What happens when a farm girl from Indiana with an incredible sense for authenticity, a deep spiritual connection and an eclectic career background becomes Executive Director of a non-profit organization? The answer is a fifteen year anniversary celebration.
It is with great honor and privilege that we dedicate this post to celebrate Anita Wilson and her fifteen years of unwavering dedication as the Gerson Institute’s leader.
Throughout my time here, I have had the pleasure of hearing stories that tell the tale of the many lives of Anita, all of which come together to form a rich, multi-layered tapestry of experience. I wasn’t aware that one person could have so many of them in one lifetime. I’m certain that if Anita were asked to, she could easily trace back where she is today to a few decisions made early in life.
A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Anita’s career experiences do not fit a typical equation for someone who has dedicated fifteen years of their life as an Executive Director, yet these varied backgrounds are rooted in exactly who she is and who she has always been – a country girl from Indiana, who wants nothing more than to dig around in the dirt while all sorts of insects and birds move around her, while the smell of flowers, some wild like her, fill the air.
She used to run around the fields around her family farm in Indiana barefoot, and she would love to squish her toes in-between the cow patties in the fields. Upon returning home, her mom would be waiting for her, hose in hand, ready to spray her down. Little did she know that her draw to the earth’s external metabolism, the soil, would directly connect to her future work in food as medicine and soil restoration. Mel Lions, Program Manager at Wild Willow Farm, fondly regards Anita as his soil mate (wink!).
Even right out of high school, Anita knew that her destiny lay in selfless care of others. She performed volunteer work in Guatemala, Africa and Hawaii; worked in a leper colony; worked with children with severe behavioral and mental disabilities; worked in the community mental health movement; managed a children’s residential treatment program during which time she fostered children with incredible health challenges; owned an antiques business; was the founding director of a Navajo reservation charter high school; and then as the director of the Gerson Wellness Center in Sedona, Arizona (no longer in establishment).
SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
In May 2003, Anita was hired as the Gerson Institute’s Executive Director during a critical turning point. With financial woes and a bare-bones staff, Anita dove in head first to quickly get things back on track and in doing so, changed the Gerson Institute’s trajectory towards stability and growth. Charlotte Gerson remarked that, “with her wonderful kindness and wry humor, she attracts the right people and has been able to hire enthusiastic, talented people with a myriad of skills. It is impossible to imagine the organization without her.”
If any of you readers have made your way to the Gerson Institute for an event or to visit our headquarter office, Anita at the very least likely introduced herself to you. She would have instantly treated you as a friend. She would have wanted to learn as much as she could about you; maybe even shared some personal stories about herself. No matter why you were there, as soon as you walked through the door, you were no longer a stranger to her. It’s this culture of warmth and transparency that Anita has cultivated within the Gerson Institute that translates to our relationship with our patients.
During Anita’s tenure, the Gerson Institute has seen great growth and is poised to continue that trend. We have certified several Gerson practitioners with at least ten more on-track to complete certification in the next year or so; licensed Europe’s first and only licensed Gerson clinic; educated thousands of people around the world on the benefits of a Gerson lifestyle through our in-person and online Gerson Basics classes; produced in-house the most comprehensive and up-to-date Gerson Therapy educational tools; and expanded our treatment options to offer long-distance, remote-based consultations to those who cannot travel to a licensed Gerson clinic.
TREASURE OF THE EARTH
When the Gerson community celebrated Anita’s 10th anniversary in 2013, Beata Bishop (co-founder of the Gerson Health Centre – Europe; 30-plus-year recovered Gerson Melanoma patient; former BBC journalist and psychotherapist; author of A Time to Heal), reflected on Anita’s unique qualities that truly deem her one-of-a-kind:
“What I admire most in Anita is the seamless way in which she combines two very different qualities in her character: cool, steely, no-nonsense strength, and great warmth and sensitivity. The first quality worked wonders when she took over the running of the Institute ten years ago, at a time of chaos and confusion, and sorted things out remarkably fast. The second quality, genuine caring and openness to the needs of others, spiced with a great sense of humor, permeates her daily life.”
The defining characteristics that we admire most about Anita is her ability to improvise a song whenever the moment calls for it; her ability to see the best in every person and every situation she comes in contact with; her ability to hint to you about a great idea just enough so that eventually you think you came up with it yourself; and her ability to see the big picture, at times a picture so big it borders on cosmic.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
On Wednesday, May 23, we hosted a surprise lunch with staff and a few of Anita’s close friends, including The Food Cure director Sarah Mabrouk. Among many laughs and the sharing of fond memories, Anita was presented with a beautiful plaque made to commemorate her 15 years of work.
A sentiment that Anita often echoes captures her spirit and lens through which she sees the world:
“We make our living by what we get – we make our lives by what we give.”
Over the last decade and a half, Anita has been our constant. She has been our rock. She has been our rhythm, making sure we never lose the beat. She has helped connect us with what had come before, and where we have gone since. Everything she does comes from a spirit of selflessness. She’s always trying to connect to her deepest truth and trying to help those around her to find theirs. Her support, leadership and love know no limits.
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Written by: Eric Freeman
Edits & Post by: Nicole Ferrer-Clement