in New York City, Pennsylvania, Ukraine, Virginia, Haiti, and Ethiopia. Prior to Heartwood, Christina launched the social enterprise GreenPath food, Ethiopia’s first certified organic fruit and vegetable company and the first permaculture outgrower model in the world. Christina also co-founded Permaculture for Peace, a grassroots nonprofit organization that uses permaculture as a community-building tool for displaced populations in conflict and post-conflict areas. Her work as an educator has been featured in the New York Times, the MacArthur Foundation documentary “I Learn America,” and Al Jazeera America. She is currently pursuing a PhD in International Sustainable Agriculture through Wageningen University’s distance education program for working professionals, and is particularly excited about the power of diversity to create resilience in communities, ecosystems, and economies throughout our dynamic world.