Nora H.

Ft. Collins, CO
Nominated by Catherine Johnson

Volunteered for:


Length of Service:

80+ hours per month for 10 years

February 26, 2014

Nora Heaton is truly worthy of being honored as her volunteer service has been compounded by recruiting and training more than 162 other senior volunteers to serve children.

In 2003, at age 63 Nora Heaton firmly decided she didn't want to be retiring in retirement. She was intrigued by a Colorado-based nonprofit, Spellbinders, which recruited and trained seniors in the art of oral storytelling - yes telling, not reading - and placed them as volunteer in local classrooms. As a retired teacher, she immediately understood how just listening to stories artfully told would build kid's literacy skills. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, "If you want your children to be brilliant tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be very brilliant, tell them even more fairy tales. As a new retiree herself, she knew that this was just the type of volunteer opportunity that would keep her and many other seniors' minds active and themselves creatively connected to their community.

She enlisted the help of her friend Dora Hildebrand and they formed a Chapter of Spellbinders in Fort Collins, with Nora becoming certified to train other seniors in the art of oral storytelling. The rest is history! Over the past 10 years Nora has helped recruit and train more than 162 storytellers, who in turn have reached a total audience of 251,695 eager young minds.

Storytelling brings literacy, art, multi-cultural ideas, inspiration and the human touch to both older adults and eager young listeners. While elders have the satisfaction of being vital components of the community, building literacy and passing on beloved stories to the next generation, youngsters are exposed to people and stories that expand their knowledge and outlook on life. While Spellbinders target populations are both the elder storytellers and the young listeners, ultimately the whole community benefits when children have strong mentoring relationships with positive, adult role models.

As Mary Seibe, one senior Nora has inspired and trained as a storyteller, says, "Storytelling with Spellbinders has given me so much more than I ever expected. I thrill to the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids at receiving my stories...In my experience, stories build bridges between people. In a line from "The Dragons Tear" by Dan Keding, a boy, who has just realized he has been talking to a fearsome dragon, says, "I can't be afraid of you. I know your story." And I've found it is that way with people, too."

Nora, thank you for bringing the magic of oral storytelling to so many in your community!

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Prize Description

The National Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $5,000 donation, courtesy of Home Instead, Inc., the franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network. Each Local Winner’s designated non-profit charity will receive a $500 donation. All Winners will receive a certificate and a spot in the Contest’s “Wall of Fame” here on in recognition of their outstanding service.

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