The birth of the Peekskill, New York Chapter was a miracle!
The desire to be a storyteller compelled me to attend the NSN National Storytelling Conference in Chicago in Summer, 2003. Impressed by the dedication, numbers and diversity of the storytellers and story lovers, the friendly welcome of the attendees, the endless workshop possibilities and incredible array of learning and listening opportunities (as well as yoga each morning), a one-page Spellbinders brochure was stashed in my suitcase along with pounds of other information.
Two months later, I finally went through the handouts from the conference and read about Spellbinders. A contact with Merrilee Hindman, Assistant to the Executive Director of Spellbinders, and a meeting with her in a restaurant near Grand Central Station in New York City during one of her visits to the Big Apple, convinced me that the genius idea of Germaine Dietsch could be transplanted to the school district where I worked and would retire from at the end of the school year.
Yes, there were obstacles to be overcome (funding, training, administrative interest/support, etc.) but after numerous emails, phone calls and spirited advocacy, at the end of June, 2004, the Peekskill City School District (about 42 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River) agreed to initial funding for the project. The pressure was on. Libraries, mailing lists, neighbors, posters, retirees – everywhere, anyone and everyone I could think of was contacted. Ten days before the training was supposed to begin, I had lots of verbal promises but only one reservation for the training – mine! Then, the phone began to ring and the applications began to arrive in my mailbox! On a hot August summer day, Merrilee arrived by train to meet our first group of eleven volunteers and start our first training session.
And the rest is history…our chapter was officially started with our graduation on August 23, 2004. Merrilee was excited about our volunteers, and we were pleased to offer her an honorary lifetime membership in our chapter. We are still in touch and are looking forward to her next trip to Peekskill.
Our volunteers include local librarians, a former parole officer, a retired chemist, a speech therapist, a secretary, a retired corrections officer, a designer, a young mother, someone with experience in the theater, a school social worker, another aspiring storyteller and folks like me with teaching and other experience in public schools.
Thanks, Spellbinders in Colorado, and elsewhere, for your help and support! And thanks to the more than sixty people who have already been trained and to bring the gift of storytelling to the children of Peekskill each month!