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Closing the generation gap

Date of release: 04/23/02

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS May is Senior Citizen’s Month, a time to celebrate the knowledge and experiences of the elder generation in our community, but how do their stories get told? Who listens to them? Students at Southwest Texas State University and in the San Marcos community are listening. Here’s a taste of what they are hearing.

“The first time we were going to Europe for the children, I called Lyndon Johnson, whom I’d met in San Antonio at a political meeting. I said, ’I’ll need a recommendation.’ He said, ’I can’t give you that.’ I said. ’Well, they don’t know me.’ He said, ’Well, you go on.’ And so when I got there, they said in the consulate, ’How did you get seven visas when there were no visas to be given?’ I said, ’Lyndon Johnson.’ They said, ’Well, you could have no better contact.” (Excerpt from The Ties That Bind, 2nd edition - a story about Lawrence K. Brown who, as a Central Texas pastor, brought over 168 orphaned children throughout the years primarily from Germany.)

The Ties That Bind, currently on sale at SWT, retells generations of stories once held only in the hearts of seasoned San Marcos and Central Texas residents.

Five years ago, with financial assistance from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Renick began the Mutual Adoption Pact (MAP) program, a multicultural, intergenerational service-learning program that teams Southwest Texas State University students and area high school students with elderly and disabled clients to provide practical services to improve their quality of life and independence. Through the MAP program, these students sit down with the elderly citizens and listen and record their tales, which was developed into The Ties That Bind .

The program has gained national attention. In 2001, Dr. Renick and students presented the program at the state Safety Summit in Austin and the national Safety Summit. They have presented at the Annual Congress on Administration of the American College of Healthcare Executives and at the Annual Conference of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions.

“The two volunteers that come are very nice girls,” said client Francis Reyna. “I really enjoy the visits. The program is providing me with things that I need because I live alone. I am 90 years old and I’ve been widowed for 21 years. I am very please. The girls straightened my closet and put everything in order. Delia is fixing my address book and she took me to the doctor.”

As for the students, they each state that the experience has broadened their world perspective and given them experience that goes well beyond the classroom lecture.

“I am learning that I have a lot to contribute to the community,” said Rachel Janak, MAP student participant. “My time is important to others and that makes me feel good about myself. This experience has made me see another side of my personality.”

The Ties That Bind is a heart-warming addition to history buff collections and for those who enjoy Texas trivia or biographies. Readers can purchase the book for $12 (add $2 shipping and handling) from C. Oren Renick, SWT health administration professor, by calling (512) 245-2460.

(Media interested in interviewing students and elderly in the program or Dr. Renick, can contact Lisa Cruz at (512) 245-2180 to schedule interviews.)