Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yesterday - A Project Milestone

Our Launch Party yesterday was such a milestone for our unstoppingly, constantly growing project. Even as I stood there at the podium at Free Library of Philadelphia, sharing our project vision and plans for our first official satellite (to take place in 2 weeks at the same room of the event - visit our satellite blog to find out more) to the beautifully all-ages audience, I knew that moment - the event itself - was yet again breathing new life into the project. This project defies any boundary, any summary, and I am loving every moment of it. Loving that I get to grow with it. One thing I have grown to understand is how to balance my roles as our organization's leader and the the leader of the original class. How to think and act with purpose, but still every Thursday let loose and allow myself to enjoy the company of my senior buddies, my co-leader Dee, and the other volunteers and the teens who visit our original class every chance they get. And to learn from everyone else in the room.

Today, after all the excitement of yesterday's public event, we had class as usual, and I thought to myself, this right here is where I belong. Especially as this project and its digital AND physical community continues to broaden, it's the depth of the friendship at our original table that defines the heart and soul of our project.

Many members of my amazing volunteer team worked for months towards yesterday's event, and many of them shared some very moving words at the podium. For many months, I had been cheering for each of them every step of the way, and was just so proud to see them shine. Madi, our teen intern and satellite blogger, opened her speech by saying, "This project means so much to me." And THAT right there just means so much to me. I can keep naming the sentences that moved me. I can draw you pictures of all the happy flashbacks of yesterday that I am getting today. But there are really so many.

The TV station 6abc and the radio station WHYY were there yesterday too, and we'll share the broadcasts here with you as they go online. Our hope is that these broadcasts can prompt more seniors and teens to join our satellite class (7/13-8/31). And with all sincerity, please really do help us reach out to the seniors and teens in your community to attend our class as well. A flier with meeting time and place (as well as a very fun video by one of our satellite co-leaders!) can be found on Madi's blog

Stay tuned for my senior buddies' stories, from today, of yesterday's event. Their perspectives are so beautiful. I really can't wait for you to read those.

Big thanks to professional photographer Mark Garvin who is also Madi's dad ;) for capturing the event with the photos above. Visit our Facebook album where we will be posting more photos.

Thank you, everyone reading these words, for all your support.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Party Tomorrow: Bring a friend, a teen, or a senior!

Take a late lunch break tomorrow and come hang out with us!! We've got short videos (we've got serious and we've got funny... can't wait to show you...), powerful readings by seniors and teens, words from our wonderful partners AARP and Free Library of Philadelphia, words from our passionate team, and time to mingle with you over afternoon snacks. Let us make your Wednesday awesome! Bring a friend, a teen, or a senior! Can you tell we're all super pumped? 

See you 6.29.11... or in other words... tomorrow!!

This is the summer initiative that our event is launching. Come to the event to find out why this class is so significant as our project continues its miraculously rapid growth!

Some of the friendly members from our team that you'll get to meet tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Luis (Well Stacked and Still Waiting)

And now, a shoutout to our very own Luis as he is en route to Houston to compete in the racquetball division of the Senior Olympics! Luis, we are all here cheering for you - your own digital cheering squad! Well, that’s a story that is waiting to unfold and be told when Luis gets back in town.

Until then, how about a little something (or, more like a majestic something!) that shows another facet of his colorful life... let's just say it's "a love story" with a twist. But wait, there’s another twist: see the responding email that our super copyediting coordinator Tanya sent me after she read Luis’ story! I couldn't wait to pop the email open when I saw her subject line: “Something Fun for Luis”.

Luis Fuentes
Well Stacked and Still Waiting (A Love Story)

And, she’s been waiting a long time, too long.  Her make-up has started to run, wrinkles have started to replace a once smooth skin.  A lady that had been described as having a majestic beauty that drew everyone’s attention, now appeared gaunt and alone.

Her appearance, which she always took pride, had now been totally neglected.  As I stood there, having difficulty looking at her, my thoughts went back to the day when we first met.

We were both very young.  She a maiden, I, just a boy.  But it was love at first sight.

She was beautiful, well stack, and just looking good, like any lady should.  I boarded her several times that day, until it was final time to say goodbye, and go my way.

I can still hear and see the imaginary sounds and sights of fireworks, bells and whistles, and fog horns in the night,  . . . . or were they?

Knowing I would never see her again, I turned for the last time, but she was gone.  And now, after all these years, I stand here looking at her, all tattered and torn.

What happened, where did she go?  What was her name, what did she do?

My questions were answered when she left me that day in 1952.

All stacked in red, white and blue, little did I know she would go full steam ahead and make her maiden voyage true.

