All non-profit organizations live and breathe with volunteers. The University of Washington Botanic Gardens counts on hundreds of volunteers and has prospered with their help for over 75 years. The major support group for the Washington Park Arboretum is the Arboretum Foundation, and the Northwest Horticultural Society supports many aspects of the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.
According to legend, curator Joe Witt asked some ladies in the Arboretum Foundation if they would volunteer to lead tours, pull weeds and do other tasks in the Arboretum. This has evolved into today’s volunteer program, with people of all ages participating, including many community and commercial groups.
It is important for the staff of non-profits to thank their volunteers as much as they can. The UW Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Foundation recently held their annual Volunteer Appreciation Event.
When the Center for Urban Horticulture was founded in 1980, it was apparent that hundreds of volunteers would be needed. In charge of the education and outreach programs, John A. Wott worked with his staff to create an innovative annual “Thank You” dinner. The staff prepared and served dinner to all the volunteers, who were well fed as well as entertained. In those days, our community contacts as a UW program were second only to UW Athletics.
Each year there was a theme with appropriate foods. Dr. Wott always made the dessert which would feature pies, cakes, and edible flower pots. We have learned that we can never thank our volunteers enough.
Over the years, this “Thank You” function has taken many forms, from dessert functions, lecture functions, and this most recent one: a late afternoon festive snack and wine affair. I was pleased to see such a large attendance and also so many young people…a sign that volunteerism is still alive and well.
The esteemed late UW Botanic Gardens director Sarah Reichard, in her last UW Botanic Gardens public appearance, gave the following statistics:
For the calendar year, 2015-16, UW Botanic Gardens had 12,363.2 volunteer hours reported. That is nearly 2,000 more hours reported than the previous year and equaling almost 6 full-time staff, making the time worth $358,374.00! Way to go Volunteers!