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A Sanctuary Center

A sanctuary close to home

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner


Sanctuary is a vivid word: a refuge; safe haven; shelter. Life offers few openings to pause, reflect, and heal from within. Ten years ago, neighbors Sue and Jack Pfeiffer of Castle Pines Village decided to do something about it, and single-mindedly set about making that vision of a refuge happen.

A one-room school site at Wolfensberger Road and Colorado 105 was selected. Immediately, zoning and licensing issues arose. Since a sanctuary is neither fish nor fowl, (nor church, school, residence, or business) many ordinances did not apply. Then the unusual occurred; county officials became curiously taken by the project’s lofty goals. A refreshing flexibility seeped into the planning process and bureaucrats found novel ways to craft practical solutions.

As the sanctuary building took shape there were conventional donors and an odd lot of others, like bikers and passers-by, taken by the vision and need. Such contributions became unique forms of ownership and included hundreds of labor hours and materials exceeding $100,000. But for these kindred spirits, electrical, plumbing, drywall, and other services to build the Center’s building would not have been. Other creative artists gifted their paintings and frescoed walls.

The Sanctuary gardens are unconventional and must be wandered. Art is eclectic, emphasizing the circle of life and human renewal. One feature is the Wishing Trees, their limbs decorated with handwritten personal wishes and prayers on cloth streamers. So many thoughts are left that trees must be periodically “pruned” and the messages burned, sent heavenward on their final journey.

From dawn till dusk, this safe haven offers much: a lending library, vaulted great room, and handicapped bathroom. It’s been everything: park, hangout, shrine, shelter, bikers’ pit stop, picnic site and wedding venue, complete with an acoustically inspiring Ave Maria. Nine guest books have accumulated with remarks from simple to prolific. They speak of human cravings for connectedness, renewal, and recovery.

Sanctuary solitude is complete: no warnings, no restrictions, just peace. Temporary solace is available, freeing the mind for meditation and reflection. The care and respect displayed by center visitors encourage the Pfeiffers to believe their social experiment proves the good in humankind. Draw your own conclusions.

Detour soon from your own complicated world at Wolfensberger’s west end. Meaningful renewal may well await. Should your heart and soul be moved, pay it forward!

A Sanctuary Center is a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation.

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