Families often think about recording the great stories their elders tell, but they often don’t manage to get written. Then family memories are lost due to illness or death.
For 12 older citizens from the McGregor Home in East Cleveland and the Fairfax Neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side, their histories have been preserved by the Living through Legacies project in hardcover books for families to cherish from one generation to the next.
These individuals became the focus of Case Western Reserve University social work student David Harris, who graduated on Sunday. He published the individual biographies with support from the McGregor Foundation grant.
Nineteen CWRU students aided Harris in producing the memoirs by interviewing, recording the oral histories, writing text and collecting photographs and other materials. Twelve undergraduates used the experience as a service learning project or coursework, while seven graduate students used it as part of their fieldwork for the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
MSASS student Danielle Price presented Harry Winfield, 81, with his completed book, but said, “This project will continue.” As a field placement student and member of Antioch Baptist Church in the Fairfax neighborhood, she plans to keep working with Winfield to learn more about the neighborhood and continue the friendship started with the Legacies project.
Winfield, who is full of spunk and knows so much history of the Fairfax neighborhood, is an avid photographer and interested in videography. Now that the two know each other, they plan on working on the church’s quilt project and Winfield will contribute his photography skills to it.
This is the third time that Harris, of Wadsworth, Ohio, has done the Legacies project. He usually presents the individual histories to families in their homes.
But in a special celebration of the collaboration between the families and CWRU students, Harris invited honorees and their biographers to a recent reception and presentation in the campus' living room at the Alumni House. The Center for Community Partnerships supported the event that brought the community and university together.
The guests were greeted by a welcome from President Barbara R. Snyder and Mandel School Dean Grover C. Gilmore.
President Snyder said she sees the Legacies project as an outstanding model for engaging students.
“The work provided the young people an opportunity to make meaningful connections with others, to understand how rewarding it can be simply to listen and observe,” she said.
The president added that she has no doubt that the project touched students in significant ways and was honored that the university could offer students this unique academic opportunity.
“Dave Harris had a great idea,” Gilmore concurred. “He has made a difference in the lives of people.” Gilmore said the social work school combines classroom learning with community service, and this project exemplifies that philosophy.
Overcome with emotions about the project, which culminates his undergraduate and graduate years at the university, Harris paid homage to his mother and extended family members who have supported him in this journey that he plans to develop into a career.
“This is a much needed program,” said Kevin McClain, who came from Huntington W.V., to see his mother Bessie Lee Herbert McClain, 89, receive her book from CWRU student Connie Stamoolis.
"So many times the oral histories are lost. We should encourage more people to do this,” he said.
The honorees and their biographers are:
From the McGregor Home – Sarah Mae Cotton and students Dean Rutland and Sarah Woldemariam; Irene Dugovics and student Allison Early; Bessie Lee Herbert McClain and students NamKyu Kim and Connie Stamoolis; Lula McKissack and students Nicky Ott and Rachel Siegfried; Harry Robinson and students Kelsey Gilbert and Sarah Lukowski; Willie Mae Wright and student Indigo Bishop.
From the Fairfax Neighborhood – Katherine Butler and student Diamond McPherson; Ruthie Mae James Green and student Chameka Jackson and John Kostic; Wilbur Earle Kellon, Sr. and student Nina Sreshta; Rosalyn Razor and students Dorian Adams and Rebecca Milto; Garnett Smith and student Rachel Weingart; Harry Winfield and students Danielle Price and Chen Yan.
“This has been an amazing experience that I hope to make into a career,” Harris said.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.