By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
PICAYUNE — The Crosby Arboretum is bustling with activities and programs and through their expanded outreach to new volunteers, there have been several new smiling faces greeting visitors.
Picayune residents such as Philip Smith and Amy Nichols have joined seasoned volunteers such as Tammy Mokray in contributing years of acquired customer service skills and horticultural know-how to the Mississippi State University Extension site.
“I have been managing the volunteer program since August 2012 and we have seen the volunteer program grow with dedicated, heavily qualified individuals. We welcomed 16 new volunteers this past summer quarter,” said Senior Curator Richelle Stafne.
Smith works full time, but volunteers on weekends and for special events. He brings years of customer service and organization to the Arboretum office and special events.
“I discovered the Arboretum when I was relocating to Picayune several years ago. It was one of my first stops when I first arrived to scout out the area. I knew then that it was a really special place. It brought back memories of my childhood when I could just run in the woods all day. I am never as happy as when I am surrounded by nature and people who love it. Volunteering here is just a perfect fit for me because it allows me to be in a place I love and share it with others,” Smith said.
Nichols volunteers two days a week. She is a Master Gardener who received a scholarship to attend the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference this past July. The conference included a propagation workshop which added to knowledge she already has in horticulture, gardening, and landscape design.
“Amy Nichols coordinates the Arboretum volunteers who are interested in helping with the propagation area and with the Children's Garden. Her crew has helped with planting several hundred native orchids at the Arboretum, donated by Glen Ladnier of the Gulf Coast Orchid Society, and many other spring plant projects in the garden. This fall we are hoping volunteers, who have experience to share in plant propagation, will begin propagating native plants for the Arboretum plant sales and to use on-site throughout the Arboretum. Amy will be instrumental in us propagating plants from on-site sources for our Gum Pond and Swamp Forest educational exhibits,” said Arboretum Director Pat Drackett.
The fresh faces of volunteers such as Smith and Nichols are encouraging to those who have volunteered for years, such as Tammy Mokray.
“(Mokray) is a Pearl River County Master Gardener who has been working with us for several years on the Arboretum's archives, including cataloging books for our library, and scanning thousands of the Arboretum's historical photographs from our early years,” said Drackett.
Mokray is not alone in her long-standing support of the Arboretum.
“Volunteer Harriet Greulich led other Arboretum volunteers to create beautiful and unique greeting cards which are being sold in the Arboretum Gift Shop. Volunteer Tom Heim recently has assisted us with many construction projects including the new Memorial benches,” Stafne said.
Both Drackett and Stafne voiced gratitude for their volunteer team and the necessity to have them.
“They are vital to our operation at the Arboretum. Without our board and our strong team of volunteers, we would certainly not be able to produce the quality programs we do,” Drackett said.
“As of June, our 57 active volunteers and foundation board members have recorded 1100 hours for the year — nearly equal to the entire year of 2012. This means $23,838 for the first half of 2013. That may sound like a lot of money but not when you translate it into salary dollars.
“My goal is to double, if not triple, that dollar value. I hope to do so by increasing our number of volunteers, increasing the number of hours each volunteer contributes, and being sure that all hours are accurately reported. These numbers are very important in showing how successful our program is, where we can grow and where change is needed. The numbers are important for The Crosby Arboretum in writing grants, reporting, and self-evaluation,” Stafne said.
Stafne described two Internet sites that potential volunteers can search to find opportunities at the Crosby Arboretum.
“I have been using VolunteerSignup.org to list our upcoming event needs for volunteers. Volunteersignup.org is a free service created by volunteers for volunteers. It allows folks to click on an upcoming event need on the volunteer page of our website (http://www.crosbyarboretum.ms
“Ongoing needs such as sitting at the ticket booth as a greeter, raking trails or assisting in the Children's Garden are listed on VolunteerMatch.org. This nationwide program is also a free service. Volunteers can search for opportunities by zip code. They can then contact the Arboretum through the site and we receive an email that someone is interested in one of our opportunities,” she said. “The Crosby Arboretum Volunteer Newsletter is published quarterly and can be downloaded or viewed from our volunteer page of the Arboretum website. The volunteer application is also available on this webpage.
“Once admitted into the program, volunteers are added to the Crosby Arboretum Volunteer Email Listserv. This listserv allows me to easily communicate with all of the volunteers with a push of a button. Because we are short-staffed it is very important to be able to communicate with volunteers about upcoming needs and meetings electronically.”
The next volunteer workday is Aug. 14, at 9 a.m., Stafne said volunteers will be putting together birdhouses, a bottle tree, and whimsical plant signs for the Children's Garden. For information on how to help, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The next volunteer meeting is Friday Sept. 6, at 9 a.m. in the Visitor Center. Volunteer meetings are generally the first Friday of the month, though attendance is not mandatory,” said Stafne.