STAND-IN GRANDPARENTS FOR STUDENTS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Mabel Barth met with skepticism from all quarters when she began talking about a simple idea to reduce the loneliness and alienation of college students, loneliness she had witnessed on her own return to college in her middle years. In Barth's vision, a grandparent stand-in sat at a small table in a busy student lounge, sharing fruit, peanuts or cookies, and listening to a student—not advising, not counseling—just listening. Since 1979, when Barth set up the first Listening Post at Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver, she has put her life into the creation and expansion of the program. Now more than 4,000 students a week talk to 400 trained "grandparents" at Listening Posts on 85 campuses across the US and Canada. Her own education was delayed--when she was 8, her father died and her dream of a college education was put on hold for many years, but she finally graduated Phi Beta Kappa from West Virginia University when she was in her 50s and had seen students' need for someone to talk to. For 12 years the main office of the Listening Post was in Barth’s apartment, where she kept in touch with Post managers. She used her own limited personal funds to pay the bills, including those for all the student snacks the grandparent stand-ins dispersed. Barth still puts in a 60-hour week doing administrative duties, volunteer trainings, and her own shift at a Listening Post. When asked why she works so hard, she said, "You cannot pour the perfume of happiness on others without spilling some on yourself." UPDATE: Mabel Barth died in 2012. She was 103 years old. Like this Giraffe? LIKE this Page. Giraffes should have 10,000 Likes.