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 Connie Smith as our Volunteer Hero. Connie first got involved with Bullington through the Henderson County Master Gardener program in 2005.
Why do you volunteer?
My husband took early retirement and we moved here in 2004. At the age of 57 I found myself needing some structure to my week after spending my adult life working in an office and commuting. As newcomers with no family and only a few acquaintances here, I wanted to learn about the area and meet new people. I tried several volunteer activities before settling in with Bullington and Meals on Wheels. Still at it 15 years later.
Why do you choose to donate your time to Bullington?
There are so many reasons. I love gardening and learn something new all the time from John, Kelsey and the volunteers. We have a wonderful family of volunteers who are very supportive of each other. Many of us have been volunteering here for 10 or 15 years or longer. Our focus on introducing children to the outdoors, and on providing children and adults with special needs with opportunities to expand their skills, makes us more than just a pretty garden and I think is a major reason why so many of us are devoted to Bullington.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Having no children of my own, I enjoy helping with the elementary school programs each spring. The kids are so bright and enthusiastic about everything at that age(K-3rd) and we have a lot of fun with hands-on programs for them. For hands-on gardening, I concentrate on the pollinator garden. Every butterfly and bee I see is a success.
What is a memorable moment about your work with us?
As part of the grant-writing team, it is a thrill to see the grants we have received result in improvements to the property. Everything we are able to add to facilities and accessibility makes Bullington more valuable to the community.
Although I don’t work directly with our high school students, the BOOST graduation each spring is a highlight of the year. It is great to see the teams from each high school present the gardens they have designed and developed all year.
What do you find most challenging about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Fund raising. I am currently a member of the all-volunteer Bullington Leadership Team(BLT) and Treasurer of the Board of Directors. The BLT plans and runs our plant sales and special events with the help of scores of volunteers. The Board has oversight and sets policies and priorities. As Bullington grows and becomes known to more members of the community and to visitors, we need more funds for staff and operational expenses. As with most non-profits, we are always looking for sustainable sources of income. You will find me at the cashier table during sales and events, in my capacity as Treasurer.
What do you wish other people knew about Bullington Gardens?
I wish more people in the community knew that we are here for them. Our gardens are open without charge. We continually strive to improve accessibility for those with mobility issues, and offer programs to enhance the quality of life for residents of all ages. Our motto is ‘A Garden with Heart’, and all our staff and volunteers treat everyone with respect and compassion.
When you are not volunteering, what are some of your hobbies or commitments?
I spend a lot of time gardening at home, and am always trying to make time for exercise. I love swimming and kayaking and wish we had more lakes close by. My husband and I like to travel, and because he is a life-long motorcycle enthusiast, often I am on the back of the motorcycle.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering at Bullington Gardens?
Bullington is a wonderful place to volunteer and we need people with all kinds of talents. Whatever your passion, hobby or career experience, we can use your talents. Our normal volunteer sessions are Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and our volunteer coordinator always lets us know what tasks are planned for each day. We work at the tasks we enjoy as our personal schedules permit. It is a great place to meet old and new friends, and, did I mention we have fun?