I began working for Guest Programs in 1982, when we were beginning to use our new facilities at Ananda Village. The World Brotherhood Retreat (now The Expanding Light) was located on a hill just above the entry to the community. Arjuna and the Ananda Construction Company had
completed a shell of the three main buildings: Temple, dining room and kitchen. We also used an existing farmhouse at the entry for some of our guests, and in the summer we had camping facilities on the hill (which is still the retreat camping area).
Most of the guests stayed at the Meditation Retreat throughout the week, where we held daily Energization Exercises and meditation as well as classes in Yogananda’s teachings. On Sunday we drove down to the new Temple for Sunday Service and served lunch afterward in the partially completed dining room. There were no kitchen facilities there yet, so lunch was prepared in the Meditation Retreat kitchen, then brought down to the World Brotherhood Retreat in a truck. This was quite challenging as we had no catering equipment, nor did we have a proper truck for transporting food, and the gravel road to the Meditation Retreat is quite hilly and bumpy. However, we continued this system for about a year, serving meals to 200 or more at holiday functions as well as lunch after the weekly Sunday services.
We knew we couldn’t grow at the Meditation Retreat, due to an agreement with our neighbors, and so we continued fundraising efforts to make it possible to finish the new facilities so that we could move in permanently.
We outfitted the kitchen and built small tent cabins for the guests and, in 1984, the retreat was sufficiently functioning so that we were able to move our guest facilities. Now the guests had three options: camping, tent cabins, and a guest house in the farmhouse at the bottom of the hill. The guest house was over 100 years old, with a sinking floor (no foundation!), but it was lovingly decorated by Paula Gugliotta and most of our guests found it charming.
Durga and Vidura became the directors of the World Brotherhood Retreat,
and they orchestrated the move from the Meditation Retreat in the late spring/early summer of 1984. Vidura had just finished managing extensive construction, remodeling and landscaping at the Crystal Hermitage, and was inclined to wear his tool belt to work every day―which often came in handy. Our “reception center,” office, and boutique were in a large trailer, which was parked where the Reception Center now stands.
That summer things went along pretty well, and toward the fall Durga and Vidura announced that they would be away at Christmas time, for a long-promised two-week visit to Durga’s mother and family on the East Coast. They left, appointing me (Latika) and Lila as acting managers in their absence. At the time, I had been at Ananda for a mere 2-1/2 years, and Lila for slightly less than that. My regular job was managing the finances for the retreat, and Lila was in charge of guest services. The staff was quite small―one or two teachers, a maintenance man, a kitchen manager and perhaps one helper, and another office person. In those days, the Retreat was the focus of all community Christmas activity. There were few homes with kitchens (in fact, few homes at all!), so every event at the Retreat was geared toward feeding 180-250 people, depending upon numbers of guests. Not only was there a Christmas sit-down dinner planned, but also an extensive Christmas Eve party, with refreshments amounting to a full meal.
Then just a day or so before Christmas, we had a huge winter storm with 3-4 feet of snow. The power went out, and the temperatures dropped, keeping the snow on the ground and freezing the water pipes to the retreat. Through the grace of God and Guru, and by all of us working nearly around the clock, somehow we managed to keep everything going. I still have vivid memories of Roma (then Eilleen Burke, our kitchen manager) melting snow for water to cook
Christmas dinner, and Dharmadas (Peter Schuppe) up to his waist in mud, trying to fix the main water pipe in the meadow that had burst in the freezing weather. Only later did I learn that, once the power had been restored, in order to melt the ice enough to work on the pipe, he had rigged up an electric heater―powered through a series of extension cords strung out from the temple to the meadow―in the vast hole he had dug in the frozen ground.