Open Spaces Sacred Places

Open Spaces Sacred Places™(OSSP) are spaces intended for the encouragement of community well-being, and resilience of mind/body/spirit of both individuals and communities. These special places are conceived by an individual or organization inspired with the idea that access to nature can make a positive impact on the various community and personal challenges individuals and communities face. Behind each space is one or more “Firesouls” individuals with a burning passion to design and develop an OSSP. “These greenspaces will function as places where our communities can enter, reflect — and encourage good health and well-being,” said Smith.

The Partners

Firesoul(s) – Lead person or persons passionate about the project and will see it through to completion. 

Anchor Institution – Institutions (for example: for-profit, not-for-profit, city and county government entity, educational institution, community groups, or hospitals) that will serve as the hosting organization where the Open Spaces Sacred Places™ sites will be built.

Partners – Local organizations helping to create and maintain the Open Spaces Sacred Places™ sites (for example: not-for-profits, churches, garden clubs, city/county government, civic groups, businesses, community groups).

Team – People working on achieving project completion (for example: master gardeners, volunteers, friends, and builders).

The TKF Foundation, now Nature Sacred, originally conceived and created the first OSSP. The Community Foundation chose the OSSP model to celebrate the generous legacy left to northeast Alabama by Susie Parker Stringfellow almost 100 years ago. What began as one woman’s legacy has impacted millions of individuals through the provision of quality healthcare services, community wellness, and support to not-for-profit organizations which have received just over $8.5 million in grant awards since 1999. These grants have impacted health and well-being through feeding programs, sight and vision programs, and education.  

About Susie Parker Stringfellow

In 1920, days before her death, Susie Parker Stringfellow penned her will outlining her charitable wishes. Susie made a planned gift that would forever improve the lives of residents in northeast Alabama. She was 51 years old. Through this gift she planted a sapling that took root as Stringfellow Memorial Hospital. A donation of this type in 1920 from a women was a little unusual. 1920 was the year women were granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Key Elements of Open Spaces Sacred Places™


When one passes through an archway, a gate, a stand of trees, a pergola, or other marker there is a clear movement from the space of everyday life and function. One enters a reflective space and encounters the fascinations of nature. 


Whether linear and well-defind, or more meandering, a path allows one to focus attention and achieve a mindfulness about the surroundings. A path can ground one with the earth while offering a sense of connection to a greater reality than its sacredness. 


An appealing feature or end point draws in a person to the welcoming space. The sojourn, however brief, is rewarded by a feature that encourages quiet, fascination, joy, and spiritual connection with nature. counters the fascinations of nature. 


Design elements - such as plantings, fencing, or trees - provide an encompassing sense of boundry, safety and enclosure within the Open Spaces Sacred Place. Portal, path and destination invite one to experience a space; the sense of surround ensures that one experiences a sense of being away and an emotional separation from the street and challenges of life.


A place of respite that invites one to pause and reflect. More than just a place to sit, the presence of a bench is an invitation to pause on one's journey - to sit, rest, breathe, to be present, and to experience all the gifts that an Open Spaces Sacred Place has to offer.


A specially created waterproof, black book and pen combination - located beneath the bench - that invites visitors to record their experience. Visitors share words or images of the experience of being in a sacred place. More than a simple diary, record, or log of daily events, a Journal is a collection of inspiring thoughts and reflections that attest to our need for opportunities to connect with each other and be in nature.

The above photos were taken from the TKF Foundation website for illustration purposes. The original design and concept for  Open Spaces Sacred Places began at the TKF Foundation. To learn more please visit

For more information:

Fred Smith, MPA, CAP®, Director of Grants & Partnerships
Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama
1130 Quintard Avenue, Suite 100
Anniston, Alabama 36201
Phone (256) 231-5160, ext. 26

Susie Parker Stringfellow Story