Looking back 11 years, I discovered several motivating characteristics that helped in founding Littleton Spellbinders – the four “Ps”. They were:
Passion for the program and for bringing quality storytelling to the Littleton Public Schools;
Purpose in giving back to our community in a way that might positively affect the character of our young listeners and also contribute a service to the schools that students, teachers, and administration would value and appreciate;
Persistence was to play a major role in achieving our early goals of finding a central, free, permanent meeting place, in recruiting our members, in conducting our first training, in funding our first professional programs, in finding an entry and then acceptance in LPS. We storytellers had to be serious about our endeavors and yet present our stories with the right degree of levity or
Playfulness that entertained both the listeners and the teller.
It all started when Dottie Colbenson and I were introduced by our husbands at their company’s 2003 Christmas party. In the first five minutes of chatting, we discovered we were both Spellbinders in out-lying communities. The Columbine tragedy was fresh in our minds. (Columbine High School is a Jefferson County school located in the Littleton area where we lived.) It had happened practically in our own back yards. One of the outcomes was the suggestion that lack of empathy, connectivity, and bullying contributed to these two bright young men, sons of professional parents, losing their human balance and plotting the destruction of their school and classmates. Dottie and I remembered the stories that influenced our lives from youth through adulthood and felt the children of our community needed stories in the Spellbinders style to help shape their lives. Our community’s children needed examples of ordinary story characters rising from difficult situations to become successful, to even become heroes. They also needed to connect with caring adults beyond their family circles.
So, with great belief in the power of story, Dottie, who said she could take an assisting role, and I met and planned the first steps to form Littleton Spellbinders. We set up a time line for accomplishing the preliminaries: finding our home, funding our chapter, meeting with key people in the community who could sponsor the chapter. Al and Germaine Deitsch, our national leaders, added their support to our introduction of Spellbinders. Barbara Brunt, Coordinator of Volunteers and Senior Services for Littleton Public Schools, recommended us to various council meetings and principals, some of whom invited us to demonstrate our program to their teaching staff. By the end of the first year, we had16 trained storytellers and were telling in 11 schools. From there we grew in both tellers and school numbers.
Our biggest challenges in 2004 were raising money, gaining entrance and acceptance in LPS, setting up protocol and communication with teachers. I wish National Office could have provided us an instructor to walk us through our first efforts in forming a chapter, had provided us with seed money as a grant or on loan, then offered a grant-writing training class to see us through receiving our first grant.
Changes have come about in recent years. Because of our committed membership, our borders now include senior residences as well as church and civic organizations. Our chapter has moved from manual to electronic record-keeping. We have seen changes in our schools — increased security measures, classroom time restrictions that may require combining classes for storytelling, and relating stories to curricula. These are changes we must embrace or adapt to because our storytelling and its rewards are a treasure that must not be lost.
by Marlin Day Cwach