It was on a Tuesday morning in January when Carrie Edinger, Sheridan Community Land Trust History Program Manager and Lisa Wells, Sr Fun & Wellness Coordinator at The Hub on Smith, knew they had the best kind of problem. So many people had gathered into The Hub’s Café for the Explore History program about Jessamine Spear Johnson it was packed to the gills.
Carrie and Lisa looked at each and came to the same conclusion as Chief Brody in Jaws: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” They quickly arranged to host winter programs in the WYO Theater, with 126 people coming to learn about the Tie Flume in March.
Thanks to an additional partnership with the Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton, nearly 400 people have had the chance to Explore History since the program’s inception last fall.
“We have much, rich, local history to explore,” Wells said and attributed the depth and detail of each Explore History program as a driver for its success. “Through exceptionally researched and presented programs, participants discover what’s been going on in this area, gaining a better grasp of how a place and people were shaped plus, a more informed understanding of present-day issues.”
Even more people will be able to share in the fun, fellowship and fascinating stories thanks to a flexible support grant for a second year of Explore History programs from the NextFifty Initiative.
Sydney Langer, Program Officer at NextFifty, said social isolation and loneliness are a growing concern for people over the age of 50. “We see the Explore History program as a unique way to bring older adults together, reducing social isolation while providing participants with opportunities to share their own stories.”
A staple of each program is an open session where attendees share their memories and experiences, sometimes even bringing photos and keepsakes to share with the group.
“Each time after the program we have had people stay and chat about their experiences and knowledge about the topics. Finding someone who is interested in the same history you are is a wonderful perk,” observed Lacie Schwend, Assistant Director at Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton.
Wells concurred, saying the opportunities for participants to remember and reminisce can boost mood, relieve boredom, help work through unresolved conflict, increase self-esteem, and stay connected with one another.
Langer believes those moments help combat the increased risk for depression, cognitive decline, dementia, and negative influences on blood pressure and immune function with which isolation and loneliness have been linked.
“One thing we love about the Explore History program is that participants not only have an opportunity to learn about history but also to reminisce and share their own stories,” Langer remarked and explained, “Storytelling can have a profound impact, reducing memory loss and leading to improvements in mood and quality relationships.”
Often, those moments spur more stories – and even inspire new Explore History programs or other ways to preserve and share important local history like tours and interpretive signs.
“Community members make suggestions for program ideas and to add different perspectives,” Edinger noted.
In its second year, Edinger said she’ll be choosing from many topics of local and regional interest and hopes to incorporate more site visits and tours. “The program has just started to scratch the surface with history topics and hearing community members’ memories related to those places in time,” she stated.
Edinger is also exploring ways to bring Explore History to more communities, something Langer sees as especially important, saying, “Knowing that people in outlying areas are at even greater risk of feeling isolated, we’re also glad to see a focus on outreach to serve the county’s more rural populations.”
“Not having to drive to Sheridan is a big deal. Some folks go to town once a week and if these events do not fall on that day, it may be out of the question for them; especially with fuel prices being what they are. This programming coming to the Tongue River Valley makes it accessible for more people and provides social opportunities,” Schwend related.
This summer, community members of all ages can look forward to an outing at the Trail End State Historic Site that will feature a walk through the Kendrick arboretum and a July program that will explore the history of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, All-American Indian Days and the Miss Indian America Pageant.
As Wells put it, “SCLT Explore History is one of The Hub’s most attended programs. Invite your friends and see why!”
For more information about the NextFifty Initiative, please visit https://www.next50initiative.org/.
For more information about The Hub on Smith, please visit https://thehubsheridan.org/.
For more information about the Tongue River Valley Community Center, please visit https://trvcc.org/.