I have been volunteering since the age of 13. First, as a candy striper, a.k.a, Junior Volunteer, at North Memorial Medical Center. At that time I thought I would follow in my mom's footsteps and become a nurse. My interests changed at the age of 15 when after three years of being on the wait list my mom and I were able to go to a Japanese tea ceremony in the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden at Como Park. I fell in love with the traditions, culture and surroundings.
I remember my mom thinking I was a little crazy to drive back from the University of Minnesota- Morris my freshmen year three weekends just to attend the volunteer training in the Japanese garden, but I was following in her footsteps in a different area, her passion for gardening, since she is a Master Gardener. Every other Sunday you will find me at Como park greeting patrons and explaining the symbolism of the Japanese garden along with plant identification and kid wrangling. Though the truly magical moment for me happen when there are enough volunteers that I can bring people down the to tea house to show them an even more private garden that many St. Paul residents don't even know about. Plus, there is the added benefit of total relaxation when working in the garden. I can have a stressful week and it all melts away when I enter the garden and chat with eager visitors, or get down and dirty with my dandelion picker.
I also find it deeply satisfying as Extension's librarian to be a resource for the Master Gardener volunteers, like my mom, and the dozen that volunteer to weed and keep the Japanese garden on the Top 25 Japanese Garden in the United States. (Both the Arboretum's and Carleton's are on the list as well.)
(Photo: I am on the far right, with two of my favorite fellow volunteers.)