From the archives: Frank Basile “Achieving What I Imagined”

It’s not an overstatement to say that imagination changed my life. Over time, I became  convinced that if I could imagine it, believe it, think it, want it, I could achieve it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives and our character.”

While growing up poor in New Orleans, I would imagine having money to do all the things my five sisters and I couldn’t, like attending arts and cultural events—though I had only a vague idea of what those were. Being poor wasn’t the only issue—art and culture simply were not on our radar.

Since we took no family trips or vacations with the exception of visiting nearby relatives, I imagined traveling to far off lands like New York and China.

Virtually tongue-tied when called upon to speak in class, I imagined speaking in front of an audience and actually being applauded. As a boy, it was my job to watch my dad’s fruit stand. Since there weren’t a lot of customers, I relied on my imagination for entertainment. Little did I know that these daydreams, as my mother called them, would take seed. Through the years, I gradually accomplished or became much of what I had imagined, experiencing many ups and downs along the way.

I enjoyed the challenges that came with having to make things happen for myself, and the resulting self-confidence and feeling of accomplishment. I believe meeting these challenges helped in my personal growth. Those who don’t have to fend for themselves frequently miss out on the struggle and the thrill of overcoming.

I vividly recall being told by the principal of the Catholic high school I attended that my tuition was overdue, then learning from my sobbing mother that my dad had gambled away the tuition money she had given him to take to the school on his way to the market.

There was not time to brood. I drove our old pickup truck to the farmers’ market near the French Quarter, got a load of watermelons from a farmer on consignment and sold every one of them by the side of the road at my uncle’s farm just outside of New Orleans. I had earned my own way and was able to pay the tuition the next day. That was not only a thrilling accomplishment, but the beginning of the realization that I was the master of my fate.

Imagination is important to success, but it’s only the beginning. Realizing one’s dreams requires focus, determination, and drive, with a little help from others along the way—like the Christian brother at De La Salle High School who saw how frightened and incapacitated I became when it was my turn to speak or read in class. He convinced me that the only way to overcome something I feared was to do it. He cajoled me into joining the debate team. That was a defining moment in my life, without which I would never have become a professional speaker or succeeded in other areas in which the ability to communicate is important.

Although I imagined having money, I recall that it was not for the sake of being rich or to own a big house, like those in the Garden District of my hometown, or to drive an expensive car. I wanted to be able to live comfortably and enjoy experiences like travel while having enough left over to help other people.

My wife, Katrina, and I are happy living in a modest condo, driving a 2001 car, wearing  bildeoff-the-rack clothes and dining at moderately priced restaurants, with our one extravagance being travel. But our greatest joy comes from philanthropy, especially being able to give a boost to talented individuals to help them achieve their own dreams. Gloria Steinem said, “It’s more rewarding to watch money change the world than to watch it accumulate.”

My early experience growing up with my imagination keeping me company also helped shape my life-long personal mission, which is to help others grow and reach their potential. For about 30 years, I tried to do this through writing books and articles and giving speeches and seminars, most of which were motivational in nature. Most recently, I’m trying to do this through philanthropy and volunteer work with nonprofit organizations.

But it all started with an over-active imagination while minding the fruit stand.


Frank Basile is a professional speaker, author, philanthropist, community volunteer, and retired business executive.

Plan for Miracles

Win Blevins is an award-winning writer and dedicated follower of his dreams. He’s also my Dad, and in 1994, he said three words to me that changed everything.

Twenty years ago, my family was living in an old dairy farm that had been transformed into a church just north of Pittsburgh, PA. We lived in the old milk house, spent hours swinging on the porch, petting bunnies and discovering fairy rings in the woods. But while the environment appeared peaceful, my insides were roiling with the mismatch between who I was and who I wanted to become.

Win's shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Win’s shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Enter Dad.

Shortly after arriving for a visit, he took a walk and returned with a perfectly straight stick as thick as my index finger and about a foot long. Without explaining why, he asked me to write down one-line prayers on a sheet of paper. (And though I’m comfortable with such a task now, back then it felt, um, weird.)

Without reading it, he tore each line from the sheet, curled it around the stick, and wound richly colored yarn around my prayers. At the end of the day, he solemnly handed me a beautiful prayer stick covered in red, blue, green, and golden yarn, and said, “Plan for miracles.”

