Volunteer Biographers

My dad, Joe, and me ~1987.
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Volunteer Biographers, Our Origin

The idea of “Volunteer Biographer” was born in 1980. I was a new bride and my husband was on 6-months assignments to different cities around the country.

Instead of looking for work, I found the Evanston, Illinois Volunteer Pool. I signed up for “anything” and my first assignment was as a companion for an elderly lady called “Bacca.”

Bacca was born in 1886 and was 96 at the time we met. She still lived alone. She was 14 when the 20th Century was born and 28 when World War I broke out. I helped her shop and cook, but mostly she just wanted someone to listen to her stories. I loved to spend time with her and listen to the stories from her long and interesting life. My regret was that I never wrote those down.

When my dad got sick in 2007 I was between jobs. I took care of him while my mom worked. It was the longest stretch of time we ever spent together alone. In those beautiful hours, he told me stories of his life. I did write those down. My dad died in 2012. He was 92 years old, nearly 20 years older than my mom. I wanted to continue this idea of listening to stories.

In 2014, I found KindSpring.org. KindSpring has a page for submitting volunteer ideas. If they like your idea, they will choose you for a small stipend. When my idea for Volunteer Biographers was chosen, I was so excited. I had written to many people about this idea over the years, including Oprah. To have someone find value in it brought me a lot of joy. We opened our doors in November of 2014.

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