Over 50 years of service
Yellow Springs Senior Center Yellow Springs Senior Citizens, Inc.
PIONEER PORTRAIT: Rev. Wesley Matthews
The lifetime contributions of Rev. Matthews are proof that one person can be instrumental in defining and refining the quality of life in a community. Born in 1912 in Carterville, Georgia, he was awarded the Distinguished Cup by an Atlanta newspaper for "best all-around student" the year of his graduation from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. Upon graduation from Wilberforce University, the direction of his eventual career took shape with his work at the Linden Community Center in Dayton, where he began forming the ideas about the importance of recreational programs for seniors. He returned to Wilberforce to study at Payne Theological Seminary, from which the African Methodist Episcopal Church sent him to Central Chapel in Yellow Springs in 1941, where he created a community playground in a vacant lot next to the church, established an enrichment program for boys in the parsonage, set up a series of volunteer-run recreational classes and led a sit-in to integrate Yellow Springs' only motion picture theatre. What was eventually known as the High Street Community Center was noted as an interracial program designed around the specific needs of the neighborhood. After a stint in Cincinnati he was assigned to Chillicothe, where he organized the Carver Community Center and in 1945 was voted the Jaycees' "Man of the Year" for outstanding civic service. Assignment to Trinity A. M. E. Church in Springfield brought him back in contact with Yellow Springs, where he became part-time director for the newly-organized Yellow Springs Senior Center and continued in the directorship for the next fifteen years. During this time the center was recognized at a national level as a model for small communities in programs of services for seniors. Simultaneously, he was part-time pastor for St. Paul's A. M. E. Church in Urbana, where he organized Champaign County's first Head Start program and the Prophets of St. Paul's A. M. E. Church choral group. Eventually, he shifted his attention to helping to organize and subsequently ro direct the Greene County Commission on Aging. Along the way he was awarded an honorary law doctorate for community services from Monrovia College in Liberia and married his partner in life and work, Ruth M. (Pat) Fields of Oberlin, Ohio, with whom he raised a family of five.
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