Plan for miracles? That was a head-scratcher. Can you plan for a miracle? A miracle is something inexplicably wonderful and surprising, perhaps even divine. But you can’t count on them; you can’t build them into your plan. Or can you?

Many of my prayers on that stick were about making music. That simple intention started a steady stream of answered prayers. It got me directing and producing, improvising and chanting, composing and arranging, and it introduced me to countless artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and people of faith whose creativity and spirituality are inseparable. Miraculous? Oh, yeah.

Naming and claiming your dream—whether you call it a prayer, a vision, or an intention—is a powerful and prophetic act. Twenty-one years later, that prayer stick still calls me to make music and calls me out when I don’t. And it reminds me, again and again, to plan for miracles.

Thanks, Dad.

Pam Blevins Hinkle is a musician and director of Spirit & Place, which celebrates the theme of DREAM during it’s annual festival from November 6-15, 2015. Pam recently received the IUPUI Inspirational Woman Award in the staff category. Pam’s father Win Blevins is an award-winning author of more than 30 books and is the 2015 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America as its highest honor.

Get to Know Our Two New Staff Members!

As you know, we welcomed two new staff members to our team this year; Community Engagement Director LaShawnda Crowe Storm, and Program Director Erin Kelley. But how much do you really know about Erin and LaShawnda? We asked our new directors a few fun questions to help us—and you—get to know them a little better! Keep reading to learn about why they joined Spirit & Place Festival, what dreams they have for the future, and their hidden secret talents.


Erin Kelley
Program Director

Q:Home town?

Q: College?
Ball State (B.S. in sociology & history ) and IUPUI (M.A. in public history)

Q: First job?
Gift shop cashier at the Indianapolis Zoo when I was 14.

Q: Favorite childhood memory?
Riding my bicycle all over town with my friends with no instruction other than to be home by the time the street lamps turned on.

Q: If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Honest, Hardworking, Impish

Q:What attracted you to Spirit & Place Festival?
I’ve loved being a part of the festival as an attendee, program partner, and volunteer for more than a decade. Being a part of the festival as a program partner and (committee) volunteer made me a better public programmer and helped me understand the power of community collaborations. To actually be getting paid to work with others and help them see the benefits of being engaged with Spirit & Place is still a bit unreal to me!

Q: What dreams do you have for Indy?
My dream for Indy is that it can achieve greatness in a new and different way from other growing cities; I want Indy to be a place that makes space for everyone, from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Q: What is one secret talent you have?
I am unnervingly adept at picking things up with my toes.

Q: Favorite blog:
Museum 2.0 by Nina Simon.

Q: Favorite Indy restaurant:
This changes frequently, but right now I’m a fan of Bent Rail.



LaShawnda Crowe Storm
Community Engagement Director

Q: Hometown?

Q: College?
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Q: What Attracted you to Spirit & Place Festival?
Lots of variations on the same theme.

Q: What dreams do you have for Indy?
Racial Equity

Q: What is one secret talent you have?
Dancing under the stars.

Q: Favorite blog?
For Harriet

Q: Favorite Indy Restaurant?
Bru Burger

And now you know our new staff members a little better than you did before!  We are so excited to see how Erin and LaShawnda help shape Spirit & Place Festival in the future and what we can dream up together for the 2015 Festival!

What’s a secret talent YOU have that no one knows? Share with us on Facebook and/or Twitter!

Dreaming of Sea Turtles

By Lyla Mahmoud, Spirit & Place Festival Intern

Spring has finally arrived and our beloved spring break has come and gone. For many of us college students, holding on to the memories of warm weather and relaxation that this coveted week off provided are the only things getting us through these last few weeks of school.  The final stretch of school before summer break is characterized by projects we procrastinated on, final exams we would rather forget exist, and frantic extra credit assignments after snapping out of our spring break daze and realizing we have to go back to real life.

IMG_0572My spring breaks in the past have been pretty low-key – I visit my family in Arizona and recover from midterms while soaking up sun rays in the desert heat. This year, however, I pulled out all the stops, and it was definitely a spring break for the books.  Through the Alternative Break Program at IUPUI, I was able to travel to the beautiful islands of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, where my Alternative Spring Break (ASB) family and I worked with leatherback sea turtle habitat conservation and ecotourism in the less urbanized areas of the Island of Trinidad.

