Greene County nonprofit reaching out to people isolated due to pandemic

Nathan Burk looks through his new book and mp3 player with his mom’s (Angela Williams) help. CONTRIBUTED
Nathan Burk looks through his new book and mp3 player with his mom’s (Angela Williams) help. CONTRIBUTED

A Greene County nonprofit is working to help people isolated by the COVID pandemic feel less alone.

Story Chain recently delivered its first batch of audio files to people “stuck in place” due to the pandemic. An isolated person can listen to a recording of a loved one reading them a book or poems, thanks to nonprofit Story Chain, which kicked off its new “Stuck in Place” initiative in April.

When Story Chain was founded in 2015, the original mission was to have incarcerated parents record themselves reading to their children. Jonathan Platt, founder of the nonprofit, said Story Chain volunteers provided the incarcerated adults with books and coached them through reading them aloud for their children. They then delivered an MP3 player or other device to play the audio for the child and other family members.

This new initiative stemmed from the pandemic, Platt said, and wanting to help those who feel isolated at home, like retired people, shut-ins or people with disabilities. Yellow Springs Police Department social worker Florence Randolph and Yellow Springs Police Chief Brian Carlson started by finding a handful of people to participate, ranging in age from 8 to 94.

ExploreGreene County nonprofit aims to help those isolated by COVID

On May 24, members of the Yellow Springs Police Department and the Story Chain staff went to the homes of two Yellow Springs families to deliver mp3 players, speakers and books to Nathan Burk and Robbie Danford.

Burk’s mouth dropped wide open when he heard his sister’s voice from North Carolina read the “13th Story Treehouse” by Andy Griffiths, Platt said.

Just this week, Story Chain’s Stuck-in-Place Initiative hosted sisters Patty Clarke of Atlanta, Georgia; Peggy Sawmiller of Cridersville, Ohio; and Carol White of Sarasota, Florida; for a read-aloud rehearsal and recording session for their sister Josephine Mace of Xenia, who is Platt’s mother-in-law.

Mace’s Alzheimer’s disease makes memory retention a challenge. Mace was present for the recording and her sisters told her stories for nearly an hour. She will get to keep the recording when Platt’s team delivers it at the end of June.

Platt’s goal is to find 100 people to be read to in 2021.

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

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.