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Our Team 2017-06-29T11:29:35+00:00

Our Team at Polestar Gardens is a core group of intrepid souls that includes over 150 years of combined experience in intentional spiritual community!

We have expertise in meditation, raja yoga, community management, finance, construction, organic gardening, permaculture, vegetarian cooking, farm-to-table culinary arts, education, woodworking, sewing and handwork, land stewardship, earth moving, astronomy, music, astrology, ayurveda, therapeutic yoga, accounting, graphic design, web design, recording and videography.

Our Polestar “Ohana” (extended family) includes a network of educators, spiritual teachers and guides, musicians, and many friends and neighbors here on the Big Island.

Come meet our team at Polestar Gardens by planning a visit!

Michael and Ann GornikMichael and Ann Gornik, Co-Founders

Michael and Ann Gornik founded Polestar together, in Santa Rosa, California, in 2000. After living in an intentional spiritual community for over 20 years as they raised their two children, and started a large construction firm, Michael and Ann decided to start a community of their own. Polestar was born. They moved Polestar to the Big Island of Hawaii in 2005, and moved to the current location outside of Pahoa, on the East Side of the island, in 2008. After much building and developing, through times when flowing lava was threatening the small town of Pahoa, and Hurricane Iselle came through the property, they have stayed the course to keep Polestar moving forward.

Michael co-founded and currently co-directs Polestar Gardens along with his wife, Ann. Michael and Ann bring with them over 36 years of experience in intentional community, sustainable living, education, raja yoga, meditation, music and more.

A devoted student of Paramhansa Yogananda for almost 40 years, Michael has a rich history as a leader, successful businessman, community planner, builder, educator, athletic coach and musician. He has worked directly throughout the years with public, private and charter schools in creating workshops, apprenticeships and mentoring programs.

Michael inspires our team at Polestar Gardens with his cheerful even-mindedness and indomitable joie de vivre! When he is in the room something fun, inspiring and serviceful is sure to happen. He has a deep and sincere respect for people of all ages and from all walks of life and has personally mentored hundreds of students in ‘skills for living’. Through this and along with many inspirational events, service projects, wilderness trips, sports and performance art programs, he has provided students of all ages with opportunities for life-long educational expansion and personal growth.

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Ann left her college studies in Lexington, KY. in 1978 to travel west with Michael and explore the possibilities of life in California!

They soon landed at Ananda Village, a spiritual community of several hundred souls dedicated to a life of meditation and service, and spent more than 20 years there, raising a family, building their own home and co-founding a large construction firm. Ann provides a calm, steady presence to every undertaking she is part of, and has been the main force in guiding all of the financial and organizational aspects of Polestar since its inception fourteen years ago.

She has mentored hundreds of students, sharing her love of horseback riding, astronomy, volleyball, astrology, photography and vegetarian cooking and provides the ‘glue’ for countless community events and undertakings. Under her care, Polestar’s annual ‘Family Campout’ has become a celebrated tradition; running successfully every summer for the past 38 years. A co-founder, dedicated board member and major IT player, Ann continues to quietly inspire and guide Polestar’s growth and development.

Rich and Bernadette

Rich Mills was born and raised in Pennsylvania, however his welcoming smile and thoughtful manner convey the Aloha spirit to all he meets.   Rich grew up helping his father build and operate a saw mill. He has since branched into many other endeavors. Just a few of his handmade creations include beautiful benches and tables, Ukuleles, and wood frames for artwork.

Rich is a Kriyaban and an indispensable member of our team at Polestar Gardens, as he keeps the infrastructure up and running on a daily basis. He is responsible for the off-grid water catchment and purification systems, and he facilitates the intricate dance between the solar panels, batteries and generator. He also keeps the farm machinery and construction equipment in good, working order, both for use at Polestar and for neighbor’s projects.

While living in Hawaii, Rich has learned to play the Ukulele and developed his singing voice. With his beloved instrument, he leads chants at Polestar, writes and sings songs, and teaches uke to anyone who wants to learn, especially those with no musical background!

