By Maia Ballis
(Editor’s note: The Community Alliance asked Maia Ballis for an update on the work at SunMt that she and Elfie carried on as a team for so long.)
George Elfie Ballis and his video camera were a common sight in Fresno during the last decade. His filming on the streets was translated into video clips, which are still archived at SunMt where they were produced. He surprised his doctors by living a vital life for more than a year than his cancer prognosis projected, continuing his filming until just before his death in September 2010.
Elfie’s in-the-flesh presence was a great source of inspiration, creativity and optimism, missed by all of us who knew him. We continue to be moved by his spirit and legacy.
SunMt still operates, as it has since 1983, as a nonprofit research and public education center with a multimedia component. The organization is operated by myself with support from the SunMt Board of Directors, members and friends. All SunMt staff and board are unpaid volunteers.
It is impossible to replace Elfie’s filming, and the work is financially unsustainable, so there will be no more filmmaking. The films on DVD are still available, and the clips of actions will be archived on the 5,000-page+ Website as long as the organization can afford to do that. But SunMt is trying to sell the cameras and editing equipment. If you know of potential buyers, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our basic mission remains to improve life in rural America and learn to live in greater harmony with self, others and the Earth. Elfie used to send out a large volume of e-mails with video clips. I have had to reduce that to 2–3 monthly e-mails to subscribers of excerpts from relevant news stories and reports on SunMt projects. In this period of environmental, economic and social chaos, we hope that SunMt’s ongoing green living research and demonstrations will be utilized to find sustainable options and publish eco alerts for our rural communities and beyond.
A new Web site is being developed to offer easy access to updates on current research plus links to early projects. When it is up, hopefully in a few months, we will make a public announcement. The multimedia work will still be available for sale. The SunMt Web store is being redesigned for easier access to our books, posters, photography, DVDs and the fine art gallery of my paintings.
We are thankful for the generous gifts of time, work and money that have sustained SunMt (and me) after the loss of our dear departed Elf. If you call, you can still hear his voice reminding us to “smile seriously” while our old answering machine survives. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation in his memory or to help us pay for our replacement pump, please call 559-855-3710 for credit card donations or send a check to SunMt, P.O. Box 314, Prather, CA 93651.
Note: The Fresno Center for Nonviolence (FCNV) is commemorating Elfie with the showing of two of his final videos on September 14. See the Peace and Social Justice Calendar and the FCNV page for details.
Maia Ballis is the executive director of SunMt Center. Contact her at email@example.com.