(Watch video below)
The Woodall Weekend Workshop is an annual photojournalism workshop made possible by the the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. This project is the result of my own finding of a worthy story in Ellijay, Georgia.
Terrie Leyden is a single entrepreneur who started and owns the Cornerstone Café in Ellijay, Georgia. Leyden designed this restaurant to be a comfortable local spot where people could come and feel like they’re at their neighbor’s house. The café was built and molded out of love as well as community and holds a deep, not always pleasant history. Leyden started this business with her daughter, Erin, whom she tragically lost to cancer three years ago. After finding out that her cancer had metastasized, it only took 40 days until Erin passed. The abruptness of Erin’s death left Terrie and their friends speechless and helpless. Erin’s loss not only affected the family business, but Terrie’s personal life even more so. When Erin passed she not only left a hole in the hearts of community members, but also a seven-year-old little girl with no parents. This little girl is Sammie Jo.
Terrie immediately took in Sammie Jo as if she was her own daughter, however, the task has not been an easy one. Over the past three years Terrie has had to face the unwelcomed challenge of giving up her role as a grandmother, and assuming the role as Sammie’s mother. Terrie thought she was done being a mother after raising Erin, but her death brought Terrie right back to square one with Sammie Jo.
Terrie explains that the hardest part of being Sammie Jo’s guardian is having to become the disciplinarian in her life. She used to be the one who could spoil her and have nothing but fun with her. However, without a mom, Sammie Jo needs guidance and regulation, and Terrie is the only one who can give her this. Terrie also describes the difficulties that accompany the generation gap between the two. Sammie Jo is currently obsessed with technology, mostly her phone, and Terrie can not seem to understand and or relate to the craze.
These two have gone through massive obstacles in order to make their new living situation work, and they continue to struggle each and every day. However, about a year ago, they both took a pledge to start making the most of their lives and to start creating happy memories because they know that is what Erin would have wanted for both of them.