A VISTA’s Story of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

My name is Megan Singleton, this year’s Americorps VISTA serving with Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I wanted to take a moment to share my story with you and tell you about my love for Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

When I started with Friends back in January, I was new to the city, new to the working world, and as green as could be. Like the gardens, I was dormant for the winter, and as soon as I began to sprout new growth and get a feel for what it meant to be a part of Friends, we heard words of “global pandemic” and “lockdown” float through the air. Like many of you, I stayed home and clung to the images of the early blooming water lilies and emerging lotus. I am not ashamed to say I teared up when Tina, our Executive Director, sent me a photo of the first lotus bloom.

For those of you who don’t know, Americorps VISTA positions are not long term. I was only going to be there for a year, and already my year in this beautiful oasis was being eaten up by a pandemic no one could have imagined.

The day I came back to D.C., I was met with fireworks. No, literally, fireworks! It was July 4th, and it felt like the whole city was welcoming me back with open arms. When I walked into the park and the ponds came into view, my emotions flooded me. Here it was! Finally! The park whose photos I have poured over for months I could now experience in person.

My photo for our #Lotus Rising resiliency campaign and my parents and I at the gardens in July!

There’s nothing like walking between the lotus ponds and looking up to clear blue sky with the perfume of their flowers surrounding you.

This. This is why I did the work.

Or so I thought. Little did I know that the beauty of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens would not be the only thing to tie me to Friends. This year, our summer camp was as fulfilling for our neighboring youth as it was for me. Kids have that power. Volunteers have that power. Their curiosity and joy at learning about nature make you see what truly matters.

Some of our camp kids and I exploring some of the many animals that call Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens home

Peak bloom in July, and I felt like I, too, had found my groove with Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Connecting with visitors, spreading the park’s joy and intricacies, teaching our camp kids, and making maps and scavenger hunts for park-goers – I felt that elusive sense of well-being return. Parks and nature are healers, and this park is an especially perfect healer for my soul.

However, the pandemic has not been the only trying part of 2020. I was deeply affected by the murder of George Flloyd and have committed to do the work alongside Friends to be anti-racist.

I’m closing out my first year as a VISTA. Not my only year, though. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the staff at FoKAG have made an impact on me. I’m not ready to go. We can still do more amazing things in the coming year. I’ve re-upped for a second term as the Communications and Development Associate. I am so excited to continue my path forward with this organization and with you.

Our rescheduled National Public Lands Day volunteer event! So good to get out there and give back

This place is a haven for those who need a quiet space of beauty to get away for a while, for kids who are eager to immerse themselves in nature, for volunteers to get their hands dirty and actively make a difference, and for you, for whatever unique reason you may have for loving Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

This year is closing out, and we’re all ready to put it to rest.

I invite you to join me in supporting Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in whatever capacity you can, for the respite park provided to you this year, and also for the future you want to see. Together, we can make it happen!

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season!

-Megan 🙂

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