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Tell me a story

Purple Chair Project storytelling event is open to public

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Julie Thorson president/CEO of Friendship Haven, sits in the purple chair, she and others will be in on Thursday when the Purple Chair Project: An evening of live story telling gets underway in the Tompkins Center. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

Julie Thorson, president/CEO of Friendship Haven, will be the first person sharing a story with an audience from a comfortable seat in a big purple chair.

Those who gather around to hear her in the Tompkins Center will hear a story from her childhood.

“It involves a stick, a box and a bird,” Thorson said.

The Purple Chair Project took its inspiration from a monthly series of “Tuesday Talks with Julie” where anyone was welcome to come and talk about the month’s topic.

“Last month it was on the power of story telling,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Julie Thorson, president/CEO of Friendship Haven, sits in the purple chair she and others will be in on Thursday when the Purple Chair Project: An evening of live story telling gets underway in the Tompkins Center. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

During the Purple Chair night, anyone who wants to share a story from their life, be they residents, team members or those in the audience who came to hear, can do so.

They have a maximum time of eight minutes and of course, they get to sit in the purple chair.

Thorson would like a wide range of age groups to attend. She sees the high value of the resident’s stories.

“There’s a misperception that once you reach a certain age,” she said. “Then there’s no longer the same value placed on one’s experience. If we take the time to listen to our stories, there’s a lot we can learn. What better format than this to hear those stories. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing a story in person.”

“Their emotion is focused on telling the story,” she said. “All of us can give the gift of listening. I think it can be a pretty powerful experience.”

Thorson has spoken with several residents who plan to speak. Some have written out their stories. She doesn’t know what tales might be shared.

“There’s something exciting about not knowing,” she said.

She’s hoping for a really wide age range.

“Why not have nine decades represented?” she said. “I’d like to have a 20-year-old listen to a 90 year-old talk about their experience in the war. When you personalize it, it’s a really cool thing.”

Those residents who have written out their story are also leaving a legacy.

“We have the story for their family,” she said.

The team members are another rich source of stories. There’s plenty of staff that have been there for decades. Some of them will also be sharing.

The evening is scheduled to run an hour and a half.

“We can get in a lot of stories,” she said.

Eight minutes was an easy number to settle on for the maximum time allotted to each speaker.

“It’s my favorite number,” she joked.

One of the benefits her and other team members have at Friendship Haven is they get to talk with the residents.

“Friendship Haven is a beautiful place,” she said. “One of the things that makes it so special is the stories that are heard here.”

So what happened with Thorson’s bird, box and stick? Was there a string involved too? Did her mom get mad? Did she accidentally capture the neighbor’s canary?

She isn’t going to tell until March 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the purple chair in the Tompkins Center.

The event is free and anyone is welcome.

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