John and Eleanor Yackel
John and Eleanor Yackel’s support for Spirit in the Desert began when John’s former business partner, Paul Campbell, was appointed Executive Director of the Retreat Center in 2004. As John and Eleanor of Circle Pines, Minnesota, learned about the Retreat Center in Carefree, Arizona, they were attracted to its ecumenical and cross-cultural emphasis and they especially liked retreats with a theme of social justice. John said, “Jesus was all about justice. When I attended retreats at Spirit in the Desert, I had a feeling of belonging to a community of people from all walks of life, sharing and supporting each other.”
John soon saw that the retreat center needed financial support and he and Eleanor became major contributors. In honor of their annual generosity and especially in recognition of Eleanor’s belief in the healing power of welcoming hospitality, one of the guest residences on the campus is named the Yackel Hospitality Lodge.
American Guidance Services is a publishing company specializing in educational testing instruments that John started while a student at the University of Minnesota and grew into a successful organization. John’s business acumen was needed on Spirit of the Desert’s Board of Directors where he served for seven years. His leadership focused on the importance of increasing charitable contributions to support the mission of Spirit in the Desert.
Some years ago Eleanor and John invited a small group of people in the Twin Cities to a dinner to learn about Spirit in the Desert. That event, celebrating Spirit in the Desert and inviting others to support its work, has grown and is now held every fall and spring with up to 100 people in attendance.
When asked about his vision for Spirit in the Desert, John said, “I see it increasingly reaching out to all people, continuing to be a place where people can ponder personal and social issues and return renewed by their retreat experience.”