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Brandon News

Brandon woman helps families preserve their memories

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Most people are too wrapped up in fretting about their car insurance premium or trying to decide between a PPO and an HMO to think about purchasing what Amber Karlins calls "memory insurance."

Karlins is a personal historian for Legacy Keepers, a company dedicated to capturing and preserving the big moments and small wonders in a person's life for the benefit of future generations.

"I think we all have an inherent desire to find out more about our families and learn where we came from," said Karlins, who is also a direct sales representative for the company.

Legacy Keepers was founded less than two years ago and is based out of Bloomington, Ind. It connects one of its personal historians with clients to help them decide on a package — including a Legacy Book, a Spoken Legacy CD and a Video Legacy DVD put together by professionals — that best suits them. Historians ask clients more than 100 questions during interviews.

Karlins' territory covers the Tampa Bay area, but she has traveled as far away as Orlando.

Historians also help clients choose photos and memorabilia for their packages and guide them through the process. Karlins said the process of scheduling and transcribing the interviews typically takes about two weeks. Once the interviews are completed and all the material from the clients has been received, the finished product arrives within three months.

Karlins cites the research of gerontologist and psychologist Dr. Ken Dychtwald, whose work revealed an increasing desire from baby boomers to pass on their legacy, in addition to their inheritance.

"More and more, people are feeling a strong responsibility to pass down their legacy to their kids," Karlins said. While pictures get deleted from digital cameras to make room for others and cherished Facebook posts get buried under frenzied News Feeds, Karlins said Legacy Keepers provides "a permanent keepsake" for the families they serve.

Debbie Caneen, director of admissions at Sun Towers in Sun City Center, believes in the idea of preserving family histories.

"We do seminars here called Life Bio, where residents go through their entire biographies and we help teach them how to write it down," Caneen said. "We always get a lot of folks who are interested, so we're big believers."

Legacy Keepers has also teamed up with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, and Karlins is one of many historians who have been trained to help people with the disease recount their stories.

"It's a lot of stuff you wouldn't ordinarily think about, like making sure you never say, 'Don't you remember?' or the way we pace our questions," she said.

Karlins' credentials include a BA in psychology from the University of South Florida and experience as a journalist and writer, publishing a humorous memoir in 2011 titled "My Year of Living Fearlessly."

Karlins has lived in Brandon all her life and came across Legacy Keepers while scanning about a year and a half ago.

"I looked into the company and thought it was the most genius thing I've ever seen," she said.

Recently, Legacy Keepers has broadened its horizons to include the chronicling of couples' love stories for weddings as well as the relationship between siblings.

Karlins feels a very personal connection toward the company's mission. She first started to think about her family's genealogy after the passing of her paternal grandmother, Miriam Karlins. Her maternal grandmother, Helen Hargis, suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

"There are so many questions I wish I could go back and ask my paternal grandmother," Karlins said. "The good news is that, when you have relatives who are living, there's never a situation where it's too late."

For more information on Legacy Keepers, visit (813) 731-8120