The retirement community creates a project to document the effects of the pandemic

Residents of Carolina Meadows, a retirement community in Chapel Hill, hosted a virtual conference last week to discuss an ongoing project that aims to document the effects of COVID-19 on their lives and the community.

The “Our Story: Pandemic in Meadows” project was launched last May in partnership with the Chapel Hill Historical Society.

While the first installment of the project, a compiled book of stories about the experiences of staff and residents, has been published, others are still in the works, such as a time capsule, oral history recordings and a documentary film. 30 minutes.

Don Stedman, who created and directs the project, said it was important to capture how the pandemic has affected Carolina Meadows.

“One of the things that kept me going is that I’ve learned over the years that there’s a healing effect when people tell their stories, tell life stories,” Stedman said.

He said the idea behind the project started with the idea of ​​creating a time capsule, which should be opened on Carolina Meadows’ 50th anniversary – in about 15 years.

The contents of the time capsule initially consisted of a wooden cabinet containing masks, a test kit, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, public documents and photos of resident Dixie Spiegel.

But it has come to encompass a wide variety of relics and artifacts that represent how Carolina Meadows has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents can add items until the capsule closes, Stedman said.

In addition to the time capsule, the project also includes audio recordings of residents’ experiences during the pandemic.

With the help of five researchers from the Southern Oral History Program, Carolina Meadows conducted a series of 40 interviews — about half Carolina Meadows staff and the other half residents, Stedman said.

“Staff and residents are pretty close,” Stedman said. “There is a good social distance, but a real friendship.”

The interviews will be archived at the UNC Wilson Library and the Love House, a history center on Franklin Street. They will also be available at the Carolina Meadows Library and the Carolina Meadows Club Center.

The project features a 30-minute documentary on how the Carolina Meadows community has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The film, slated for release in the fall, was produced by Raleigh directors Julie Williams Dixon and Warren Gentry.

During the meeting, Carolina Meadows resident Judy Jones presented a book called “Chronicles of the Pandemic,” which compiles stories, poetry and music from residents about their COVID-19 experiences.

After conducting about 40 interviews with residents and staff, Jones told the conference that she wanted to invite residents to submit stories. She received about 73 contributions.

“We thought ‘boy, there are so many people who have stories to tell’ and we wanted to give people the opportunity to tell those stories,” she said at the meeting.

Carolina Meadows resident John Haynes created a photo essay that records major pandemic-related events from December 2019 to November 2021, such as the making of COVID-19 masks and the delivery of food to residents of Carolina Meadows..

Looking ahead, Haynes said he hopes these reflections will help future generations learn from residents’ pandemic experiences.

“I think we’ve learned enough that next time hopefully we’ll remember those things that we’ve learned and put them into effect immediately,” Haynes said during the meeting.


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