By Sarah Bay
As part of Troy Literacy's 50th year celebration, we want to spend some time paying tribute to our founders, long time members, and retired officers who have given so freely of themselves to their community. It is my honor to write about Barb Deschapelles.
(Above, a Ukrainian style egg by Barb)
Barb Deschapelles was the first friend I met after moving to Miami County. We'd been living in Troy for nine months, but with a newborn at home, I was desperate to get out and do something, do anything. I joined a Ukrainian style egg class through the Hayner Cultural Center, and Barb was the instructor. It was only for a day, 4 hours at the most, but her patience, stories, and friendliness made an impression.
Barb and I met again at a Troy Literacy Council meeting a few weeks later. It was my first meeting while she had been a member since the mid-1990s, and had spent much of that time as the Tutor Trainer or Treasurer. After helping dozens of students in over two decades of service, Barb retired from the council in 2019. Through the peaks and slumps, she says it is the success stories that are most memorable.
One of those good memories was when Barb tutored an HVAC technician in literacy skills. He hadn’t graduated from high school because the school burnt down. When his studies were finished, he wrote her a touching thank-you note. Barb says that note is one of her fondest memories from her time with Troy Literacy Council because the donation of her time had such a profound impact on his life.
The majority of adults Barb tutored came and went, but one made the transition from student to friend. A Chinese gentleman came to her for pronunciation help. He was a professional in his field, and eventually left Miami County for work reasons. They stayed in touch, and one day, he called asking for her help in pronunciation again; specifically, pronouncing American names at his new job. They are still friends, and he refers to Barb as his American mom.
There are a number of ways that Barb has been involved in Troy’s community. She is a Master Gardener, though she humbly says she’s not really good. She teaches Ukrainian style egg decorating at the Hayner Cultural Center each spring. Barb is also the treasurer of the Troy Noon Optimists, a local organization that provides educational scholarships. With so much to do, why dedicate so much time to Troy Literacy Council?
I put that question to her recently, and she said, “Reading is important to me. It’s the building block to learn everything else. A fundamental skill to pull yourself out of poverty and improve your life.” Barb went on to add that she’d want someone to help her if roles were reversed, that it’s really just the Golden Rule. When she knows she can help, she can’t not do it.
Barb, thank you for your long service to our community and to supporting adult literacy. The world could use a few more Barbs.