Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Fuller

By Margaret Sheridan

Linda Fuller is in the middle of an interview when a guest in goose down parka approached her table in the dining room.

The guest using gestures similar to a symphony conductor raved about one of Linda’s recommendations. The SOFA Intuit, an art fair at Navy Pier , rated five-star accolades from the beaming hostel guest. Linda graciously nods acceptance, and smiles.

“Such feedback, I love it. And I’ve only been here since July.’’

The hostel is within walking distance of Linda’s neighborhood in the Loop. The native of California has lived and worked downtown since she and her late husband arrived in 1980. They couple have lived many places including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut.

Recently retired from the CTA after nearly 12 years of working in planning and operations management, Linda says her knowledge of the city’s transportation system is a bonus in manning the information desk on Friday mornings.

What are some perks of being a volunteer?
The enthusiasm from guests, when I see them discover what Chicago has to offer, and how easy it is to get around the city. You don’t need a car. I try to make the city accessible. Some guests, unfamiliar with the city, are overwhelmed, at first. Other travelers, especially Europeans, seem more familiar with using public transportation. Many come from places that have great transit systems.

Want to share some Chicago secrets?
I urge people, especially if the weather is bad, to visit lobbies. They are architecturally significant, and warm in winter. Favorites include the Marquette Building (140 S. Dearborn St.), The Rookery (209 S. LaSalle St.), and the Art Deco elegance of 135 S. LaSalle St. (formerly known as the Field Building).

Another place to see is the Grand Ballroom on the second floor of the Blackstone Hotel. The detailed ceiling plasterwork is amazing. I encourage visitors to go to the Chicago Cultural Center. They offer free building tours. There’s always something going on…a concert, an exhibit, a movie. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S. Michigan Ave.) right in the neighborhood.

Got a secret dining spot?
Yes. It’s a little Mexican place on the Pink Line at the Damen stop on the “L”. It’s called Abuelo’s Mexican Grill (2007 S. Damen Ave.).

How do you travel?
I love to travel. In Europe when I was younger, I’d just go to train stations and ask for referrals on pensions and little cheap hotels. About five years ago, for fun, I took the train from Chicago to Los Angeles and proved to friends you don’t need a car in L.A. The train ride took two-and-half days. Then I got around LA very easily. I stayed in Little Tokyo. All you need to understand is the network of bus lines, airport shuttles and the subway system. Yes, LA does have a subway system.

Any future trips coming up?
I’ve got relatives spread out across the States. I’m busy discovering this country for now.

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