Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Volunteer Recognition Celebration: A Class Act

By Ellen Levine
Photos by Robert Ayers

As a new volunteer attending my first Volunteer Recognition Celebration last week, I thought the event was, in keeping with the Gardens, a class act. While it no doubt took considerable planning, all seemed to come together effortlessly -- the weather, the lovely reception on the Piva Terrace outside the Doris Duke Center, and the company. I came away impressed by the commitment, creativity, service and talents of my fellow volunteers, privileged to be among them and inspired to do more.

After we all gathered inside Kirby Horton Hall, Jan Little, director of education and public programs, welcomed us with much appreciated remarks recognizing the importance of volunteers to the Gardens, and noting that “together, we share this place and the value of the natural world.”

Chuck Hemric, director of volunteer services, reported that for the 2013-14 year, the 23rd of the volunteer program, volunteers recorded an impressive 16,025 hours. He presented the following milestone awards:

10 Years of Service
Jan Carter
Evelyn Nicholson
Diana Spock
Alice Thacher

15 Years of Service

Don Barry
Theo Roddy
Lyle Wright

20 Years of Service
Taimi Anderson

Education program coordinator Kavanah Anderson proudly announced that more than 4,000 school children came through the Gardens this past year, and we are on track to exceed that number this year, with added mid-year volunteer training for the first time. She thanked the volunteers in the children’s program for “sharing nature with the next generation.” She expressed special appreciation to Hope Wilder, an education program assistant and past volunteer, whose work was especially instrumental this year.

Orla Swift, director of marketing and communications, expressed her appreciation for the volunteer photographers, whose photos play a prominent role in Gardens publications — including the annual report, wall calendar and Flora magazine. She announced a photography award for Charles Twine, who has been shooting for the Gardens for many years.

Volunteer photographer and Gardens board of advisors member Rick Fisher earned the Pioneer Award for his photography-focused initiatives for the Gardens, including launching the Durham Photography Club at Duke Gardens, teaching classes, and offering portrait sessions to the public with all profits going toward Duke Gardens. Fellow volunteer photographer Wendell Hull used Photoshop trickery to create some amusing photos of Rick in honor of the award, showing Rick's pioneering spirit in the face of Godzilla and other creatures.

Stefan Bloodworth, curator of the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, thanked the Blomquist ambassadors for their service. He expressed special appreciation for Andrea Laine, for her tenacity (“she just keeps coming back”) and her intellectual curiosity. He recognized Jeff Prather, his “right-hand man,” as “instrumental in kicking the recirculating stream project into gear.”

Stefan Bloodworth and Jeff Prather

Next up was Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, who thanked the volunteers who assist with the Discovery Garden, the propagation team, plant sales, the Doris Duke Center Gardens, and the water garden, and who serve as ambassadors at the Discovery Garden and the Gothic Gate. He jokingly rewarded all with a much-appreciated 8 percent raise and five hours more work per week.

Chuck announced the fine work of this summer’s youth volunteers, who work with the summer camp, the Terrace Shop, and in horticulture. Five of them were awarded the Durham Mayor’s Award, which recognizes 100 hours of volunteer service over their summer break.

Chuck concluded the celebration with several long-standing Gardens volunteer awards:

The Thyme Award recognizes those who have given a significant amount of time. It was awarded to Barbara Branson, Mary Dawson, Helen Dennis, Cynthia Eckroth, Beth Elkins, Nan Len, Parker Morton, Shelly Nowik, Theo Roddy, Sharon Sanford, Sharon Sokol, Diane Spock and Andy Wheeler.

Thyme Award winners

The Margie Watkins Volunteer Spirit Award, recognizing the volunteer who most embodies the spirit of volunteerism, was awarded to Beth Elkins.

The Gehman Award, named for Scott Gehman, who endowed the volunteer program in 1991, was awarded to Andy Wheeler, for outstanding achievement in his partnership with the Gardens. Yes, we learned, we really do see him everywhere, as he has led 81 tours over the past year, is ambassador at the Main Gate, and has measured all pathways for documenting walking tours. And here I thought he’d been cloned.
Andy Wheeler and Chuck Hemric

It was indeed a wonderful evening and a great reminder that volunteering here is as nurturing to us as we try to be to the Gardens.

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