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A Place to Belong

Step Inside the Operations of Mindful Works, a One-of-a-Kind Organization Bringing Empowerment to Individuals Overcoming Mental Health Challenges

Article by Katherine Owen

Photography by Ladd Ford

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

From Monday through Thursday every week, you’ll find the garden level of First Congressional Church in downtown Boulder abuzz with the hum of sewing machines. Piles of poufs, pillows and totes await packaging and loading for markets, and stacks of fabric and filler line the walls. In the back, the industrial kitchen is filled with tester dog treats, cookies and often, a birthday or graduation cake. For four days a week, this is the headquarters of Mindful Works, which provides education, employment and empowerment to individuals facing obstacles due to mental illness.  

Founded as a social enterprise by the non-profit The Windhorse Guild, Inc. in 2014, the Boulder-based program trains “apprentices” in the design, production and sales of high-quality, handcrafted products including everything from bags to baked goods. 

“But people know us as the pouf people,” explains Kylie Stetler, the marketing manager of Mindful Works. 

Diane Gollnick, a board director explains that's because cushions are where it all started nearly 10 years ago: “We started out with meditation cushions,” she says. “We did meditation cushions and zabutons for some of the Shambhala centers around here.” Then, their reputation grew. “There are five flags at each Naropa center and we started to do all of the flags. And then we got this wonderful facility with a commercial kitchen.” 

Now, with many folks interested in a culinary career, Mindful Works has started to expand to include training in that field as well, with standing orders for baked goods at the church or for Windhorse Community Services. 

The program offers a varied path for each participant. Apprentices might arrive at Mindful Works through Colorado’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, mental health providers, the website or other organizations working to help people gain work skills to get a job in the traditional labor market or return to school. From there, apprentices begin to learn to cook or to cut fabric, then how to “serge” which creates a clean edge that won’t fray. Then, it’s on to sewing if the apprentice is interested. Some may stay for mere months, others might participate for years.

“What's most important about this place is the outlet it provides for adults with mental health challenges, who, without a place to go, might isolate themselves in their apartment,” Diane says. “But, because of their work here, they have a reference. They have job experience. And they have never had that before.” 

“People come here and they have never fit somewhere,” says board member Becky Jacobson. “But people belong here. And I always explain: I used to be a staff member, and now I’m a board member, and yet I don't know anybody's diagnosis. They're just people—they're not their mental illness. They're a person. And this is a place to belong.”

Find their poufs, pillows and more at markets like Boulder and Longmont’s monthly artisan markets (, Firefly Handmade market (, the Horseshoe Market in Denver (, or the Colorado Art Shows ( Find even more products and order custom designs at