2009 Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon Celebrates the Contributions of Many Volunteers by Ellie Altman, Executive Director

Snowy and icy conditions on Tuesday, January 27, led us to the rescheduling the annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. By 10 am on Tuesday, with quick action from Paul McMullen, Cathy Eiden, and Mary Anne Hartman and the caterer Julie Reynolds and myself, all the logistics for rescheduling to Thursday, January 29—same place, same time and same menu—were handled, as well as phone calls to all those who had RSVP. Infinite thanks to Mary Anne for sharing the task of the phone calls, which would have been daunting for one person.

Thursday arrived and the weather was clear. Between 9 and 10 a.m. staff gathered at Ruthsburg Community Center with volunteers Mary Anne Hartman, Richard McCamant and Nancy Beatty and by 11:30 a.m. the tables were set, food was hot and ready to serve, and Buck Schuyler had pinned a corsage on Volunteer of the Year Pat Bowell.

We lined up to serve ourselves, cafeteria style, a hearty, hot and delicious meal of Cajun gumbo served in bread bowls (”Boules” in French—Buck instructed us). No one was shy about going for seconds.

Cathy arranged bountiful plates of sweets for every table—a smorgasbord of cookies, brownies, bars and chocolates prepared by the staff.

Everyone pitched in to help with the program. Board Trustees Peter Stifel, Wayne Bell, Luther Tucker and Jack Fischer were present. Peter spoke early in the program and then the departing Board Trustees, Barbara Bryan, Kathy Carmean and Bobbie Brittingham were recognized for their years of service. Kathy and Bobbie both talked about their passion for the Arboretum and optimism for its future. Bobbie talked briefly about the dedication of the North Meadow as Nancy’s Meadow in memory of her mother Nancy Austin. As Bobbie leaves the Board, her sister Nancy Jane Reed is joining the Board having served before in the early years of the Board’s founding.

For me the highlight of the program was hearing the following volunteers speak off-the-cuff about their volunteer experience: Kate Greer, Irene Aspell, Richard McCamant, Tim Ward, and Sina Callaway. They were eloquent.

Here are excerpts from my script:

To prepare for this occasion we sought the highly acclaimed team of biographical researchers headed by Mr. Charles Schuyler. I would like to invite Mr. Schuyler to the lectern to bare witness to his know of Ms. Pat Bowell and then he will invite each of three members of his team to share their carefully researched and personal observations of Ms. Bowell.
Mr. Schuyler. (At this point Buck, Mary Anne Hartman, Bev Gemmill and Paul McMullen told hilarious stories about Pat, some reflecting her generosity and others that put her in compromising situations that only she could recover from with grace.)

Adkins Arboretum will not be outdone by the United States Presidential Inaugural Commission. We are also an institution of long duration that has survived much duress and today is confronting its own budget woes, scuffles and bouts of angst. But today we are putting those challenges aside to celebrate in the grandest of traditions the crowning of the Volunteer of the Year.

Those of you who know Pat as a Master Gardener may wonder how she has time to volunteer at Adkins Arboretum after all she does for the QAC MGs. And those of us who know all that she does as an AA volunteer wonder what time could be left in the day for her to be a MG in QAC. Pat does it all.

She works most every event, is a cashier extraordinaire and is a one-person act as she staff’s the visitor’s center on the weekends. She assists with the Soup ‘n Walks and serves on the Arboretum Board’s Development Committee. Any opportunity to learn more and Pat will be there for field trips, book club, monthly docent meetings . . .

She is that special volunteer who says I’m here to help – responding to my favorite quote—a President Kennedy’s call to action, “Ask not what your government [Arboretum] can do for you, but what you can do for your government [Arboretum)].”

Though the staff works hard to make their daily tasks of staffing the Arboretum visitor’s center, keeping the parking lot clean and four miles of paths cleared of fallen limbs, removing bird poop and other animal damage to signage, keeping the bathrooms clean and light bulbs replaced, recycling trash and brewing coffee, removing fingerprints on the walls and doors, vacuuming carpet, setting up and storing chairs and tables, maintaining supplies, registered people for classes, welcoming every visitor with grace and charm, creating beautiful publications, and keeping enough money in the bank to pay the bills, and renewing membership—but Pat remains behind the scenes enough to know none of this happens by divine intervention—it is Pat who says, call me anytime and I’ll be here if I can to help keep the Arboretum open everyday and staffed with a friendly face to welcome the next visitor and share their enthusiasm for the Arboretum’s conservation mission.

We thank you everyday, Pat. And today we would like to coronate you. Please take this seat for your coronation ceremony.

To assist in this ceremony are the two Princesses of Protocol, who will not be outdone by the White House’s chief of protocol. I would like to introduce the diminutive Braedyn Weilminster, Princess of Protocol, and her mighty big sister Brooke Weilminster, Princess of Protocol. (Braedyn and Brooke are Children’s Program Coordinator Coreen Weilminster’s children.)

The precious Weilminsters have been mentored by Ms. Pat at the Arboretum’s summer. Through all of her good deeds, Pat has earned their total admiration. With a crown, robe, scepter, “mink” collar, Pat was installed as the 2008 Volunteer of the Year. Pat then shared heartfelt remarks about her work and experiences at the Arboretum.

This thoughtful note was sent by Volunteer Kate Greer after the luncheon.

Ellie–Your luncheon was lovely. Everyone involved with the Arboretum is so gracious, generous, and gentle–all wonderful qualities that make such a gathering so comfortable.
. . .
Thought Pat Bowell’s comments were lovely–so wonderfully from the heart. See ya Tuesday,


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