Laura Chalus: Don't Blink

From the Spring 2019 issue of In the Garden, our quarterly newsletter.

As any high-functioning non-profit organization knows, a strong volunteer base is one of the key components to overall success. When you can provide a welcoming environment, robust volunteer training, and a process to incorporate volunteer feedback into your programming, you not only will you have engaged and passionate volunteers, but you will also have created veritable ambassadors who will help propel you towards your vision and mission.

To witness this level of excellence at Woodward Park, you need look no further than the Linnaeus Teaching Garden program as evidence that when it comes to volunteers, we are some down-right serious do-gooders! Consisting primarily of retirees with a passion for gardening, the over 350 “Linnys,” as we proudly call ourselves, are truly the people who keep the Tulsa Garden Center at Woodward Park moving forward in excellence.

But what about fostering the next generation of volunteers? How do we recruit and retain young people who are just starting to think about community service?

One of the many ways we are accomplishing this goal at Woodward Park is by working with young college students from the Tulsa Achieves program. Tulsa Achieves is a funding program that provides up to 100 percent of tuition and fees to Tulsa County high school graduating seniors who enroll at Tulsa Community College. As part of each student’s program, they are required to volunteer at least 40 hours a year, and that’s where we come in!

Over the past few years, I have immensely enjoyed working with quite a few Tulsa Achieves students; three in particular who have really impressed me. Leah, Alyssa, and Raven are quite remarkable young ladies who have been working on some sorely needed organizational projects around the Tulsa Garden Center Mansion.

Leah is always enthusiastic, always smiling, and brings a sense of humor to her projects which has been quite refreshing. Alyssa is polished and dedicated, completing projects with a level of professionalism lacking in many seasoned employees, and Raven is a delightfully artistic student with a pure servant’s heart.

I feel blessed to have had an opportunity to impart a lasting, positive impression of gardening and horticulture on such energetic, intelligent, and resourceful young women like Leah, Alyssa, and Raven. These young ladies are the go–getters who will be running the world someday soon, so be careful not to overlook or underestimate them or you might just miss seeing the mavens of the future. Don’t blink.

Laura Chalus, CEO