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Seeking to uncover the ‘Hidden Treasures’ of a community

ENCINITAS — Everybody has a story to tell, whether they get to tell them or want to is an entirely different one altogether.

“Either a leader is hidden, or the story is hidden,” said Lois Sunrich, the founder of the nonprofit group StoryArts.

After 25 years of work helping others to tell their stories and writing her own through journaling, Sunrich, she said, is getting to the age where she’s ready to find out what the final legacy of that work is going to be.

In what started as an experiment several years ago, Sunrich and a group of about 50 other women embarked on collecting their stories during the turning point of the last decade in the millennium with the idea, Sunrich explained, of passing the stories on to future generations.

That was back in 1990. And now, Sunrich has a new project in telling the stories of unsung locals in the community.

She’s calling the project “Hidden Treasures.”

“I really wanted to go out into the community and with everything we’ve learned, and the models we’ve created as a community of memoir making, life story telling people…see if we could offer what we’ve learned to our hometown, to Encinitas, and collect stories right here,” she said.

Those selected (there will be five chosen because of the five communities in Encinitas) will be paired with emerging local artists that will in turn help to create an art-filled book.

The Hidden Treasures project, which is in the fundraising phase, (it’s the first time Sunrich’s StoryArts nonprofit organization is reaching out to the public for funds), will need $25,000 to complete the project.

So far, Sunrich said they’ve raised half of the money, and is hoping to have the remainder of the funds raised by April.

“If the community wants to help fund it, that makes them really the owners of it,” she said. “We’re not looking for large funds from a small group of people, we’re looking for everybody to pitch in whatever they can,” she said.

Sunrich said the five “hidden treasures” haven’t been located yet, but they’re looking for those whose stories will have a lot of diversity and variety, and also a lot of heart and depth.

None of the artists have been selected yet, and either will they or the subjects be announced until the unveiling of the works later next year, something that Sunrich said is part of the theater of the project.

At the initial fundraiser held at a private home in Encinitas on Sunday, attendees, that included such names as County Supervisor Dave Roberts, Encinitas council members Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer got a glimpse of what the Hidden Treasures project was all about.

Fifth generation Encinitas resident Tom Cozens, attended the event, too.

He told his own story of Jan Grice (they share a connection through the Hammond family), but while Grice might be well-known in the community and for her work with the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, Cozens was surprised to learn something new about her that day.

Cozens had no idea that Grice wrote poetry.

“That was a total surprise to me,” he said. “It just helped open up my eyes more to her as a person.”

Cozens said that hearing people’s stories is incredible valuable.

“People in general, just need to be reminded, especially in today’s age, that there’s a tremendous amount that gets done, that benefits the community by people we never see and often don’t even know — are neighbor next door,” Cozens said.

He said that people need to be aware of that, and hopefully inspired by it.

“For me, I love hearing about people that care,” he said. “Too often we look for the city, or somebody to get a paycheck to go and do it, when we’re fully capable, and often can do a better job quicker, if we just do it,” he said.

“The whole idea of what StoryArts is about is community building,” Sunrich said. “When people share the stories, it is extremely powerful for the person who shares the story, but what we found is that it’s also extremely powerful for whoever they tell their story to.”

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