Closing out the Volunteer Season
By Shannah Cumberbatch
Our volunteers are our most valuable team players. From helping out in the ponds to greeting visitors, leading bird walks, and helping to set up for special events, our volunteers do it all! They are the reason we have such a robust program, one where folks opt to come back time and time again. It is beautiful knowing that people want to help us fulfill our mission of ensuring that the park is well-maintained, well-enjoyed, and welcome to all who enter.
Here’s what some of our regular volunteers have to say about what they do and how they contribute their time and energy to this park:
“I’m Gilbert Holland, and have just completed my first season as a Park Greeter for Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (FoKAG). Even after visiting the Gardens annually for several years, I wasn’t sure what I would be getting into by becoming a Greeter, but with hindsight, I’m very glad I volunteered. The training sessions taught me a lot about the Gardens, and I learned more every time I went there. My commitment as a volunteer brought me to the Gardens twice a month from spring through autumn, so I saw the full cycle of blooms of lotuses and water lilies, plus wildflowers, migrating birds and foliage. I was lucky to meet Charles Sams, the Director of the National Park Service, when he visited the Gardens in July. It was fun to interact with the friendly rangers and gain an understanding of their jobs. ”
Gilbert Holland, Park Greeter
“I started training to be a volunteer in 2020. That program was almost instantly shut down due to Covid. When the program picked back up in early 2022, I took the Park Greeter training and started tabling in April. Park Greeting is a great way to make a habit of coming to the park on a regular basis and seeing how the Gardens change through the seasons.
Park Greeting involves setting up a table by the entrance and arranging a variety of information to catch people’s eyes as they enter the park. Many people have never been to the park and appreciate information about what to see and look for. Park maps, scavenger hunt cards, and WELLderness handouts are hugely popular. Asking people, “What were you hoping to see today?” is a great icebreaker question!
People come to the table and ask for help identifying things they took pictures of, so you get to see interesting things that live in the park. Kids really enjoy stopping by as they are leaving to show you how many things they saw during the scavenger hunt. Extremely popular with all ages are the dried lotus seed heads, which help people learn about the lotus lifecycle.”
Jenny Glenn, Park Greeter
“Valerie Galindo, Ponds Volunteer and recently declared Team Leader.
I’ve been volunteering at the park for 3 years now. It started as a way for my daughter and me to spend time together while getting her service hours for DC’s high school requirement. But it turned into something of a tradition for us. It just feels so good to be in the ponds, giving back to an environment that gives us so much. And now that she’s away at college, it’s a tradition I intend to keep.
I’m usually helping out during the monthly events, though I do come in at other times occasionally. My favorite thing to do is get into waders and dive in the ponds removing invasive plants.
I really enjoy meeting new people and working towards a common goal. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me was a spider jumping into my waders! (Eek!) But the fact that I still come back is a testament to how much I love it.”
Valerie Galindo, Ponds Team Leader
To all of our volunteers, past, present, and future, THANK YOU! Volunteering will be back in Spring 2023.