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Our Values

The mission of Circle Pines is to promote peace, social justice, environmental stewardship and cooperation. The Center aims to demonstrate cooperative alternatives for economic and social issues and to teach cooperation as a way of life.

History of Circle Pines


Circle Pines Founded

Circle Pines Center began in 1882 with the Central States Cooperative League, which met at the Ashland Folk School of Grant, Michigan. The school offered a meeting place for people to attend conferences, retreats, and institutes on economic reform, peace education, and the growing cooperative movement. The summer school program at Ashland drew people from all cooperative sectors, who shared vital information about strengthening their co-ops, building the movement, and creating a better world. Families also went there to play together and to find joy and purpose in cooperative recreation.


Stewart Farm Purchased

After 60 years of use the co-op had outgrown the folk school building, and in 1940 the Stewart Farm was purchased.  A Quaker work camp helped to ready the site that first summer and the next year people were able to gather at their own cooperatively-governed Center. The mission today is what it was then – to show the “superior advantages of cooperation as a way of life.”


Growth Continues

Over the next two decades, Circle Pines flourished as a folk school and family camp.  


Civil Rights and Peace Activism

The turbulence of the 60’s saw many CPC’ers involved in the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam era anti-nuclear peace movements – some as activists, some as observers, some even as veterans – but all were concerned.  

Growing Environmental Interests


The 21st century has seen an acceleration of the ongoing interest of the CPC community in the environment while strengthening links with the movement for natural foods and organic gardening.


All are welcome

Today people of different ideologies and religious beliefs are able to find common ground and work together in a non-judgmental environment where the dignity and worth of each individual is respected and valued. Our Circle Piners are active in many social, educational, and political activities and are still creating the history of the Center.

Our Team


Tom VanHammen

Center Director

Tom’s main focus is finances, but he oversees the whole operation. Tom first came to Circle Pines in 1985, for the Great Lakes Bioregional Congress. He returned the following spring as Physical Plant Manager. He worked at Circle Pines for 7 years as part of a Management Team. Tom was also Summer Camp Co-Director for five of those years. After leaving the CPC staff, he was elected to the CPC Board, where he served for 11 years. He returned to staff in 2005, as Facilities Manager and became Center Director, with his wife Kat, in 2007. Kat stepped down after 3 years, to focus on her art. Tom has a BA from Michigan State University in Interdisciplinary Humanities. Before coming to CPC, Tom did solar heating work in Lansing, MI (Solar & Insulation Co-op). In between stints at CPC, Tom worked in the Traverse City area for two years and owned and ran a residential remodeling business (Abode Building & Remodeling) in Grand Rapids for 10 years. He also volunteered at the Grand Rapids Community Media Center, as a “DJ” on community radio station WYCE for 10 years. Tom enjoys listening to music, pruning fruit trees, making maple syrup, hiking, cross-country skiing, ice skating, rollerblading, kayaking, playing Ultimate Frisbee and cooperating.

Danielle Hoskins-LaJoye

Buttermilk General Coordintaor

Danielle first came to Circle Pines in 2010 as a First Aid Instructor for the Summer Camp staff and fell in love (with CPC). She has continued to offer safety training for staff in the summers and has been an integral part of the Buttermilk planning team since the very beginning. For many years, Danielle has been part of festivals and events throughout Michigan, as an attendee, volunteer, and an organizer. She also spent many years working with the YMCA as an Aquatics/Waterfront Director, and shares with CPC her expertise with risk assessment, licensing, and waterfront operations. Passionate about music, summer camp, and CPC, and with experience and enthusiasm for running events, Danielle has become a valuable resource, as well as a welcoming, smiling face with the Buttermilk Jamboree. She lives locally with her husband Tony, and her son David, raising dairy goats, pigs, turkeys, and chickens. She is currently working on her Masters in the Practice of Teaching in Early Childhood with Western Michigan University. Danielle enjoys kayaking, working with animals, swimming, lifeguarding, watching David play soccer, camping, playing the trombone, and making jewelry.


Mike Evans

Fund Development

Mike has joined the year-round staff in a part-time, yet vital role. Mike has been a neighbor to Circle Pines for 15 years and has served on the Buttermilk team from year one. Prior to coming to Circle Pines, Mike worked for seven years at Hastings Public Library as Community Outreach Coordinator. In that role, in the first LEED Gold Certified Libary in Michigan, he created an annual Sustainability Month that launched with the library anchoring our region on the National Solar Home Tour, continued with environmental programming that led up to the Traverse City Bionee Conference in mid-October. In 2011, Mike, who owns a pottery studio with his wife Christyl, gathered a collaborative of local folks to create a backroads tour of art, food, and farms called Arts & Eats. Soon after, the library bacame a co-sponsor of the Sustainability Conference at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Mike has volunteered for a number of years for Local Futures at the International Confernece on Sustainability and attended TEDxGrandRapids for a number of years. It was through all of this work that Mike became a student of leadership, philanthropy, and cooperation that supports the ecosystem of sustainability. Mike and Christyl have three goats (including Widget-formally of CPC), any number of chickens, a cow, and a daughter named Jonah. All are humanely raised.

Jonna Johnson

Outreach Coordinator

Jonna, has navigated a wide range of work experiences. Jonna has lived in 15 different states, growing from each experience. Jonna has thoroughly enjoyed connecting with a variety of amazing earthlings during stints as community-driven Community-builder, and place-based environmental and social justice facilitator.

Iris Frerridge

Kitchen Coordinator

Iris, first came to Circle Pines in the spring of 2015 after finding a flyer for CPC at the East Lansing Food Co-op. Iris fell in love with the people on her first visit. Iris and her family live in Haslett, MI, near Lansing. She runs the CPC kitchen as a volunteer for most of our events. Iris is a skilled chef and has a background in both nursing and police work. She enjoys running, dancing, and crocheting.


Kat VanHammen

Artist & Gardener in Residence

Kat works on a part-time seasonal basis at CPC, doing a variety of tasks, mostly involving gardening and art, and occasionally cooking and other tasks.

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