At The North Carolina Arboretum, we are fortunate to have nearly 500 volunteers contributing their time, talents, enthusiasm and energy year-round. From guest services, to horticulture and gardening, to education programs, volunteers are the heart of the Arboretum and play an integral role in helping us achieve our mission of cultivating connections between people and plants. Our volunteers learn new skills, meet new people, make a positive impact on the environment and advance our mission through their hands-on support of the gardens and other programs and departments. We are so grateful for all of our volunteers, as we could not operate this 434-acre treasure without their help! In 2015 alone, our volunteers donated more than 23,000 hours, which equates to more than $539,000 of in-kind support.
In honor of the upcoming National Volunteer Week (April 10 – 16, 2016), I wanted to highlight one of our many volunteers and give an insight into volunteering at The North Carolina Arboretum.
Hardworking, friendly and knowledgeable, Dale E. Wykoff, Ph.D., is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who now graciously offers his time as an information desk volunteer at the Arboretum. I recently had a chance to chat with Dale and learn more about his background and history of volunteering at The North Carolina Arboretum.
1. Why did you decide to volunteer at The North Carolina Arboretum?
Having raised a baobab tree from seed to a three-inch high seedling, I was faced with another overseas assignment and could not take it with me. Knowing of the famous Arthur Joura, curator of the Arboretum’s Bonsai Exhibition Garden, I took the little tree to him to raise. Today it is over two feet tall and a permanent resident at the Arboretum’s Production Greenhouse. Thus, I became acquainted with the Arboretum and at Arthur’s suggestion, became a volunteer.
2. What is your favorite part about volunteering at The North Carolina Arboretum?
After over 30 years in the Army, I looked for a source of new information about a subject of which I had little knowledge. I was widely welcomed, and everyone overlooked the fact that I volunteered mainly to learn rather than to teach. I very much enjoy the associations I have established because these life-long friends are both helpful and knowledgeable.
3. Why is volunteering important to you?
At the Arboretum, volunteers now constitute a significant portion of the workforce. Not only do volunteers have the pleasure of learning but also of knowing that their efforts are a mandatory portion of the overall operation.
4. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned while volunteering at The North Carolina Arboretum?
I have learned that most question-askers at the Information Desk are pleased when they hear the answer to their question, and also by seeing the volunteer show an encouraging smile, indicating that the question was one well worth asking!
5. Why should more people volunteer?
At any age, it is instructive and can be a lot fun. Not long ago a little old lady and friend came to me at the Information Desk. “Boy,” she said (you can guess her age!), “what’s the scientific name of that sort of orange flower I like growing outside?” “Can you tell me more?,” I asked. “I already told you, it’s the one I like!” “Sorry, I need more information to help you,” I said. “Well,” she said to her companion “why do they let these young know-nothings occupy the information desk?” I laughed all day!
Interested in volunteering at The North Carolina Arboretum? We have both seasonal and year-round positions available. Check out our volunteer page for more information and to learn how to sign up. And thank you to everyone who volunteers!