POMEROY — It’s described as an “inter-generational experience” — this program called “Yesteryear” where elementary students are taught pioneer skills by senior citizens who enjoy sharing their talents.
Yesteryear is a venue for instilling in youngsters a sense of pride about their history and a love for their heritage, while providing meaningful volunteer service opportunities for those of another generation.
For the past 26 years, Yesteryear has been a program of the Meigs County Council on Aging’s Retired Senior Volunteers (RSVP). This year, however, that agency discontinued the program due to funding cuts. The Chester-Shade Historical Association, which for many years provided not only several volunteers but financial support, stepped up to take over. Mary Powell is the new Yesteryear chairman.
Despite the change in leadership, the program concept remains the same and many of those volunteers who have been there year after year are still there teaching the students the skills of their ancestors.
The program is currently in full swing two days a week, and 299 fifth graders from Eastern, Meigs and Southern school districts, the Mid-Valley Christian School in Middleport, and those who are home-schooled will have participated by the closing session on May 21. Thirty-four volunteers are there teaching pioneer skills in their respective areas of expertise.
This is the 27th year for the program which began in 1985. It has happened every April and May since. Thousands of students have learned the arts and crafts of generations past and are now using that information to enrich their own lives.
The hands-on activities include creating candles by dipping wicks in hot wax, making noodles and breads from “scratch”, forming baskets from fabric-wrapped rope, designing and constructing money pouches and bracelets from leather, doing embroidery work and quilting.
When the program first started, Yesteryear was a traveling exhibit and demonstration program moving from school to school for half-day sessions. But soon the hassle of hauling around all the display items, materials and supplies needed for creative projects and then having to “make do” with whatever facilities were available became too much for the volunteers. It was decided the time had come for Yesteryear to have a permanent home.
The Meigs Museum seemed just the right place and had the space and the historical surroundings and atmosphere for such a program. So after conferring with the museum trustees about using the facility and school superintendents about transporting the children, the location was changed.
In 1987, the program moved to the museum where it was conducted two days a week for half-day sessions over a six-week period with a different fifth-grade class each day. For many of the students, it was their first visit to the museum, their first exposure to the extensive collection of historic artifacts depicting lifestyle of an earlier era and their first exposure to the lifestyle of generations past.
The Yesteryear program was held at the museum until 2002 when the number of participants expanded and more space was needed. That year the program was moved to the spacious activity building of the Bradford Church of Christ where it has been conducted for the past decade and is currently in progress.
Over the years, Yesteryear has provided an opportunity for many senior citizens to share their knowledge and talents with hundreds of fifth graders — a worthwhile experience of benefit to both.