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AARP Traces Historic Roots at Volunteer Summit in Montana

“It’s clear that Montana is a state that treasures its heritage,” noted AARP historian Lily Liu during a recent trip to Big Sky Country. As she walked through the lobby of the Great Northern Hotel in Helena, she studied the old Montana Historical Society photographs depicting scenes of “days gone by” lining the walls of the conference facility where she would deliver a keynote speech about the history of AARP.

It is true, Montanans do cherish their heritage. And that evening during Liu’s speech, volunteers from across Montana were treated to a fascinating look at AARP’s founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, and the organization’s early history.

Liu was in Helena to join AARP Executive Council Members and volunteers at the end of June for a two-day volunteer summit to learn about the latest state and national issues affecting the 50-plus population.

Liu’s keynote presentation surprised and delighted many in the audience as she went into great depth about the hopes, dreams and actions of the association’s founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. While most volunteers are familiar with the story about Dr. Andrus finding a retired teacher living in a chicken coop because she had no pension, few were familiar with the additional stories about the innovative solutions that Dr. Andrus developed to address issues facing older Americans.
For many in the audience, Liu’s presentation hit home. It demonstrated how the work and influence of one person could ripple out into the community – touching and improving the quality of life for many. It also helped volunteers appreciate how important the work they do throughout Montana truly is.

As AARP Historian and Archivist, Liu has spent years tapping AARP’s national archives, where she found historic photos and writings of Dr. Andrus. Her presentation in Helena was videotaped and will air later this summer on local community access channels in 65 communities -- as well as five PBS stations across the state. In addition, the presentation will be made available in DVD format to libraries and AARP chapters across Montana.
Liu followed her presentation with a training session for the volunteer leaders on organizational storytelling. She shared tips and techniques to “tell AARP’s unique story in their communities”. AARP Montana staff and volunteers shared stories of their legislative successes, their work with AARP chapters and the accomplishments of AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and the AARP Driver Safety Program in their communities.
“With the many ongoing projects and activities that the Montana state office conducts, in partnership with its volunteers, it is very important that time is dedicated to support the continuing education of volunteers,” said AARP State Director Bob Bartholomew. “It is also important that all volunteers are familiar with developments occurring at the state and national level and also for them to connect with one another.”
“Lily Liu’s presentations energized the volunteers and also underscored why we are passionate about the work we do for the 50-plus population,” said Joy Bruck, AARP Montana State President. “We are so grateful she was able to join us in Montana and provide us with greater insight into the vision Dr. Andrus had for a society in which everyone ages with dignity, independence and purpose. We have a powerful story to tell about the contributions AARP Montana makes to the well-being of our members and their communities across the state.”
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