Bullington Gardens is blessed to have many wonderful volunteers who give their time, love and hard work in an effort to keep the gardens beautiful for our many visitors and students. This month we are highlighting Suzanne Wodek as our Volunteer Hero.
How did you first get involved with Bullington Gardens?
I heard John speak many years ago about Horticultural Therapy and it sparked my interest. I was required to complete 480 hours when I became a Horticultural Therapist and Bullington Gardens seemed like a natural fit. I average approximately 125-130 hours per year at Bullington. I’ve been a Buncombe County Master Gardener since 2001.
Why do you volunteer?
I come from a big family of volunteers; my dad retired and within one week was volunteering. My sister volunteers and my brothers volunteer at their church. When we moved here in October of 1999 from Connecticut, my husband suggested I do something I wanted. Horticultural Therapy was how I chose to give back to the community.
Why do you choose to donate your time to Bullington?
It’s the kids. I’ve always had a little something in my heart for kids. I have nieces and nephews, and when they’re with me we’re always gardening, reading or doing something outside. Some of kids that come to Bullington Gardens have it tough. I like to be able to give them a little time in the garden, joke with them and make them smile. We feed on each other’s creativity.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Besides the kids and the volunteers, it’s beautiful, it has a big heart. I’ve made friends with a few of the Master Gardeners here in Hendersonville. I really enjoy the people and the work.
What is a memorable moment about your work with us?
One day we were in the garden with a boy named Jeffrey. Jeffrey hadn’t spoken the entire time I’d worked with him. I pointed out trees to him. There’s an oak tree there, there’s another one and another. “Oh, a family of trees,” Jeffrey said. A breakthrough, I thought. Then the teacher said that it was a breakthrough. It’s something you always want working with the kids. The more time spent with the kids the more they start responding. So glad they have a place like this to come to. The kids give me purpose and I think I get more out of it then they do.
What do you find most challenging about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Weather can be a real challenge if it’s too cold to take the kids outside.
What do you wish other people knew about Bullington Gardens?
That it’s open. Come out and experience it. I tell people in Buncombe County all the time about how beautiful it is here and how the master gardeners do so much.
When you are not volunteering, what are some of your hobbies or commitments? What did you do in your previous life?
I have a degree in fine arts and I taught art until I got married. Gave up teaching due to the distance. After our honeymoon, I took a job as an assistant to special section editor, filling in for sales people when they were out. I discovered I was very good at selling media for magazines. I spent 27 years at different newspapers including The Chicago Tribune and eventually got into management. I love gardening and enjoyed Jane Voorhees’ Watercolor class, I used to have a kiln, love to read and I’m in 3 book clubs. I also love to travel. New Zealand & Australia, & Ireland were some of the more memorable trips I’ve taken.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Do it. It’s beautiful, the people are great and you get a lot of satisfaction out of the work they do here. You also have to visit for Dahlia Days and Fairy Days.