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Volunteer Spotlight – Meet Lillian Thompson, St. Louis BWorks volunteer & Soulard Resident

Meet Lillian Thompson, St. Louis BWorks volunteer & Soulard Resident

When Lillian Thompson moved into the little house beside St. Louis BWorks a few years ago, the organization gained a really wonderful neighbor ­– and vice versa.

Thompson, who worked overseas in the corporate sector and then in the Peace Corps before retiring to the Gateway City, quickly became impressed with the activities occurring next door. Before long she got involved as a volunteer herself.

“I value BWorks as a neighbor and wanted to give back because they are great neighbors,” says Thompson, who has now lent her expertise and energy to three full seasons of the Create-A-Book program. “The last session, fall 2017, was the best one yet. We had nine enthusiastic young writers and five committed, talented mentors.”

Just a few weeks ago, Thompson and her fellow volunteers formally celebrated the completion of eight short stories (one was co-authored) by their students – with a book reading and signing event that drew a large crowd of parents, guardians, and families.

“All of the mentors in this fall’s writers’ workshop had amazing credentials and had a lot of fun using them in ways that made the program a success,” says Thompson, who has degrees and a background in drama, communication, and business.

Quick to shout out the other devoted Create-A-Book mentors, she notes Kristin Luther is a journalist and creative writer, while Sarah Shockley works in communications for Purina and has written for Highlights Magazine. Christina Veloso Pope conducted writing workshops in Brazil and now works for the nonprofit Welcoming America, and Karen Landon is an accomplished artist who worked in education for the Department of Veterans Affairs, managing the St. Louis Video Studio until she retired last year.

Thompson’s lifelong love of books and art is something that her mother, the first elementary school librarian in Vermont, helped instill in her early on.

“She read to me a lot and saw to it that I had the opportunity to participate in a broad range of fine arts programs in my own childhood,” Thompson says. “And her library was an inspiration to me. It was never tidy and never quiet; kids were always in there consulting with her about their research and reading projects.”

That passion, combined with Thompson’s commitment to community development during her time in the Peace Corps and with FEMA, helping communities recover from major disasters, makes her involvement with BWorks only natural.

“I guess I’ll always be doing something involving community development – BWorks is certainly part of that,” she says.

From her perspective as a next-door neighbor to the organization, Thompson sees an organization that, in her words, is “more than a place to pick up new skills and a bike or a computer,” wonderful as those goals and rewards are. There is something deeper happening, too.

“It’s an extremely well-run organization that instills a collaborative culture among the kids and the volunteers,” she says. “The BWorks culture runs across all the programs, and it’s enthusiastic, energized, focused and team-oriented.”