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posted: 1/27/2013 6:00 AM

Naper Settlement seeks junior and adult volunteers

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  • Greg Merriam works in the blacksmith shop, one of the many volunteer opportunities available at Naper Settlement.

    Greg Merriam works in the blacksmith shop, one of the many volunteer opportunities available at Naper Settlement.
    Courtesy of Naper Settlement

By Donna DeFalco
Naper Settlement

Do you love history? Are you looking for an opportunity to give back to your community?

Each year, more than 1,300 volunteers help with special events, fundraisers, building interpretation, and programming at Naper Settlement. In February, Naper Settlement at 523 S. Webster St., Naperville, will hold meetings for parents whose children want to be junior volunteers, and a meeting for adults and teens who are interested in becoming building interpreters or history connectors.

A junior volunteer is a young person in grades four through seven who loves history. Juniors interact with museum visitors and interpret the life of a young person who lived more than 100 years ago. Parents must attend one of two introductory meetings from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2 or from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 6.

Volunteers interested in becoming a building interpreter or a history connector must attend an introductory meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 5. All information sessions will be in the Meeting House at Porter and Webster. Building interpreters must be at least 18 and have the option of wearing 19th-century costumes. History connectors must be at least 14 and wear Naper Settlement logo wear.

Greg Merriam, 67, is a volunteer blacksmith who amazes visitors with his ability to turn iron into objects of utility and beauty.

"It's a very supportive environment here. You don't need any prior knowledge, just enthusiasm," he said.

The retired insurance executive received detailed training in both the skills of blacksmithing and in the historical information about the craft, which he shares with hundreds of visitors and schoolchildren.

"The reason I volunteer is there is a feeling of paying it forward, of giving back," Merriam said. "You can help people understand the past and how it relates to the future."

Josh Chartier, director of organizational resources, said Naper Settlement's volunteers have a valued role at the museum while giving back to the community.

"They share their experiences and their passion with our visitors. We want them to feel like this is their second home," he said. "Without our volunteers, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of creating community by connecting visitors to Naperville's history through engaging, unique experiences."

For more information about volunteering, contact Chartier at (630) 305-5256 or