She was built for pleasure and speed.  Her beauty and performance became stuff that was hard to believe.  Her name, the SS United States.  The largest and fastest ocean liner ever built.

Little did I know, when I boarded her in “52”, that her 17 year journey would include, “holding the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, designed to serve as both luxury passenger ocean liner from New York to ports in Europe, and as a transport to host U.S. military troops”, until her forced retirement in 1969.

After year in dry dock and not knowing what to do, she was moved to the Delaware River in South Philadelphia and docked at her new resting place at pier 82.

Yes, Her wait has been long, her patience virtuous.  Still well stacked, her condition fuctional.  And now, at age 59, the stately lady is seeking a new suitor and new ground, that is, if one can be found.

Tarnished by decades of neglect, now comes forth a passionate commitment by a granddaughter named Susan and the help of a gentleman, they call “Gerry”, to restore this “damsel in distress” to the majestic beauty I once knew, when I last boarded her that day, . . . that day, when she left me in 1952.

This time things will be different when I board her again, not to deliver tokens of warm wishes and good cheer, bon voyage gifts as it was in “52”, but to set sail with her anew.

It’s imperative to note when new partners and mates are eventually found, . . . to remember dear leady, with the passage of time,  . . .  wherever you go, . . . whatever you do,  . . . that I was once yours, and you will forever, be mine.

Subject: something fun for luis
From: Tanya Krawchuk
To: Benita Cooper
Date: Wed 22 4:01pm

While renovating our house many years ago, we found tons of old papers under the many layers of linoleum.  We had to look through them all – they were fascinating!  We took photos of some articles/advertisements we thought were interesting.   Here’s one of them:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mo (Moves)

You know what I like? When a senior tells a story and several months later I hear another story that brings me back to the same place, or to the same time. I just think these two of Mo’s stories together make the world seem so big and so small at the same time. As small as the payphone in Dan’s shop, and as big as the social dynamics between the North and South Sides. What I like even more, is that the people in these places tend to linger on in my imagination. Dan, whom I will probably never even see a photo of, feels to me like one of the warmest and most wonderful men I ever knew, too. Weird, I know. But I am so attached to all my senior buddies’ stories. I get carried into them every time.

Mo McCooper

When I was 7 years old, we moved into an apartment on top of Dan’s Barbershop in the middle of hill near the railroad bridge. The bridge divided the town- on the one side was the North Side and on the other was the South Side. The whole town was half a square mile and it was the smallest borough in the United States.

The apartment was my 8th address in the town since my parents had brought me home from Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. I was born on June 21, 1931.

Dan, the Barber, was one of the warmest and most wonderful men I ever knew. I called him Uncle Dan.

There was a pay phone in the shop my parents were allowed to use after the barbershop was closed. We lived for ten years until Dad and Mom bought a house in October of 1952.

The Irish have a saying: “It’s easier to move than pay rent!”

Mo McCooper
South Side

Railroad tracks and a train station divided the town into North and South sides which created team sports rivalries. The south side had no stores or row houses and more large single homes. Less car traffic allowed for touch football and tennis ball variations of baseball in the streets.

By the time we got to 7th grade and the summer before we noticed many pretty girls on the south side, most of whom went to public school and wore more attractive clothes.

Thoughts of hugging and kissing were invading our heads but most of us Catholic school boys were shy procrastinators.

Things were WARMING UP!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robert and Michael (Wonderful Differences)

And now, a journey through Michael’s life around the world. There is no better introduction than a few words by Robert. For those of you newer to this blog, Robert, Michael and Mo became best friends through our class, and we call them our 3 Musketeers. There’s no way to think about one of them without the other 2! Mo’s stories coming up in the next blog post!

Robert Leung
Wonderful Differences

I love to come to these meetings, because I’ve met different peoples, different ages, and most of all, all different races. Like myself and Michael, we are Chinese, but we’re both born in China. All through 3 different wars. It’s a hard and difficult life. First and 2nd World War, then the Japanese invasion, then after that the Communist government. It’s very different. It gives me a wonderful life to be living in the U.S. I learn a lot just like in this daily meeting. We have the old and young, the white and black and yellow, all kinds of color. It’s wonderful, different colors, different cultures, different ages, that’s why I love to come to this meeting. That’s what it’s all about and I’m happy to write these stories.

Michael Chan Man-Tin
War Time

I was born in the countryside of Soo Chow. Afterwards, the Second World War happened in the year 1935.
During the war time, we were suffering a lot troubles. We lost not only millions of people’s lives, but lots of monies and properties, and also the development of the national planning.
I had left school to work in the factory office and I worked hard for five years in Hong Kong. Then I had the chance to work in the garment factory from 1950 to 1990.
Afterwards, I joined another line of business until 2001. Then my daughter invited me to join her here in the United States.

