By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Back in 1997, Shrewsbury resident Dean Gillam was saddled with the diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The condition forced him to stop working, and it took two years before he started having periodic hours in his day where he felt strength enough to focus on doing something, anything.
Gillam had always loved books, and his insurance agent suggested he use his good spurts to volunteer at the library. Gilliam took the agent's tip and signed up to help out at his hometown library in Shrewsbury. Fast forward nearly 15 years, and Gillam is still at it, making a world of difference for library users.
Gillam's first volunteer project at the library was to partner with another longtime library volunteer, June Jardarian, on the library's scrapbook endeavors. The two of them have convened most weeks since, clipping local newspaper articles pertaining to Shrewsbury categories and arranging them in a special historical keepsake binder for people to view at the library for years to come.
When Shrewsbury's beloved library trustee and book-repair volunteer, Carol Cullen, passed away in 2011, she left a void that no one could replace. Dean was asked if he could possibly help out with some of the book repair duties that Carol used to do, and he welcomed the chance to honor her legacy while helping the library at the same time.
At that point, Gillam was pulling double duty as scrapbook man and book repairman. His Chronic Fatigue Syndrome never disappeared, but he's been using all his fleeting moments of strength to help the library. So much so, that he's become the much appreciated “go-to” man for odd needs that crop up.
He's helped catalog new books, replace broken CD and DVD cases, and even fix the overhead awnings of the children's room patio. He helped with this year's town Big Read project by installing the Mark Twain fence posts, and he's helped with building storage shelves for the kids” area art supplies. He's sanded lumber at home for use at the library.
When it came time for the Shrewsbury Friends of the Library annual book sale, there were mounds and mounds of books to sort and arrange in an organized way for the public. Dean spent hours upon hours helping get ready for the sale. He brought in additional help, with his wife Judy, putting a lot of time in, too. The results were a big bonus for the library programs.
Gillam doesn's just do the volunteer duties of his assigned post. He listens to what's going on at the library, where the needs are, and he offers his kind services for whatever task is at hand.
Although Gillam's condition continues to challenge him each day, there's something about the library that gives him a boost.
“I get such a kick out of the little kids when they plunk themselves down with a book and read it right there,” he said, adding that he truly enjoys the people and the staff at the library.
Although his health has been a challenge, Gillam has found a life of helping the town that works well for him, too.
“I found a home here,” he said.