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Rooted in Volunteer Service

Published February 22, 2024

Imagine entering the Conservatory on a warm summer afternoon, greeted by a friendly face eager to welcome you and your family to the wonders of the Scotts Mircle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. Those friendly faces are imperative to our organization’s success, and their dedication is fueled by a love for the Conservatory and a desire to share its beauty and mission with others.

From greeting guests at the Children’s Garden Rainbow Welcome Cart to guiding visitors through the enchanting displays at Conservatory Aglow, the presence of volunteers ensures that every visitor’s experience is memorable and enriching. Still, their contributions extend far beyond the public eye. 

Our volunteers are not just workers; they are ambassadors, helping to advance our mission, whether they are preparing the biomes in the early morning hours, helping run cooking classes, monitoring the doors and orienting guests to the Blooms & Butterflies exhibition, or simply filing and organizing documents behind the scenes. Volunteering at the Conservatory can be done individually, corporately, in a group, or by joining the Women’s Board. 

There are many needs, and volunteers can choose from various opportunities in every area of the Conservatory. “It’s enjoyable because many people will get started thinking that they can only volunteer with the horticulture team, and then they’ll look at the calendar and see the range of areas they are needed, and then they really do start branching out. I like to tell people more than likely we have an opportunity for whatever they have an interest in,” Alison Davis, Volunteer Manager, explained. 

This year, volunteers had over 3,800 opportunities listed on the volunteer calendar from which they could choose. Our volunteers represent a wide range of ages, from 15 to 82, and a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Together, 800 volunteers gave a combined total of 17,468 hours to the Conservatory in 2023. The State of Ohio equates one hour of volunteering to $29.17, which means our volunteers helped provide over $500,000 worth of their time! “They make this place better, and the Conservatory could not do what we do without the wonderful help from our volunteers. No matter how much time they give, every little bit helps us be that much more of an outstanding institution,” Davis shared excitedly. 

The Conservatory has a deep history with volunteers, dating back to AmeriFlora ‘92. We currently have a few volunteers who either volunteered or worked for AmeriFlora ‘92, some of whom have found their way back here over the years, but most impressive are the few individuals who never left and have been volunteering at the Conservatory since then. “It’s really fun to hear stories from our longtime volunteers, especially what they remember from back then, and how much things have changed. Volunteers have become a more important part of everything we do; several years ago, we only used volunteers in horticulture,” Davis proudly said. 

Not only do our volunteers provide needed assistance through the Conservatory, but they also bring fresh new perspectives – perspectives different from the staff and the visitors’ experience.

As employees, it can be challenging to envision things in a new or different way than how they have historically been done. Volunteers come in with different eyes and ideas that position them to view Conservatory operations differently than an employee may. “…they are behind the scenes enough to understand the way we are doing things, but they’re also bold enough to say ‘Why are you doing it this way, what if we did this?’ We can take these ideas to each department and discuss and say ‘Oh maybe we should do it this way or that’s a good perspective we never saw.’ Those opinions and viewpoints are things that being here every day and being in it we don’t necessarily get to see,’’ explained Davis. 

Of course, we can’t talk about the volunteers without mentioning another facet of volunteerism at the Conservatory – the outstanding Women’s Board – a group of dedicated individuals whose passion for the Conservatory knows no limits. “We are a group that helps them succeed in their mission while spreading the word about the Conservatory,” Carla Cefaratti, Women’s Board member, affirmed, embodying the spirit of service and advocacy. 

With three essential functions – volunteering, spreading the message, and fundraising – the Women’s Board strongly supports Franklin Park Conservatory. From planting bulbs to participating in outreach at community gardens with our Growing to Green program, their involvement spans every inch of the Conservatory’s activities. “We want people to be aware of this great organization that we have, this gem,” Carla emphasizes.

Their annual fundraiser, Field to Table, raises crucial funds to support the Conservatory’s education, outreach and access programming, ensuring its continued success. “We commit to raising a certain amount yearly to provide dedicated funding. The one thing about this group is if we say we are going to do something, we do it,” Cefaratti explains.

Volunteering at the Conservatory gives many volunteers a purpose: “After volunteering, I’ve had a good time, and I come home feeling good, especially after Community Days. There is so much joy amongst all the families out there, and you’re twirling ribbons, making bubbles…we’re having fun, they’re having fun, and it’s just so nice,” Cefaratti shared. 

Another critical aspect of the volunteer experience is the staff here at the Conservatory. Staff in every department understand the value and benefit of every volunteer. They are always willing to look at ways to help build our capacity by utilizing these people who want to come here to work. “The staff truly makes a difference, and working with the Conservatory staff is a really wonderful opportunity. They’re all so kind, so willing, it makes it easy to want to volunteer because the staff is just so welcoming to us being volunteers,” Cefaratti happily reflected. “When I go and volunteer, I feel like a wanted volunteer.”

As the Conservatory continues to thrive and evolve, volunteers will remain at its core, embodying the spirit of community and dedication. “We have something for everybody, in every interest for every walk of life, and our volunteers really do make a huge impact,” Davis affirms, inviting all to consider becoming volunteers. 

Franklin Park Conservatory would like to thank our outstandingly dedicated volunteers for the contributions and love they bring to the Conservatory. We could not do this without them, and we look forward to many more years of creating a greener, healthier, and happier community for all. 

If you would like to volunteer at the Conservatory, visit our Get Involved Volunteer page. The only requirement to volunteer at the Conservatory is you must be 15 years of age. For more information about the Women’s Board, visit our Get Involved Women’s Board page. 

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