By Susan Sexton
Kim Berwald-Viar will say she’s a storyteller. She is – and so much more!!
Kim’s business, Celebrating Personal Treasures, assists people in celebrating their lives and life events – documenting their stories and those of their loved ones to create a cherished finished product that becomes a family keepsake.
Kim started Celebrating Personal Treasures because she wanted to encourage people and kids to have some one-on-one time with an older adult – a parent, grandparent, or other loved one.
Kim believes that most people don’t really take the time to ask older adults questions about their lives, even simple questions. If they do ask, they may not really listen or dialogue to get more than just superficial information.
Just by asking an older adult, “Did you have a phone when you were younger?” can open an interesting dialogue and unleash powerful memories. Kids might learn what a party line is, learn about the evolution of the phone during their loved one’s lifetime, and what life might’ve been like without a phone.
Kim has developed a workbook entitled “What It Means to Be Me” that someone can use to think about and write about their own life, or they can use the booklet to help interview a loved one with a story to tell.
Together with an organizer, a file that helps keep pictures and keepsakes organized for the storytelling, the workbook can help obtain wonderful memories and information that can be documented for posterity.
Sometimes, Kim does the interviewing – something she relishes! “It hardly feels like work because I’m the lucky one that gets to hear the stories!”
People tend to wait until loved ones have passed away to celebrate their lives, and they can spend thousands of dollars doing so. Kim encourages people to celebrate loved ones’ lives while they are alive, and then work to create a legacy together.
In addition to creating coffee table books, Kim also has the ability to create one’s life story through video.
For those whose loved ones have passed away, Kim takes the traditional funeral slideshow to a higher level. She works with several local funeral homes to create a memorable keepsake of the departed, organizing pictures into chapters of one’s life and then adding quotes and lovely music to tell a life story.
Kim is currently working on a new idea to help people celebrate, document, and learn about a loved one’s life as that older adult transitions into a smaller home or into assisted living.
Some advice Kim has for those wishing to learn more about an older loved one or to document their lives are: audiotape your conversations with your loved one (even if they don’t know you are!) and use your phone to video (but hold your phone horizontally so your videos will show well). Even if you aren’t publishing a life story, the special time you spend talking with an older adult will be very meaningful – to all involved!
While not everyone always makes good life choices, asking an older adult what they have learned from the choices they’ve made can lead to insight and empathy through shared experiences and understanding.
Also, most people go through bad times in their lives. Asking a loved one where they garnered strength to get through those bad times can be enlightening, and may help when experiencing your own bad times.
Kim is a member of Central Exchange, a group of over 1000 men and women in the community, that provides quality programming for professional, leadership and personal development and great networking opportunities.
She is also a member of a local Rotary, Eastland Giving Circle, a board member of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, and member of the Advisory Board for the Truman Heartland Foundation (where she also serves on The Community For All Ages Coalition to help find meaningful opportunities for the aging in our community).
For more information about Celebrating Personal Treasures, visit Kim’s website at www.celebrating personaltreasures.com or visit her Facebook page. You can also contact Kim Berwald-Viar at 816-392-7692.
Look for this monthly column showcasing the successful women of Lee's Summit. To recognize women who have dug in their high heels and are making an impact, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.