Catching Up with Chief Story Publisher Mike Stith

Mike Stith at Autumn View Gardens

Mike Stith, the founder of One Legacy, shared his journey with the organization in this interview a year ago. The mission of One Legacy is to bridge generational, cultural and economically diverse communities so that everyone has access to inspirational literature for mutual enrichment. Our social enterprise business aims to grow the practice of story sharing across the US and beyond. We plan to work with one or more partners to transform communities and personal reading experiences. We aspire to build a strong and flexible community based on our integrity and values.

In this article, Mike brings us up to date on the exciting events that have taken place since last May.

How has One Legacy evolved since it began?

First of all, it’s been quite a journey. Although our original message “Everyone Has a Story” remains true, the path we have taken to collect these stories has evolved significantly. We not only offer our website and social media as tools for collecting stories, but now invite communities and families to come closer together by using our Legacy Sharing service as a tool to collect wonderful stories.

By doing this, we have married One Legacy’s passion for collecting individual stories with an outreach program for seniors that have a desire to share stories about special events and people in their lives – in a fun social setting. We also offer our program to individual families who desire to capture special stories from loved ones. The combination of the two new programs has given One Legacy the opportunity to invite new members to our team to help facilitate and coordinate these events. Our team is growing and finding the experience to be heartwarming and enriching.

What are some of the highlights from this past year?

The most important highlight in the past year has been the launch of Legacy Sharing, the reminiscing activity that brings groups and families together to share memories that can be passed down to future generations. We began piloting Legacy Sharing at the end of 2015, and we learned what a meaningful event it brings to residents of senior communities. We were honored to provide a weekly activity that offered attendees a chance to talk about special moments in their lives.

For me, the highlight of our year has to be the moment I heard Betsy, a resident of Sunrise Senior Living in Des Peres, MO, say “Thinking about coming to these sessions makes me want to purr!” It really doesn’t get much better than that. Another comment came in a public workshop from Barbara S. from St Louis, “I’ve been wanting to write that story down for almost 20 years. I did it….and it only took 15 minutes!”

One Legacy now has several programs running at senior communities in the St Louis area. These communities have tried to do similar programs in the past, but Life Enrichment staff admitted that the Legacy Sharing program provides the structure they haven’t had the time and staff to complete. The chance to publish these shared stories for residents and families to read is the best benefit of the program!

Community awareness is spreading too. We have been invited to dozens of senior communities in the St Louis / Metro East, IL, area. The reception has been awesome so far this year.

The other major highlight this year has been the launch of our new Legacy Sharing for Families service. By request from families, we can help document special stories and memories from senior family members. One Legacy has an experienced team who can help, by visiting families and gently guide loved ones through sharing stories from their lives, using pictures and other personal affects. We then create a professional video presentation that can be saved for future generations.

What tools does One Legacy utilize to help people tell their story? 

  • For groups, of course, we have our Legacy Sharing service. We offer a social activity that provides a forum for sharing with others, a meaningful, fun experience indeed. It’s a great way to bring groups and families together.
  • One Legacy Story Starter Cards provide an entertaining ice breaker that helps a group or family recall stories that aren’t often heard. They’re fun to use at family events, vacations, hospital stays, etc. The cards are unique gifts too.
  • Our website at onelegacy.com is also a convenient place to share a story and view other stories from around the world. We provide a simple-to-use form on the website, with easy-to-read instructions, to make story sharing very easy.

How has One Legacy benefited the senior community?

As we launched Legacy Sharing, we learned from residents that our program brings more meaning to their lives. It also offers a unique way to get better acquainted with friends and neighbors in the community. My best personal reward is when I hear that our program is attracting residents who don’t normally come out of their rooms. This is what we strive for at One Legacy.

What responses have you received from the workshops? 

We’ve received many positive responses, including these quotes from staff and residents:

  • “Hearing everyone’s story was so nice. It was fun thinking about family and the stories we all have.”
  • “We see and hear stories from people who normally don’t come out of their rooms.”
  • “I think this is an amazing idea.”
  • “Evoking memories; connecting with other’s stories. Opens people up!”
  • “Story cards are an incredible idea!”

Feedback from Life Enrichment Staff and Executive Directors has been very positive. Residents share compliments with staff and their families. Staff members say the workshops give them a chance to bond with residents, and they also get to share their own stories. Residents love that.

What is included in the Family Legacy Sharing Program? 

First and foremost, the FLS program brings an opportunity for the family to come together to participate in an event that will remain in the hearts of everyone for many years to come. The entire process, from collecting and choosing pictures and artifacts from family albums and vintage boxes, gives everyone a chance to pause and contemplate about special memories.

Our trained staff will use gentle conversation and questions to guide the family member.

  • One Legacy provides a professionally-edited video slideshow (MP3) of family images integrated with your loved one’s voice audio recordings.
  • We also share the raw audio-taped sessions with the family.
  • Additional products available on hardbound, or digital books on DVD, which include each story, using photos collected during the conversation process. We work with families to help choose the best media for the family.
  • Video biographies are also available.

How can we learn more about One Legacy and the Legacy Sharing Programs? 

  • For senior communities or other groups, free consultations are available for anyone wanting to learn more about bringing Legacy Sharing to your community. For more information, contact info@onelegacy.com or call us at 618-960-7252.
  • Visit our website at onelegacy.com. We update content on a regular basis and welcome all comments and feedback submitted to the site.
  • Our free e-newsletter includes news and updates from activities at senior communities and other One Legacy News!
  • Another great way to learn more is to email us at info@onelegacy.com with any questions you might have.

Submitted by Caren Libby