Tribune Print Share Text

Volunteers with green thumbs, big hearts

Created date

March 31st, 2009



"A good organization empowers its staff; a great organization empowers its volunteers," says Dave Thompson, volunteer coordinator at Longwood Gardens, a world-renowned oasis in Kennett Square, Pa. More than 1,050 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows with 11,000 different types of flora and fauna are all cared for by a dedicated staff and a vast 500 volunteers who invest their time and energy into something they re passionate about.

"It's an exciting and rewarding experience; I get to see and talk to people from all over the world." Patricia Kenney, Maris Grove resident and Longwood Gardens volunteer

Thompson has been with Longwood for over 32 years, and he started as a gardener. "I ve learned to never say no to an idea," he says. Due to time constraints or the sheer vastness of a project, many projects wouldn t come to fruition without volunteers. For instance, creating an inventory of the Christmas ornaments is a time-consuming, tedious task. "There are projects we think about and would never be able to follow through with without the talent, interest, and energy of our volunteers," Thompson says.

Three residents from Maris Grove Carole Henrich, Patricia Kenney, and Nancy Tomcufcik all donate their time and talents to Longwood Gardens because of the peace and beauty they receive in return. "I feel at peace with the world whenever I m in the gardens," Henrich says.

All three of the women are guest information volunteers. They interact with visitors, answer questions, and guide people to the different displays. "It s an exciting and rewarding experience; I get to see and talk to people from all over the world," Kenney says.

"All the people visitors, volunteers, and staff the vibrant colors, and the aromas are my favorite parts," Tomcufcik says.

There are many different ways to be involved at Longwood Gardens, from office work to digging in the dirt. Approximately 20 volunteer teams are actively developing different projects. And to think, it all started in 1989 when a gentlemen wandered onto the grounds and asked if he could volunteer his time.

Longwood Gardens ( is located off US Route 1, about 8 miles west of Maris Grove. For Internet directions, use the following address: 1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa., 19348. For volunteer opportunities, call 610-388-1000 ext.