Locals get limited offer on city tours

June 7, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Joyce Dunn meets Katy Glover and Julie Lueker at 10 a.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center. They are strangers but have one thing in common -- an interest in Chicago history.

"The main thing about this service is that it's a win win opportunity for both volunteers and visitors," said Katie Law, Manager of Greeter and Volunteer Services.

Dunn is a Chicago Greeter, one of 200 volunteer Chicagoans who show visitors around the city or surrounding neighborhoods for free.

For the second year in a row, Chicago residents can also take advantage of this service in June and July. The program is usually reserved for out-of-towners.

"I've taken some suburban people on tours who were very pleased because it's so true…you don't get to know your own city until you have visitors," said Joyce Dunn, Chicago Greeter.

Dunn, who was an accountant, was born and raised in Canada, but considers herself a Chicago native because after more than 40 years in the city.

"It's offered me everything. Everything I have ever wanted to do. In business, in married life. There is so much here, there is no reason for anybody to be unhappy. The people are wonderful, the events are wonderful. It' got it for me," said Dunn.

Glover and Lueker are visiting from Michigan and Oregon. They found out about the free tour online.

"We heard about this on Trip Advisor, and it had excellent reviews, so we thought we definitely had to schedule one," said Glover.

Highlights of the history tour were Millennium Park, buildings by architect Daniel Burnham, John Hancock building, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

"The bank was super cool, we had never seen that," said Lueker.

The first greeter service was founded in New York City in 1999, and since then has spread to over 17 cities worldwide.

Current greeter programs:

  • Adelaide, Australia
  • Belgrade, Serbia
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Brighton, England
  • Chicago, USA
  • Houston, USA
  • Kent, England
  • Lyon, France
  • Marseille, France
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Nantes, France
  • New York, USA
  • Paris, France
  • Pas-de-Calais, France
  • The Hague, The Netherlands
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Chicago Greeter, which started in 2002, has about 200 volunteers who speak dozens of languages. Volunteers for the program have given more than 8,000 tours to visitors from 80 different countries.

    "Our greeters and visitors have remained friends. They've traveled to Australia or Germany to see the visitors that they showed around. And then those visitors showed them around," said Law.

    Visitors are matched with greeters through an online registration system based on interests, availability and language.

    Chicago Greeter primarily recruits volunteers in the fall. To be a volunteer you must fill out a registration form and then go through an interview process.

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