Whether it’s a marriage, home purchase or birthday, anniversaries encourage us to look back, reflect on cherished memories and inspire us for the future. For the Arboretum, we are excited to celebrate our own anniversary this year. Thirty years ago, The North Carolina Arboretum was established by the North Carolina General Assembly as an affiliate of the University of North Carolina system. To celebrate this milestone year, we have unveiled a major statue, released a new book, and upgraded several outdoor and indoor facilities. Over the past 30 years, we have seen significant growth in our programs, gardens and infrastructure, and we would not be where we are today without the hard work and talents of our dedicated volunteers.

As we take a trip down memory lane, we asked several of our volunteers who have served for 20+ years to reflect on their own experiences here at the Arboretum. Here’s what they had to say:

volunteerspotlightCharles Burgess (Production Greenhouse) – Charles was first introduced to the Arboretum while visiting the North Carolina State Fair, where he met and talked with a few of Arboretum staff. He recalls how excited locals were that the western part of the state was awarded The North Carolina Arboretum. After retiring from DuPont in 1995, Charles signed up to help volunteer in the Arboretum’s production greenhouse. Charles states that he wouldn’t dare tell Production Greenhouse Manager June Jolley how to operate the greenhouse, even though he was there before her. In fact, he feels privileged to work along someone of her caliber who is dedicated to the staff and organization’s mission. As he sees it, “the Arboretum belongs to all of us in the state of North Carolina, and we should enjoy it and take good care of it.”

James and Leora Schermerhorn (Production Greenhouse) – Since 1993, James and Leora Schermerhorn have volunteered in the production greenhouse. Leora claims that their first project was to assist a University of Georgia graduate student with his dissertation research. They were asked to use microscopes to evaluate the viability of seeds on a scale from 1-10. As liberal arts teachers, this was not in their skill set, and they quickly wondered what they had gotten themselves into. After 23 years of service, Leora claims she would still have difficulty testing the viability of seeds but commends the able staff with their talents and great personalities. Jim and Leora have made lasting friendships as a result of their volunteer service at the Arboretum.

13502650_10153726118327817_370846693979180479_oEstelena Allen (Design and Horticulture) – As many mothers find themselves helping their children, Estelena Allen came to volunteer at the Arboretum in the late 1980s by helping daughter Clara Curtis, now senior director for mission delivery, with floral arrangements. In 1992, when the Arboretum was in its humble beginnings, Estelena helped create ornaments using natural objects, like feathers, pine cones and birds’ nests. She continues to help out with sewing, craft projects and floral arrangements, and claims she would dedicate time to the Arboretum even if her daughter didn’t work here.

Kathy Haynes (Production Greenhouse) – After moving from Cincinnati in 1994, Kathy Haynes, started volunteering in the production greenhouse to learn more about Western North Carolina plants and gardening. She recognized the Arboretum as a premier garden in the region that she could grow with and has enjoyed watching the gardens evolve over time. Twenty-two years ago, Kathy remembers entering the property from the “old gate” and traveling the gravel path to park in the gravel circle in front of the Education Center. Looking back, she jokes that the gardeners used to call the Arboretum their own private garden and claims it was hard to do the tasks at hand because she would always gawk at how beautiful the gardens had changed from week to week. Kathy attributes the continued growth and success to the high quality and standards of the staff and is moved to help a large organization in her own small way.

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. Our volunteers learn new skills, make a positive impact on the environment and advance our mission through their hands-on support of the gardens and other programs and departments. There are many seasonal and year-round volunteer opportunities available, including our 3rd annual Winter Lights exhibit. For more information, please click here.