Michelle Washington Wilson uses her theater background to keep oral storytelling traditions alive. When she tells a story, it's performance art, she said.
"It's my gift - what I was born to do," said Wilson, of Mays Landing, Hamilton Township, who worked as a claims adjustor for about 14 years while fine-tuning her performances in churches, libraries and other venues. "I tell multicultural stories from around the world."
Wilson, 59, grew up in the Newtonville section of Buena Vista Township. As a kid in the 1960s she worked picking crops alongside migrant workers, she said. She wrote a play, "Dusty Days Gone: The Story of the People Who Harvest the Crops," about that time.
"In the open air people are talking and laughing," Wilson said. "Most people think of farm work as drudge work in the blazing sun - which it is. But there is a very pleasant side as well."
The 1973 graduate of Vineland High School went to Monmouth University and got a theater degree, and later a culinary degree from Atlantic Cape Community College, where she is now an adjunct professor teaching student success, career development and college skills.
Included in Arcadia Publishing's "Legendary Locals of the New Jersey Pine Barrens," she runs Cooking with Jazz, a catering, storytelling and musical service for special events. Musicians Harvey Dawson or Barbara Yapes perform jazz while she tells stories, she said.
"I always enjoyed using my skills," Wilson said. "I definitely believe in the Biblical parable of the 10 talents - if you have five and use those wisely, you'll get five more."
Naval Air Station certificate
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum's Chief Operating Officer Bruce A. Fournier recently completed a year-long certificate program in nonprofit management offered through La Salle University, a museum spokesperson said.
Cape Regional service award
Emergency room registration clerk Zoe Lord, of North Cape May, is Cape Regional Medical Center's service provider of the month for December 2013.
"She greets patients and visitors, who are at times under a tremendous amount of stress or very ill, with friendliness and compassion," said Heidi Horner, director of patient registration.
Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays.
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If you go
Michelle Washington Wilson will tell African folk tales as part of a Black History Month poetry reading and workshop presented by local poet JoAnn Peopples, 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Pleasantville branch of Atlantic County Library, 33 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Poets call 609-641-1778 to register. Contact Wilson at 609-665-0974.