It was October 1998, at the Pumpkin Patch when the idea of a Jeffco Spellbinders chapter germinated. My church had asked me to tell stories to the Kindergarten and 1st Grades who came to pick out a $1 pumpkin. Sarah Jurney, mother of four school-age children was a mom-chaperone with her child’s Kindergarten. “I have to learn to do that,” she said after listening with the class to Abiyoyo. “Why can’t we have a Jeffco Spellbinders? And I’ll help you!” And she did.
Germaine and Al advised us in getting organized. Germaine taught the first training class in January 1999, graduating seven members. Two of those are still active. I had been a Denver Spellbinder for ten years so Germaine certified me as Chapter Leader and Trainer. Three more classes graduated in 1999, bringing our membership to 28, which included five from the Denver chapter who told stories in both Denver and Jeffco.
Grantors began to pay attention: Wheat Ridge Optimists were our very first boosters. Wells-Fargo Bank (Norwest, at first), The Denver Foundation, The Jefferson Foundation (now called The Jeffco Schools Foundation) and Target kept us going those early years.
Many professional storytellers cheered our volunteering in schools.
Norma Livo, called “mother of storytelling in the Rocky Mountain area,” came to one of our early meetings. “What do children fear? How can we help them handle those fears?” Stories, Norma said, help a child face fears vicariously, providing an experience which builds confidence for facing up to realities.
Cherie Karo-Schwartz showed us what can be done with a simple folktale using the children participating, weaving their unexpected ideas and comments into the story.
Opalanga Pugh inspired us with wisdom stories. One remembered well was The Camel Dances. “Teaching without preaching” was Opalanga’s phrase that has stayed with us.
Julie Davis, Angel Vigil and John Stansfield came to share an hour of their experience
These exceptional professionals, and others, stimulated the growth of our chapter and the increase in our storytelling in the schools and in other community places.
Germaine and AI were frequent visitors. They performed at our first concert in May 2003, doing the tandem story, No News. We raised $1195 at that fundraiser.
The biggest change I have seen over the years is all the time pressures on teachers. Teachers used to be much more relaxed and empowered to make their own decisions about how to teach. Today it seems like they have mandates on every minute of their time.
The biggest challenge to founding and maintaining a Chapter was that of enough time. The Steering Committee and Co-trainers shared the load. Somehow the energy was there with the faithful help of my partner, Tom. Spellbinders has given both of our lives additional purpose and much joy.
Beverly Brayden, retired Jeffco Spellbinders Leader