Michael Chan Man-Tin
Building a Business

I was born in Shanghai’s Soo Chow on 2nd January 1933 and went to the big city and stayed there for about 5 years and then to Hong Kong by the year 1950. It was a big change as the dialect is completely different but the words are the same and the construction of the words are different. After a few years, I could join the commercial field to carry some business for ladies fashion skirts to export to the U.S.A. and other foreign countries European. Then I bought the properties for investment and collected the rent for a living.

Michael Chan Man-Tin
Step By Step

My life passes quickly. I have been in this city 5 years now. I used to wonder how I myself could be settled down here. I have to thank God for leading the way to follow. And I am being led. I have a lot of things to learn and find the people here are very friendly. They help me to – step by step – enjoy my life in the society and hopefully to know more and more of this society.

I am happy to learn more and more from the friends here and thank you for the help.

Best Wishes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ellis (The Best Day of My Life)

How awesome is it that during his very first visit to our class, Ellis shared so much about himself? Hearing his story and watching him beam made me so happy.

Ellis Zelmanoff
The Best Day of My Life

The best day of my life was getting a brand new teaching job in central New Jersey in the summer of 1972. In the springtime of that year, I had just completed all of my necessary Elementary Public School teaching credentials at Glassboro College in southern New Jersey. I was a brand new teacher with tons of enthusiasm and a tough naïvette (thrown in for good measure). I received a solid 3.7 GPA in my final term at Glassboro and received encouragement from the job counseling center about Lakewood, New Jersey. Lakewood was a thriving, booming town not too far from Philadelphia and where most of my friends resided.

The preparations for the interview went well. I wore one of my sharpest suits in my wardrobe. It took about two hours to reach Lakewood from Philadelphia. It was a beautiful and scenic drive passing a variety of shrubs, pine trees, and hills lining the narrow Route 70.

The beauty of the physical environment sparked a renewed interest in my job interview later that week. My heart began to beat with increased anticipation.

Before I had arrived, my confidence and enthusiasm took a positive spike. I easily found Lakewood, the Board of Education, and the parking space.

I practically jumped of the door with excitement and I took deep long steps to the entrance of the Lakewood Board of Education.

“Can we help you,” asked a clerk at the Board office.

“Yes, I’m here to audition for the Middle School sixth grade position.” Looking over my resume, I hardly had much time to review before my name was announced.

“Hello, Mr. Zelmanoff. I am Dr. Mackolin, the Superintendent of the School District of Lakewood. We have looked over your resume and we are glad to meet you in person.”

Dr. Makolin shook my hand and asked me about me about my most rewarding teaching experience so far in Camden, NJ.

I said, “I hope I hope I am up to all of your challenges.”

“Fine,” said Dr. Makolin. “We want you to meet Mr. Kopco, the sixth grade’s principal for the school you’re considering for.”

I met with Mr. Kopco and I felt positive vibrations moving in both directions – from him to me and me to him.

Mr. Kopco said, “We are definitely interested in you.”

 I drove back to the School Board’s Office to finish a few things with Dr. Makolin. As soon as I opened the door, Dr. Makolin said, “Congratulations. Welcome on board.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crunch Time – we need you!

Just a friendly reminder that not 1, not 2, but 3 SPECIAL THINGS are happening in the next few weeks. It’s crunch time and we need all the help we can get from you to make each one a big success! And of course, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads reading this now!! In honor of Father’s Day, next week’s blog posts will feature the male members of our class – stay tuned for a whole lineup of funny, sentimental, courageous stories.

And now the 3 big things and how you can help.

  • Wed 6/29 1:30-3pm Philadelphia Central Library Room 108
  • Featuring video shorts, personal stories and intergenerational conversations
  • To launch our satellite storytelling class and share our plans for project expansion
  • Free and open to the Public… this means we want to see you all there!!!
  • Click Here for flier

  • We are launching a “satellite” storytelling class, free and open to seniors and teens
  • This group will meet for 8 Wednesdays 7/13-8/31, 4-5:30pm
  • Philadelphia Central Library Room 108
  • Click Here for fliers and please invite all the seniors and teens in your lives… and just show up if YOU are a senior or a teen! We want you!

I know, loads are happening! That's because we love what we do, and that's why we need you. Stick with us and keep spreading the word about us via Facebook and Twitter. Contact us via Facebook or email with any questions. Hope to see you next Wednesday!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vote for Best Day to Win the People's Choice Award

Hi Readers,

As if all the excitement with our 6/29 Launch Party (you'd better be there if you're in Philly!) and Summer Satellite isn't enough, we've got extra breaking news to announce... and a BIG FAVOR to ask!

