About The Learning Council

The Hearth

The Hearth

The Learning Council (TLC) acquired The Hearth at 138 Grand Avenue, Paonia in December of 2021, with the generous support of our local community and beyond! TLC could not have purchased this building without the support of everyone who donated or helped in other ways.

The Hearth serves as a community gathering space and public workshop area, Ice Cream Parlor, Diversity Library, Bike Co-op, certified commercial kitchen for community meals by donation, and more. We chose the name Hearth because within this name lies Earth, Art, Hear, and Heart and also because we envision The Hearth to be a warm and centralized community gathering place; in old times the heart of the home or of the community was the fireplace or cooking fire, the Hearth, where people gathered to commune and communicate together around nourishing food.

Ice Cream Store

In an attempt to keep ice cream available to the community since the Hearth building was formerly Ollie’s Ice Cream, TLC has created The Ice Cream Corner (ICC) which serves locally made Third Bowl Ice Cream, Jeffreeze Italian Ice, and locally grown/harvested/produced herbal infusions made with local honey!

This space has been painted by local artists Willow Windgood, Elyssa Edgerly, and Jessica Bynum with larger than life flowers and medicinal plants to remind us of the beautiful natural world that surrounds us. The ICC is led by a team of youth from our community and is open from late Spring to early Fall, Thursdays-Sundays.

Organization Background

The Learning Council (TLC) became a non-profit in 1996 under the name The Learning Cooperative. This non-profit was formed to support community alternative education and to provide educational opportunities for students of all ages in Hotchkiss, Paonia and Crawford, Colorado. During that time in rural Delta County, there were not many alternative education options. The Learning Cooperative provided after-school programs and full-day school programs for the community. TLC also built a park and trail system at the Redlands Mesa Grange in Hotchkiss and facilitated many community building programs to initiate and create the Redlands Mesa Community Park.

In 2007, The Learning Cooperative moved from Hotchkiss to Paonia and changed their name to The Learning Council. The change came with a renewed commitment to education for learners of all ages and a desire to provide educational opportunities for the entire community. Many of the Board Members of TLC were involved in public alternative education, which had by this time become more available as a result of the Vision Home and Community Program, and the Montessori School.

Image of electricity classTLC has facilitated many great community offerings including the North Fork Valley Math and Science Center, a semi-annual community Talent Show, workshops, youth empowerment trips and classes, and educational service projects. In 2009 and 2010 TLC hosted a community forum featuring Living Education. This forum was the launch pad for the North Fork Valley Heart and Soul Project, which studied the values and voices of the North Fork Valley with an eye towards future growth and development for our Valley. TLC also sponsored Blossom Valley Co-op: Waldorf Inspired educational offerings for grades 1-7 in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Currently, TLC strives to provide educational opportunities to people of all ages and abilities with a focus on community-building and cultivating classical arts, agriculture and practical arts. TLC is committed to Human Services and aspires to provide nourishment to the community through food, education, music, local arts and agriculture, meaningful work, and stewarding the environment. TLC is offering classes for all ages as a Gift to our community. These dynamic classes enroll students of a wide variety of ages who share a common interest.

Village Building Convergence imageThe Gift model allows all who are interested to participate without financial restrictions and also the opportunity for community members to share their gifts. The Learning Council is invested in building on the values established by the Heart and Soul Project, our rural and natural environment, the small town sense of community, a steady economy, maintaining traditions and heritage, and freedom, independence and personal responsibility. TLC is also a vibrant member of our valley’s Creative District, contributing to the arts and culture of our community.


The goals of TLC are to provide the North Fork Valley with education that will enhance the quality of life for individuals and the whole community. Our goal is to create an educational hub and campus for the community that offers opportunities for collaboration, an artisan’s community center, with a focus on education, self-sufficiency, and personal empowerment and transformation.  TLC celebrates local culture and heritage and is interested in maintaining the tradition of agriculture, locally crafted goods and services, and locally sourced arts and entertainment.

Our goal is to be able to offer a  diverse range of classes in these areas and to continue to grow our course offerings. TLC stimulates the local culture by offering a variety of courses, workshops, ensembles, productions, and camps that attract students from out of town as well as locals.

Image of country living with practical artsAnother goal is to continue attracting urban residents who come to learn practical skills of country living. We recognize this stimulates the local economy and enables urban students to utilize their learning in their home community.  TLC strives to serve our community and enhance the quality of life through participation and study of a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. One of our visionary goals is that each family in the North Fork Valley is aware of the opportunities that The Learning Council offers and participates in community education of their choice.