National Volunteer Week is April 19-25 this year. Since we can’t celebrate in person, we are taking it virtual this year to our social media channels and website. Our Volunteer Coordinator, Christine Chessler-Stull, asked Matthaei-Nichols Director, Bob Grese, to reflect on what the volunteer program has meant to MBGNA’s mission and efforts over the years and during this time of quarantine.

Dear Matthaei-Nichols Volunteers,

It feels strange to be celebrating volunteer week during a time when our gardens are closed, most staff are working remotely to have very few people on-site at any time, and our volunteer programs are on hold.  While I miss seeing everyone on a regular basis, I am grateful that we are all to keep safe and to prevent this deadly virus from impacting more of our lives.  With all of that in mind, I want to let you know just how much we value having all of you as part of our family at Matthaei-Nichols.  Your hard work and dedication helps us reach so many more people, provide gardens and plant collections that people value, and steward our 800+ acres as valuable places of nature.  We couldn’t do that with all of you, and I look forward when we can return safely to more normal operations.

One of the things that’s become clear to me in this pandemic is just how much people value nature in their lives.  It’s sad to think that we need to be sequestered at our homes to recognize this.  Whenever I’ve ventured out to Matthaei Botanical Gardens or Nichols Arboretum, I see parking lots that are nearly full and people are out on our trails.  It warms my heart to think that we’re able to provide such valued places to people during this pandemic.  For myself, it’s been the gardening activities and long walks my wife and I routinely take that have brought a balance to my life these past few weeks.  Seeing the slow advance of spring (made slower by our recent cold weather, snow and sleet) has given me a sense of renewal that’s helped me tolerate this period of separation.  I hope we can soon be doing all these activities together again rather than in isolation.

As we celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week, I want to again thank you for all the things you do at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum and for those of you who volunteer elsewhere in the community as well!  Clearly much of the care we give to caring for our gardens or broader landscape or the improvements we’ve made couldn’t have been done without the help of you and so many other volunteers.  We also couldn’t begin to offer as many programs to school groups and families, provide care to special plant collections, or welcome visitors to the Conservatory, Gaffield Children’s Garden, Peony Garden, and other special places without your help.  For those of us on the staff at Matthaei-Nichols, we thank you for all of your help, and we wish you all the best during this period when we’re apart!

Bob Grese,
Director, Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum
Professor, School for Environment and Sustainability