For those of you who may not be as geographically adept, Trinidad and Tobago are two islands in the Caribbean, just south of Barbados. Trinidad, the bigger of the two islands, is home to one of the largest nesting colonies for leatherback turtles in the world, where more than 10,000 female turtles journey yearly to lay their eggs. Sadly, these numbers have fluctuated greatly since the 1980’s, the decade that marks when this species was placed on the endangered animals list, due mainly to pouching and accidentally by catch in the fishing industry. Organizations such as The Turtle Village Trust, the NGO my ASB team had the pleasure of working with, have successfully worked toward IMG_0546bringing these numbers back to normal levels.

Our days in Trinidad were filled with hikes through the rainforest, beach cleanups in the Trinidadian sunshine, afternoons spent absorbing local culture, and magical nights where we were able to see the female sea turtles nesting. Watching the females wander up onto the beach and perform their nesting ritual was a truly fascinating moment, and as the days between now and the end of spring break become greater and greater, I find myself constantly reflecting on the experiences I had in Trinidad. This trip marked the first step of my dream to make an impact on how humans view both our global and local environments and begin to become more conscious about our current standards of living.

Spring break may be over and done with for this year, but next year holds potential for a whole new adventure. What’s your spring break “dream” destination? We’re looking forward to your comments!

Intern Spotlight

We’re so thrilled to have our three interns return back to Spirit & Place Festival and help us make “DREAM” the best festival yet!

Our interns have been on the job for almost two weeks and we couldn’t be happier with their work so far. We asked one of our interns, Lyla, to answer a few questions. Read this quick Q/A to know more about her.

Our intern Lyla at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Our intern Lyla at Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Lyla, our communications intern, is part of Spirit & Place Festival through the Sam H. Jones Service Learning Assistant Scholarship and has been with us for THREE semesters now!

Q: Who are you?

A:I’m a sophomore at IUPUI studying Political Science and Legal Studies and hope to study environmental law after I graduate from IUPUI. 

Q: How did you get to know about the Spirit & Place Festival?

A:I was recommended for this internship by a really great professor; he thought I was a good fit for the position, and I think he guessed right.

Q: What sort of duties do you have as the communications intern?

A:I help develop the festival newsletter and also get to work on blog posts, like the one you’re reading right now!

Q: What’s the most exciting opportunity you’ve been able to have through your internship?

A: I think I’d have to say the coolest opportunity I’ve had so far was attending the 2014 festival on JOURNEY. We interns work all year round for a festival that happens in November, so during the first part of the year it’s hard to see exactly what we are working towards. Being able to physically attend the festival and see what all our hard work created is a really satisfying experience.

Q: So you’ve been with Spirit & Place Festival for three semesters now, why do you keep coming back?

A: I don’t think there’s anything else quite like Spirit & Place Festival in Indianapolis.  I love being part of a festival that has such breadth, one event might make you reflect deeply on what you see happening in our city, while another might make you laugh or dance or ride a graffiti covered bus. Social issues are complex ideas with many working parts, and Spirit & Place understands that; the festival creates a platform where all of the interlinking components of these issues can be displayed, dissected, and discussed with the general public.

Q: Spirit & Place is a festival that partly focuses on social issues in Central Indiana, what social issues are important to you?

A: I definitely believe that many of the social issues in Central Indiana are intertwined; poverty is linked to health, health is linked to environmental concerns, environmental concerns are linked to education, education is linked to poverty. It’s hard to make a separation between two things that are systemically connected, or to be a champion of one social issue without being concerned with the others.

Estes Park, Co

Estes Park, Co

Q: What do you like to do outside of your work for Spirit & Place?

A: I’m a pretty outdoorsy person, so beyond my school work and this internship I like to be active outside.

Q: What are you dreams for the future?

A: Graduating IUPUI and continuing on with my education; I think I’ll probably be in school for the next 10 years because there’s just so much to learn!

