This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for over 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
With school starting, there is always excitement for learning new things. A recent opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled, “I’m So Excited for 40th Grade,” by Mary Laura Philpott, says, “Mystery and possibility don’t come calling for us so often in adulthood. When we get out of school, we lose that annual prompt for reinvention.”
This fall, Chesapeake Forum, formerly the Academy for Lifelong Learning (ALL), which started in 1999 through the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) as an intellectual cooperative of lifelong learning, is off to an exciting start with an array of courses designed just for adults at a nominal fee.
Earlier this year, CBMM re-evaluated its relationship with ALL after John Ford, the museum’s Facilities Manager and one of the founders of ALL, announced his retirement, leaving his paid role as ALL’s logistics coordinator. According to John, who is now the volunteer President of Chesapeake Forum and still helping with logistics, “No one wanted ALL to end, so we had to figure a next step to keep it viable in the community.”
John comments, “Becoming Chesapeake Forum, an independent nonprofit organization, this year through Mid-Shore Community Foundation (MSCF) has enabled us to reach further into the community by partnering with organizations across the county. In addition to the administrative support provided by MSCF, the Grayce B. Kerr Fund has assisted us with fundraising and marketing support. Help from these two organizations has enabled us to stay on schedule – we haven’t missed a beat in launching the new organization!”
As the demand for and interest in lifelong learning courses has increased, two new locations at the Bay Hundred Senior Center at the St. Michaels YMCA and Temple B’nai Israel have been added to the organization’s existing locations at the Brookletts Place Senior Center in Easton and the Oxford Community Center. CBMM will also still be a location for classes in the future. Currently, classes are offered during the day, which has proven to be the most popular time among the retirees signing up.
John states, “Chesapeake Forum provides stimulating learning experiences for our community. Our initial offering presents a series of interesting courses, as well as a foundation from which to grow. Beyond the fall semester, we hope to increase our course offerings, expand our topics, and add venues, all with an eye toward bringing opportunities for conversation and education to an audience that appreciates the intellectual engagement that defines Chesapeake Forum.”
The word “forum” was selected to be part of the organization’s new name since its origin means a place where people can bring their own personal experiences to reflect upon the content of a course. It’s a place for civil discourse and conversation – a safe place for people to talk about what is important to them.
For ALL participant Mary Robinson, who took the ALL Memoir Class this past spring, the class was a lifesaver. She comments, “After doing years of research on my aunt, I found myself lost as to how to make sense of all that information. The group leader for the class helped me navigate my way through the information and showed me how to take the basic facts I had gathered and create a short memoir about my aunt. My family is thrilled to have that story about the woman we all love.”
Glory Aiken, Secretary of the Chesapeake Forum Board and longtime Volunteer Faculty for the Memoir Class, adds about the participants’ enthusiasm, “No one wants to be left out. People can’t wait to get the next catalog. In addition, there is great camaraderie – people meet people they didn’t know before. It’s especially helpful to residents who are new to the area as it helps them meet new people.”
Charlie Yonkers, Volunteer Faculty and participant, says, “After we moved here full-time, I started taking Academy of Lifelong Learning classes in 2017, first with Glory Aiken looking for help in some memoir writing. That led to book-specific courses with the “Two Johns: Miller and Ford,” on Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, slavery, the Civil War, and Charles Dickens – all of which complemented my previous studies and teaching career. Happily, these courses in the academy led to giving one myself on “A Sense of Place: Values and Identity,” which was an equally challenging pleasure given the fellow students who participate here. Chesapeake Forum is a community-building center of intellectual and social stimulation.”
Volunteer board members have spent hours organizing, recruiting, scheduling, proofreading, and fundraising. The group is already planning for the winter/spring term, developing its web site, and continuing to reach out into the community for new faculty, course ideas, partnerships, and financial assistance. Glory adds, “We are a bunch of committed people. A lot of our board members are Volunteer Faculty and participants.”
John concludes, “The need is only going to increase with the Shore’s retirement population growing. Our curriculum drives our program. As long as we have good courses, we will have people who want to take them.”
Chesapeake Forum Board of Directors includes John Ford, President; Jim Adams, Treasurer; Glory Aiken, Secretary; Ann DeMart, Communications Chairman; Gil Gleim, Curriculum Chairman; Susan Carroll, Bob DeGour, Steve Goldman, Rich Harrison, John Miller and Dodie Theune.
Chesapeake Forum acknowledges the wealth of talent and experience in the community. Anyone willing to share their knowledge, experience, or passion as a Volunteer Faculty can send ideas for or interest in leading courses to email@example.com.
Chesapeake Forum has a number of needs for the coming learning season: funding to continue to make sure its courses are affordably priced for all; larger meeting spaces in new locations throughout Talbot County; volunteers to help support classes such as persons with technology experience; and assistance to grow its social media presence to reach more participants.
Donations are always welcome and may be made payable to Chesapeake Forum/MSCF and sent to Chesapeake Forum, P.O. Box 544, Easton, Maryland 21601. For further information, to register for a Chesapeake Forum class, or to get on the Chesapeake Forum mailing list, visit chesapeakeforum.org.
Chesapeake Forum Fall Multi-Session Classes:
Boondoggles, Bubbles, and Bonanzas with Phil Hesser
Full of Years: An Experience in Life Review with George Merrill
Great Decisions Discussion Program with Rich Harrison
True Stories, Well Told with Glory Aiken
Three Continent Wine Tasting
The Merchant of Venice with Rabbi Peter Hyman, John H. Miller, and John Ford
A Sense of Place with Charlie Yonkers
The History of the Papacy with Raymond Vergne
Chesapeake Forum Fall Single Session Classes:
Making Italian Bread with Sal Simoncini
Conversations with Lynn Randle
Newseum Field Trip led by Steve Goldman
The Taking of K-129 with Payne Kilbourn