While I was busily working with what became the first Spellbinders Chapter, Denver, Al, my husband, was thinking about sustainability and how to expand the idea to other areas. It was his idea to file the Articles of Incorporation in 1990. To further help spread the idea, I engaged a retired advertising executive, artist and friend, Cliff Wilton, to help me make a five minute introductory video of Denver Spellbinders telling stories, with an explanatory voice-over of what a Spellbinders program could offer school classrooms. That video made it easy to found Spellbinders 2nd Chapter in the Roaring Fork Valley when Al and I moved there in 1990.
Barb Pitchford, the principal of the Aspen Elementary School, loved the video and idea. She immediately said she and her teachers would be very receptive to such a program in their school and invited me to use the school library to give the first workshop to train Valley volunteers. She was so enthusiastic about the value of the program that she introduced me to Judy Haptonstall, the Superintendent for the other school district in the Valley. She too became interested in what the Spellbinders program could do for the children.
We announced the first workshop to train Valley volunteers via a press release as well as local radio announcements. We were fortunate to get good enough coverage to attract eleven enthusiastic people to the first four day workshop given in the library of the Aspen Elementary School. All eleven signed up to tell in classrooms! That first workshop included Stuart Brafman and Jackie Merrill, both of whom eventually became Chairs of the national Board of Directors.
From the beginning, the Valley’s permanent residents and organizations embraced and supported the idea of Spellbinders with its emphasis on serving the community by connecting the generations through storytelling. Also from the beginning we were asked to tell stories at other places than just school classrooms. Although this frequently over-stretched our volunteer capacity, it benefited our reputation and sometimes even our coffers! For instance, in the summers of 2000 to 2005 we received a substantial grant from the Aspen Public Library to give a free two-week workshop in the art of storytelling to children eleven to fourteen years of age. It was a financial boon to us and a huge boost to our status in the community. We also gave adult workshops on family storytelling at the holiday, usually for a small fee or donation.
The same staff who guided the local program was also managing the growth and expansion of Spellbinders nationally and even internationally. The national office and the Chapter became intertwined, each benefiting the other. That is why today the Roaring Fork Valley Chapter remains the only Chapter that is actually a project of the national organization.
Germaine Dietsch, founder of Spellbinders as a whole and the Roaring Fork Valley Chapter