Service members from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center volunteered their time Saturday to aid in the beautification efforts of the City of Baltimore.
The Cylburn Arboretum, the only arboretum in Baltimore, had trails ravaged by the severe storms of the summer and was in need of debris removal, gardening and trail cleanup. However, with a staff of only four, the arboretum needs the help of volunteers to help aid in the majority of the large-scale cleanups.
"I recruit volunteers and a lot of people come on their own," said Karen Goldstein, director of volunteer programs at Cylburn Arboretum. "They are very interested in the fact that you can learn so much about working here with our gardeners and people are interested in the trails. I actually have a group that are serious runners and they like to run back here, so sometimes they give me volunteer time to keep the trails clear.
"Word of mouth too, people come here they see the place they see the need and they are very generous about getting involved and giving us their time and their effort. They become members, they become donors and they become volunteers and it really keeps things going."
In 1982, Cylburn Park officially became Cylburn Arboretum, thereby clarifying its mission for Baltimore City as the city's horticultural center for the preservation, maintenance and expansion of Cylburn's existing trees and shrubs as well as maintenance of its woodlands and gardens. The park is open to the public and conducts numerous events throughout the seasons that are typically free of charge.
"It's wonderful for families, because we are in the city limits of Baltimore, so we are the only green space that a lot of Baltimore city residents get to enjoy," said Goldstein. "We are free of charge, it's a public park and a lot of our educational programs and events are also free of charge for the community. We are very serious about supporting the community which needs this as a green space [and for] environmental education, conservation and nature education."
Hosptal Corpsman 1st Class Elizabeth Patterson leading petty officer of Naval Post Graduate Dental School/community relation volunteer program coordinator said going out and helping the community makes her feel good because she is helping those who may be less fortunate.
"It makes the environment and the community friendlier," said Patterson. "It makes me feel good to do this stuff because it doesn't just benefit me; it benefits the community as a whole."
The community relation program at Walter Reed Bethesda has been a huge success totaling hundreds of hours of volunteer service for the community.
"Last month we did four events and we had a total of 70 volunteers that committed 246 hours of volunteer service to the surrounding community, which is about the average for every month. In the summer months things quiet down a bit, because that is when the community relation program ends their calendar. So, they are doing all of their administrative work and counting out their numbers for the year. But this time of year through June we probably average about three to four events per month.”
The next upcoming volunteer event will be at the Armed Forces Retirement Home for National Family Volunteer Day on Nov. 17.
"For the volunteer day, it depends on the age of the volunteer, because the intention for the National Family Volunteer Day is to encourage families to get out and volunteer together and instill volunteerism into children at an early age. They are doing a craft project inside for the children and some holiday decorating, wheelchair cleaning and organization within the retirement home. Outside there will be some landscaping and they have canals on the property that need to be cleaned out.”
Goldstein was very appreciative of the service members that volunteered their time for the preservation of the park and encouraged them to come back to enjoy the arboretum in a non-volunteer capacity to experience the beauty in a whole new way.
"It's a phenomenal place - I'm amazed at how many people have lived in Baltimore all their lives and never heard of this," said Goldstein. "But, when people come they seem to fall in love with it. It's a very unique place.
"I just can't overstate the importance of volunteers and the tremendous service they give us - we are always appreciative of the effort. You [today's volunteers] have helped it be beautiful, safe and environmentally aware, so come back and enjoy it."
For more information about volunteer opportunities on base contact Patterson at 301-319-8576 or Elizabeth.J.Patterson.milhealth.mil