Noblesse Oblige

By Matt VanScoik


I recently had the opportunity to go to Rome. Gary Krupp, an author I work with through the author publicity division at my company, Bohlsen Group, used to build medical facilities in New York, but his life has taken a more esoteric turn. For the last few years, Gary and his wife, Meredith, have been running a non-profit called Pave the Way Foundation, whose main goal is to build relationships between religions. They helped the Vatican digitize its archives, are helping to re-open the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey and regularly help arrange interfaith tours to Israel, among numerous other things.

One of the projects they are working on now, be it by providence or happenstance, ended up being assigned to me. “Pope Pius XII and World War II: The Documented Truth” is a compilation of primary-source international evidence that reveals the wartime acts of the Vatican.

“The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself.”

The Vatican has had more than its share of public relations problems, and I had always heard, as many have, that Pope Pius XII was either silent during the Holocaust or even complicit. As I began to review the evidence for myself, cracks began to form in what I thought I knew to be true.  Although it still seems to me that the Vatican supported Fascist governments to an extent, it is abundantly clear to me that the papal household and the Nazis had a deep gut-wrenching hatred for each other.

Among the interesting things t4295-06928hat you can read on Pave the Way Foundation’s well-organized library of 76,000 pages of documentation are: Nazi intelligence documents that name Pope Pius XII as a collaborator in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler, Nazi plans for the invasion of the Vatican and the assassination of Pius XII, and documents that show how Pius XII used his own life as leverage to halt the arrest of the Roman Jews.

Every day of this trip to Rome got more and more exciting to me as someone who is interested in military affairs, history and religion. At one point I told Gary that I needed to find a basement, because these jaw dropping experiences required me to find something deeper than floor level to facilitate the further extension of my dentition.

The most noteworthy part of my trip was of course meeting Pope Francis himself during a public audience where we presented him with a coin to commemorate a trip he had made to Israel.  I spoke some broken Spanish to him and he shook my hand with the tired but bright eyes of a man carrying the burdens of being both a political and spiritual leader who is trying his best to make a difference in a chaotic world.

“Noblesse oblige,” is a phrase I kept hearing during my trip. It means with nobility and station, comes great obligation.

Why one man is learning to drive again

photo (3)By Debra Des Vignes

For several years Tyrone C. was homeless and struggled to keep a job and find a place to stay. He felt alone and overwhelmed. Take a look at how one homeless veteran’s journey might look like.

Tyrone’s part-time job ended and he did not know where his next paycheck would come from. With his daughter in Indianapolis, he traveled by bus to stay with her and they looked for help, a place for a homeless veteran to stay. On his third day in Indianapolis he heard about the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF). From the moment a veteran enters HVAF’s housing, the goal is to help him or her regain stability and take back their life. The following day Tyrone spoke to a case manager and was provided supportive housing at HVAF’s Moreau property. At Tyrone’s request, his case manager connected him with one of HVAF’s partners, the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic for legal help.

“The 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran couldn’t get behind the wheel.”

From the street.

Once housed, Tyrone had a barrier he faced that limited his mobility. His driving privileges had been indefinitely suspended since 1999. In fact, he was on a lifetime habitual traffic violator (HTV) status. The 53-year-old Marine Corps veteran couldn’t get behind the wheel.

The Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic represented Tyrone in successfully petitioning the Marion Circuit Court for a probationary, restricted license which allows him to drive to and from work, medical appointments, and rehabilitation programs. Although this type of license comes with significant restrictions, Tyrone learned in September that he will receive full driving privileges back in three years (which would be for the first time in 18 years!). He currently has probationary driving privileges, so he can drive to work and medical appointments once he has a vehicle.

Someone to turn to.

“It’s overwhelming, the outpouring of support. I get emotional sometimes because I definitely needed the help,” says Tyrone.

NCLC also represented Tyrone in seeking an expungement of his prior convictions. Although it has been moer than 15 years since his last conviction, a record can still present obstacles to getting a better job. This process will improve Tyrone’s prospects because it removes low-level convictions from the public record.

Tyrone has a lot to look forward to. He moves into his own one-bedroom apartment next month and is excited about driving again soon as well as having a clean record and a fresh start.

He says his life intersected with organizations and resources that made a difference and the results will last a lifetime. There’s no greater example than Tyrone to show us that along life’s journey, second chances remain within reach.


Debra Des Vignes is Vice President of Marketing, Communication and Public Relations at HVAF of Indiana.