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Bernadette Sabath found Michael and Ann in the process of building Polestar in 2005. A meditator since the age of 16, she found Yogananda’s path in 2004. She is a Kriyaban and meditation teacher. Bernadette currently has the longest commute to work, as she splits time between here and California, where she cares for her aging mother. When she is in residence at Polestar, everyone benefits. She has us frequently laughing at her antics, which stem from her background as a professional clown and stand-up comedian. She has a good handle on the emotional pulse of the community and works with and takes care of both residents and guests alike. You can also hear her beautiful singing voice at morning circles, on our Polestar CDs, and during Wednesday night Kirtans. When Bernadette is around, the house is cleaner, the dishwasher is stacked in a professional manner, and the mowed grass is a sight to behold!

Bernadette was trained at Dell’Arte International, a theatrical company based in northern California, and performed in over twelve productions with them throughout Europe and the United States. She was also cast in the movies “Roxanne” and “Clan of the Cave Bear”. Bernadette performed her one-woman show, “There’s a Chick on the Field!” at festivals, universities, and theatres in California and Australia.

Joe and VinaJoe and Vina

Joe Cohn has spent his entire life learning and teaching. He grew up tutoring at his mother’s Montessori school and later taught Italian, Kinesiology and summer camps there as an adult. He graduated from UCLA with a BA in International Development and Public Policy and went on to serve in Peace Corps Zambia. In Africa, Joe fell in love with living a natural, rural, sustainable life. Upon returning to the states, he worked in agriculture at his father’s winery. He began studying agriculture and business; completing a Viticulture Certificate and a Master of Business Administration degree from Sonoma State University.

After traveling and studying abroad several times in Italy, he has become fluent in the language and enjoys singing in Italian while playing ukulele. He loves every aspect of spiritual community and is very grateful to be blessed with the opportunity to raise a family at Polestar Gardens.

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Vina Ketty came to our team at Polestar Gardens as an intern in April, 2015, during a month-long sabbatical from her work as a medical research scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. Three months later, Vina decided to take the leap and moved to Hawaii to see how three additional months at Polestar could impact her life. Luckily for us, those three months have come and gone and she is still here! Vina grew up around meditation and it was while living at Polestar that she decided to follow Paramahansa Yogananda’s path and become a Kriyaban.

Vina is named after her parent’s favorite musical instrument, which has turned out to be prophetic, as she has willingly joined the music scene at Polestar, although it is not something with which she previously had any experience. She is learning and playing the Harmonium and percussion during the sadhanas that she leads, as well as during our Kirtans.

Vina is a key player on the Polestar staff. Knowing the ins and outs of Polestar life, on any given day you might find her working in the garden, the kitchen, the office, and the laundry room, all with quiet patience and a smile on her face.

Christy Thompson

Christy Thompson

Christy Thompson came to our team at Polestar Gardens as an intern in 2012 and quite by accident fell in love with the music and chanting, with getting her hands dirty in the garden, learning to cook, with the idea that the Divine can be a loving feminine presence, and with the intense growth that comes through communal living. Through the help and encouragement of other Polestar staff, Christy has developed her singing voice and leads chants with her Autoharp on Wednesday night Kirtans, and during other meditation times.

Christy is a member of the Polestar staff and has many different responsibilities. Teaching yoga, tending to the bees, leading chanting and meditation, helping interns and guests to feel comfortable and at home, various household and garden chores, organizing trips and schedules, and answering questions, all fall under her umbrella. It is a busy life at Polestar, and Christy knows when and how to do the laundry and harvest bananas, she can spot a female pumpkin flower from several feet away, and she can make a gourmet dinner out of leftovers. A member of various sports teams growing up as well as the oldest of five children, Christy knows how to be a team player and she is a good member to have on the Polestar team. She is sincere and honest and helps to bring out the best in others.

Matthew Schindler

Matthew hails from Kansas with a background in cooking and the restaurant business. His innate curiosity and love of learning have engendered much hard-earned, first-hand knowledge of gardening and permaculture on the East Side of Hawaii. When you put those two things together: knowledge of growing food, and knowledge of cooking food, it is a beautiful match, and it is a lucky crowd that eats at Polestar! Matthew is interested in sustainable gardening and sustainable living in general. What does this look like on a daily basis? Well, it can translate to his weaving baskets from coconut palm fronds that are harvested from the property to use for carrying produce; or growing loofah to use as a shower scrubber, or plants to use specifically for mulch.   Matt is also interested in integrating as many Polestar-grown foods into our diet as possible, and depending on the season, you might find: Salad greens (Okinawa spinach, Katuk, Cranberry Hibiscus, Wood Sorrel, Moringa, Chayote greens), Edible Hibiscus, Herbs (Oregano, Basil, Green Onions, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Culentro, Thai Ginger and Turmeric), Ulu, Chayote, Cassava, Taro (Kalo), Bananas, Guava, Jackfruit, Soursop, Mango, Mulberry, Fig, Rollinia, Starfruit, Lychees, Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Sugarcane, Avocados, Liliko’i, and Coconuts.

