Scrapbooking a Legacy

By Rachel Marsh | May 1st, 2018

A passion project keeping seniors’ personal histories alive forever

Personal History Project

If you don’t document your story, it’s gone when you are. And if you do, the act of documenting and then sharing the details offers a trip down memory lane and a bonding experience with family members.

Last winter, Vera Thoms, as corporate philanthropy coordinator for Dominion Energy, reached out to South Richmond Adult Day Care Center with an idea for a project that would provide participating seniors with an inimitable gift: their own life stories.

Along with Cora Argotti, senior communications specialist at Dominion Energy, Thoms partnered with South Richmond executive director Valerie Watson to bring her passion project to fruition. Their goal was to assist seniors from South Richmond Adult Day Care Center in capturing their life histories, turning those histories into a tangible, shareable scrapbook.

Seven seniors volunteered to participate. With assistance from their caregivers, they worked to hone the focus and timeline of their personal histories while collecting significant photographs and documentation from their lives. From there, Thoms put together their information, creating a 16-page scrapbook for each individual, encompassing his or her life and legacy.

The project came to its conclusion on the evening of Jan. 25 at the “Portrait of My Loved One” ceremony. At this event, Thoms individually handed out the completed scrapbooks, spotlighting each senior with a unique characteristic or piece of information she had learned while working with them. Family members were invited to share stories, poems or words of affection, an opportunity that Argotti described as an emotion-filled “tear-jerker.”

When Thoms first set out on this project, she explained that a lot of the participants didn’t think they had accomplished enough, or that their lives were important enough, to fill an entire scrapbook. But after digging up a lifetime of photographs and stories, Argotti explained, the project “showed seniors why they’re important.” It allowed participants to see how rich their lives had been, she said, and served as a “way to enrich the whole family … and leave a legacy behind.”

The response from the seven participating seniors and their caregivers was overwhelmingly positive, and Thoms hopes to partner with South Richmond again to help others to document their lives.

“If you don’t record your personal history, it’s lost,” Thoms explains. “Your ideas, dreams, beliefs … This allows you to capture the present, honor the past and connect it all together.”

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