The Best Day of My Life (So Far) has been named a national semi-finalist in the 2011 Beautiful Minds contest, presented by the National Center for Creative Aging & Martek Biosciences. And now, we need all the votes we can get to win the ultimate honor: People's Choice Award.


Your vote really would mean a lot to me personally. I say this for so many more reasons than I can count. I say this on behalf of my senior buddies, who have become some of my best friends, and my team, who is - and this is a fact - the most amazing team in the world. I say this because this project was always from day one and will always be personal, because it was inspired by my friendship with my grandma, which is very real and very deep and still unbelievably inspiring.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for voting, and please consider asking your friends to vote for us as well!

Gratefully, Benita

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

3 Week Countdown!



The countdown officially BEGINS! It's 3 weeks till our Launch Party and 5 weeks till the first session of our brand new satellite class - we hope you are as excited as we are! A couple weeks ago, we posted a flier Here to invite you all to join us for the Launch Party. And now, we're hoping that you can help us reach out to the seniors and teens in your communities to join BOTH the party and the class. We've made it easy for you to spread the word - simply click on one of the fliers above to enlarge and share. Thank you for sharing!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hattie, Isadora, Bri, Hazel (Hattie's Birthday)

You know how we roll here: we love to party! Did you know that a month into the founding of this class, the seniors already gave it the nickname Partytime? We’re loaded up with summer birthdays in our class, and of course we’re celebrating every single one!! (Yup, even as we prepare for our big 6/29 Satellite Launch Event, we can’t help throwing mini parties in the meantime!)

It’s funny and embarrassing because I’m the world’s worst/ most impatient baker so I used to bring in store-bought or just-add-water treats for the seniors’ birthdays… that is, until Dee started co-leading the class with me almost a year ago, and baking the world’s most delicious and beautiful desserts… yup, all from scratch, every single time. I am telling you, Dee is incredible, my perfect other half in so many ways!! So you guessed it, now our class is not only known as Partytime, but also the Eating Club, and the Dance Party. Recently we had fun celebrating Hattie’s birthday. Both Hazel and Hattie actually got up and rocked their Suzie-Q dance moves. So awesome, right?

Hattie Lee Ellerbe

It was May 10, 1944, my 11th birthday. I joyously ran down to “Uncle Bill’s” Shoe-Shine Parlor, screaming “it’s my birthday, it’s my birthday”. In my excitement I jumped too close to Jack. Jack was Bill’s dog and faithful companion. He must have thought I was attacking Bill, because he immediately jumped up and sank his teeth into my left foot. The scar is still there.

Daddy: Take her to the hospital.
Grandmom: Let me wash it out with Borax- she’ll be alright!
Daddy: No, take her to the hospital.

Daddy overruled and took me to Hahnemann Hospital where they washed the wound and sent me home to Grandmom who was waiting to say, “I told you.”

I am happy because that was 67 years ago and I have survived. Thank you God!!!

Isadora Fields
Birthday Wishes

Today is a beautiful day.  The sun is shining brightly.  Today is Hattie’s birthday.  I gave her a beautiful birthday card.  I am in the writing class.  It is a lot of fun.  I like listening to the many different stories written by the class.

Bri Kurmue
Back and in Tack

Returned from New York on Wednesday a.m.  Visited friend’s and enjoyed dinner and saw a few nice plays.  Glad to be with my favorite group of people today.

Happy Birthday Hattie . . . 78 +3 days years old!

So . . .    let me say
What a fabulous day
And maybe it will
Stay that way
So . . . let’s Suzie Q
Me and you
Hattie showed us how
And Hazel did too!

Peace, Bri.

Hazel Nurse
Suzie Q

Recently, realizing that the original of the title “Suzie Q” was foreign to me, I finally satisfied by curiosity after three trips to the public library.

Suzie Q was a dance move popular in the 1930’s. It was known as the “Heel Twist” or “Grind Walk” used in the “Salsa,” “Big Apple,” Lindy-Hop and other dances. Also a song hit written by Lil Hardin Armstrong was in honor of Suzie Jane Dwyer (maiden name Quealey).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Beatrice (Our Visit to the Computer Room)

I am willing to bet that this is the sweetest story you've ever heard about... computers ;) Have a fantastic weekend on and off your computers! And now... time for me to get off my laptop and soak in some summer evening sun!

Beatrice Newkirk
Our Visit to the Computer Room

Last Thursday, we went downstairs to the computer room. We saw ourselves on the computer -  we saw our stories on there.

My story was on there. It was read out loud from the computer. I also read my sister’s story. Everyone saw themselves on the computer.

We liked seeing ourselves on the computer. It shows how far we have come and how far we have gone. Every story is interesting. We learn so much.