Matthew has two teenage daughters that have also made Polestar their home. Maddy attends high school in Pahoa. She is interested in horseback riding, surfing, soccer, and is an active participant in Hilo’s Civil Air Patrol program. With an instructor by her side , she has flown an airplane over the Polestar property and has the photographs to prove it! Maddy has the budding qualities of a strong leader, and as she navigates her teenage years, she continues to grow this skill for the benefit of herself and those around her.

Emma is in middle school and is an amazing artist. She is thoughtful and creative about the projects that she undertakes, from researching and painting the outside of one of our beehive boxes to making delicious desserts for the community. Emma has been learning to play the piano at Polestar, and can be seen helping out with the young children who live and visit Polestar on community event days

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Dorian Carter

Dorian Carter is spending her retirement days at Polestar, after living and co-creating in intentional communities for the past few decades. Dorian’s passion for music has informed her life work in many different ways, from composition to performance, to direction of ensembles, choirs, operas, and musicals. She has traveled all over the world with her music, visiting Africa, Australia, Europe, India, South America, Israel, Mexico, Canada, and even the Bermuda Triangle. She has presented at John’s Hopkins University, the Omega Institute in New York, and Open Door in San Francisco.

These days, Dorian’s music keeps her closer to Polestar. She is instrumental in teaching and organizing the music and group of carolers around Christmas time, as we sing for people at the Veteran’s home and hospital in Hilo. She believes that everyone can sing, and with that mentality she has gently coaxed many a shy singer to “find” their voice. She uses music as a healing modality both on an individual basis through her ‘Toning the Chakras’ workshop, and through leading a small group of women to sing to people who are bed-ridden in the hospital. Dorian, a Kriyaban, has also become a key player in the development of the Ageless Living program at Polestar as more and more people are looking for a spiritual place to retire. She is hoping to celebrate her 80th birthday with the Grand Opening of that program in February 2018!

If you are looking for a quiet, one-on-one conversation at Polestar, a good bet would be to find a smiling Dorian relaxing on her lanai (the Hawaiian word for porch), after a trip to the nearby warm pond, with a listening ear, and surrounded by the beautiful orchids and flowers that she so loves.

Georgia - Polestar GardensGeorgia Putnam

Georgia came to our team at Polestar Gardens in 2013 after a successful business career. She is a member of Polestar, and a Kriyaban. A far cry from her professional suits and high heels, Georgia has nonetheless made indelible marks on Polestar. She was instrumental in bringing the honeybees to the property in 2015, and since then she has attended workshops and classes on beekeeping in order to teach others at Polestar about bees and honey production. Affectionately called “Juju” by the youngest members of Polestar, Georgia enjoys being an “auntie” to many.

Georgia imbues places and things that are important to her with a peaceful and serene presence and beauty. Using candles, crystals, intuition, and sacred geometry, she has done this with the space that the bees inhabit (both the grounds and the bee boxes themselves), the bamboo grove, and the landscaping around her own residence.

des-20160509-david2-1077David Zuhars

David has lived and travelled all over the world. He has called many different and diverse places ‘home’, including: Iowa, Japan, South Carolina, Idaho, Florida, and England, all before coming to our team at Polestar Gardens in the summer of 2015. He has held various jobs such as actor and model, cook, Scuba Dive Master and equipment repair specialist, and laboratory chemist, to name a few.

Here at Polestar, David spends much of his time in the kitchen. Cooking for large groups of people with any number of food preferences and dietary restrictions is not an easy undertaking by any means, and David has been doing this successfully since we found out how comfortable he is in the kitchen. David is a calm and quiet presence at Polestar.

Who We Are
Vision and Mission
Yogananda
Residency and Membership
Senior Living