Greene County nonprofit aims to help those isolated by COVID

A child listens to an audio recording of their parent reading them a story. Greene County nonprofit Story Chain started off helping incarcerated people reach out to their loved ones. The pandemic has shifted their mission to help those isolated by COVID. CONTRIBUTED
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A child listens to an audio recording of their parent reading them a story. Greene County nonprofit Story Chain started off helping incarcerated people reach out to their loved ones. The pandemic has shifted their mission to help those isolated by COVID. CONTRIBUTED

A Greene County nonprofit is aiming to help people who feel isolated by the pandemic by having stories read to them through audio files.

An isolated person can have a loved one read them a book or poems, thanks to nonprofit Story Chain, which kicked off the new “Stuck in Place” initiative earlier this month.

When Story Chain was founded in 2015, the original mission was to have incarcerated parents read to their children via an audio player.

Jonathan Platt, founder of the non-profit, said Story Chain volunteers would provide the incarcerated adults with books and coach them through reading them aloud for their children. They would then deliver an mp3 player or other device to lay the audio for the child and other family. Platt said this new initiative stemmed from the pandemic and wanting to help those who feel isolated at home, like retired people, shut ins or people with disabilities.

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To start, Platt asked the Yellow Springs police department to find six people who might like to be read to. Platt’s goal is to get 100 people read to in 2021.

Yellow Springs police department social worker Florence Randolph and Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson have found people to participate ranging from 8-years-old to 94-years-old.

“This (pandemic) is affecting everyone in many different ways,” Carlson said. “This is something new, but we really think it’s a great way to reach out to people, especially at this point in time, just with the pandemic. You know the oddities of everything right now.”

Story Chain is looking to read for people of all backgrounds, Platt said.

It takes between two and three weeks to get a story recorded. Every reader will be assisted by eight volunteers, Platt said. Each coaching session takes about 45 minutes, he said. Platt said the group has eight coaching calls next week.

A child listens to an audio recording of their parent reading them a story. Greene County nonprofit Story Chain started off helping incarcerated people reach out to their loved ones. The pandemic has shifted their mission to help those isolated by COVID. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
A child listens to an audio recording of their parent reading them a story. Greene County nonprofit Story Chain started off helping incarcerated people reach out to their loved ones. The pandemic has shifted their mission to help those isolated by COVID. CONTRIBUTED

Then, after a reader is coached on how to read their loved one’s favorite book, collection of poems or a comic book, an audio file is made and sent to their loved one or friend.

“Anything that we can do to stay connected, to continue our efforts with our citizens in the relationship, that’s what the department is trying to do,” Carlson said. “This will help (the police department) because these are people that we know, who are maybe in need, maybe there’s emotional health issues, maybe it’s just a senior who’s lonely. And anything that we are able to do to be able to help our community, and visitors here, but mainly our community because we’re here and so are they. We have open arms.”

Randolph said she has reached out to the school system, the senior center and the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program to see if they know anyone who might benefit from the Stuck in Place program. Platt said he has also reached out to churches in communities all over the region to let them know about the program, too.

“I think this service to our community, just being seen as being human and being a part of the community is important,” Randolph said. “Greatness is determined by service. We are a service to this community.”

Carlson said this program adds “another tool in the tool belt” to help the police department connect with the community.

“It’s not just the desperate population... It’s not just all the things that bring police to people,” Carlson said. “It goes beyond that. It is the widower who has been living alone for four years, or people who start to have dementia and their loved ones live across the country. It brings a really broad group to this network, and that’s where I saw the advantages being part of it.”

Story Chain is still looking for volunteers. To contact the nonprofit, reach out at contact@story-chain.org or fill out a volunteer form online.

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Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson is taking part in the Story Chain initiative.
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Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson is taking part in the Story Chain initiative.