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Volunteering is at the heart of CAF. In 1966, a group of volunteers joined together to save H.H. Richardson’s Glessner House from demolition. This effort led to the founding of CAF!

Several years later, in 1971, the first class of volunteer docents graduated from a CAF training program and began to lead walking tours. Our approximately 450 docents have all taken part in an intensive, nine-week training course before serving at least 30 hours per year.

A few years ago, we started training volunteers to answer questions and engage curious visitors in our store and around the permanent Chicago Model exhibit at CAF. They were the start of our visitor experience volunteer (VEV) program.

We also started working with architecture and design professionals to serve as volunteer studio mentors for students ages 13–18 participating in our education programs.

When Open House Chicago launched, there was a need for even more volunteers—and architecture enthusiasts stepped up to the task. Last year, nearly 2,000 volunteers donated more than 12,000 hours to Open House Chicago and the numbers continue to increase annually!

"The culture of volunteerism at CAF is very unique. While we are grateful for our volunteers every day of the year, National Volunteer Month gives us an opportunity to really reflect on their contributions,” said Lynn Osmond, CAF’s president and CEO. “The deep dedication and tireless work of all our volunteers is the reason CAF will continue to grow and thrive.”

Our volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Whether they’re teachers, architects, lawyers, doctors or musicians, they’re all passionate about Chicago and have a deep dedication to our organization. In 50 years, thousands of volunteers have donated a total of more than 1 million hours with CAF.

“Volunteers mean everything to CAF,” says Hallie Rosen, director of volunteer engagement. “Our organization is literally powered by volunteers who give so much of their time and talent. Their passion for architecture and Chicago is unsurpassed.”

In celebration of National Volunteer Month, we want to say THANK YOU to all our volunteers and highlight the work they do! We couldn’t be where we are today without you.

To bring them in on the fun, we asked a few volunteers: Why do you volunteer for CAF?

“Being a part of CAF has introduced me to a new group of wonderful, curious people and gives me abundant opportunities to continue my education and stay involved in the community. One of the best parts of leading tours is watching tour attendees realize something new. Whether it's tourists visiting the city for the first time or native Chicagoans looking at a familiar building in a new way, seeing a look of wonder and curiosity on their faces replaced with understanding and delight is just priceless.”

–Jacqueline Rice, docent

“I decided to join as a CAF VEV Volunteer for two main reasons: first, to help an organization whose mission—inspiring people to discover why design matters—struck a strong chord with me; second, to seize an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. I have been volunteering now for over a year at CAF. It is easy to keep coming back because I know that my actions as a volunteer make a direct contribution to CAF.”

–Patricia Doyle, visitor experience volunteer

“As an architect, maybe I could walk into some of these buildings for client meetings, but friends and family, they’ve come out and appreciated the event. It’s helped me bridge the gap between what I do and showing people some cool spaces we have in the city that are closed off throughout the year.”

–Greg Kristo, Open House Chicago volunteer

“One of the greatest pleasures is meeting people from all over the world and getting to introduce to them a city that I truly love. I really do think that CAF docents are the #1 ambassadors to Chicago and are a significant reason why the city has seen such an increase in visitors from all over the world.”

–Steve Gersten, docent

“The most important reason for volunteering is a love of architecture and knowing that design DOES matter. Showing off the Chicago Model to visitors from around the world is just plain fun! It’s amazing to see their expressions and curiosity and then to engage them about the model, its story, its dimensions, its details, etc. is really a thrilling experience.”

–Bob Adamschick, visitor experience volunteer

“For me, being a docent is now a second generation activity! My great aunt, Dorothy (Dot) Edison, has been a docent with CAF for 21 years. She suggested it to me a few years ago and it's been one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. Not only do we, as docents, get to show off our amazing city, we are given the opportunity to continue to learn and grow personally. CAF not only acts as proponent for the city of Chicago though tourism, but in local interactions with Chicago natives and it's a thrill to be a part of that energy.”

–Lisa Pickell, docent