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Nov 30

From Ireland to the Orphan Train, educational sessions cover a variety of topics

Posted on November 30, 2022 at 1:22 PM by Becky Burnside

By David Markham

Participants can learn about a variety of topics during a series of four Lunch and Learn programs (although one is actually a breakfast) being presented between January and April by JCPRD’s 50 Plus Department.

“Our goal is to provide an opportunity for patrons to connect with presenters around our community and learn about a topic, a destination, or a culture while fostering a socially-inviting environment over a meal together,” explained 50 Plus Travel Coordinator Tiffany Hanna. “Lunch and Learns were offered several years before the pandemic and we have just now started them back up again.”

The upcoming programs will include: Taste of Ireland on Jan. 25, Meet the Mahaffies on Feb. 23, LGBTQ 101 with (JCPRD 50 Plus Assistant) Misty Town on March 9, and Life on the Orphan Train on April 14. With the exception of Meet the Mahaffies, which takes place at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center, these programs will take place at Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse. 

Each program will last about 1.5 hours and includes a meal.

The Taste of Ireland session from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 promises an afternoon of Irish culture, food, and dance. Participants will hear about Ireland's rich history and culture from representatives of the Kansas City Irish Center. Afterwards, they can delight as talented young dancers from the Driscoll School of Dance perform cultural steps, followed by a catered Irish meal. The cost for this program is $29 per person or $31 for nonresidents.

Hanna said that this program ties into the 50 Plus Travel program’s offering of an eight-day extended trip to Ireland in March called “Irish Splendor.”

“This is a way to offer a taste of Ireland to those who have never been and may not be able to travel afar, and to those who are planning to come with us in 2023, or one day plan to visit,” she said. “It’s a presentation for all who are interested in Ireland.”

The Meet the Mahaffies presentation will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 23. James Beatty Mahaffie was the most successful farmer in Johnson County during the mid 1800s, and even today, his former farmstead site is still a working farm. Staff from the Mahaffie Stagecoach Museum will come dressed in period clothing to share stories and history of stagecoach-era life, life on the farm, and the Mahaffie family. The cost for this program, including lunch, is $29 per person or $31 for nonresidents.

“If you look hard enough, there are wonderful pieces of history all around us in the beautiful backyard of ours,” Hanna said. “The Mahaffies are just one of them. We will hear about a farming family that was very successful here in Johnson County as well as see a snapshot of life from a time way before ours. You’ve probably driven by the sign for the museum many times before, maybe even taken a trip out there, but do you know the history of the family and what life for them would have been like?”  A table centerpiece with flowers and a newspaper

The LGBTQ 101 with Misty Town session will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 9. If you’ve ever wondered what acronyms like “LGBT” or LGBTQ” really mean, this program can help. Participants will gain a better understanding of current terminology such as, queer, pansexual, intersexed, gender fluid, and transgender. Issues facing the LGBTQ community will be discussed, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions in a safe and non-judgmental space. The cost for this program is $29 per person or $31 for nonresidents.

“I want people to walk away with the understand that they don’t need to know or understand everything that is going on,” Town said about her presentation, which she presented at 50 Plus’ Live Well Age Well event in September.  “They simply need to be comfortable asking questions like, ‘I’ve never heard of that, can you tell me more?’ or ‘Tell me what that means to you.’ Different doesn’t mean bad.  Regardless of someone’s gender or sexuality, we’re all dealing with the same struggles: marriage, money, jobs, and kids. If we took a moment to focus on kindness instead of judging, the world would be a much nicer place.”

During the Life on the Orphan Train program, which will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on April 14, participants will learn about how nearly 250,000 orphaned or abandoned children were relocated from New York City to the Midwest and West between 1854 and 1926. This migration is known as the Orphan Train. The goal of this relocation effort was to find homes where children could learn practical skills, gain an education, and live in a family setting. National Orphan Train Complex Curator Kaily Carson will join the local in-person program remotely to talk about how this fascinating movement began, how it worked, and what happened to the children involved. Participants will enjoy a catered breakfast before the presentation. The cost for this program is $22 per person or $24 for nonresidents.

“This is a part of our nation’s history that many don’t know about or have only heard bits and pieces of,” Hanna said. “The idea that children were placed on trains and shipped to the Midwest and West is a difficult idea to conceptualize. The Orphan Train Museum (in Concordia, Kan.) is just out of reach of our day trip destination radius; therefore, we are bringing the museum to our patrons for a very special presentation on the history of the Orphan Train.”

She made this session a breakfast rather than a lunch because she wanted to vary the times these programs are offered to reach people who may prefer a morning time, and also to see how audiences would react to a remote presenter.  

“This presenter will be sharing with us remotely from the museum, so they won’t be with us in our physical space,” she said. “I wanted to try this approach to see if it would still interest people to hear a presentation this way, so we can provide presentations from all over the country in the future. At some point, we may do a dinner presentation to reach people who still work or have daytime commitments.”

Hanna anticipates the Orphan Train presentation will likely be the most popular of the four. 

“The stirring of conversation about it, as I hinted to my travelers on trips and via email teasers, was loud,” she said. “After the first day, we had nearly 40 people reserve their spot.  It’s just so unique and people are very interested in historical events. The fact that this one concerns children makes it a bit more visceral.“