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Rotary Gardens' volunteers donate record hours

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Shelly Birkelo
March 23, 2013

— Patrick McCormick spent Wednesday morning sanding a bench in the Rotary Botanical Gardens horticulture center.

That afternoon, his wife, Patricia, volunteered in the gardens' Cottage Garden Gallery gift shop.

It must be love—for each other, and the gardens.

The couple began volunteering at the gardens in 2010 after moving to Janesville from Onalaska the year before.

The McCormicks were looking to cultivate new friendships and decided that place would be Rotary Gardens after seeing a picture of the gardens' other volunteers—known as the Grumpies—painting a bridge on the property.

Gardens volunteers, including the McCormicks, donated a record amount of time to the gardens in 2012, said Mary Fanning-Penny, executive director.

"The 461 devoted volunteers contributed well over 16,500 hours, which is 2,000 hours over and above what we recorded in 2011," Fanning-Penny said in a news release.

The volunteers' value, she said, would equate to more than $300,000 worth of labor according to independentsector.org, a website that values volunteers in Wisconsin at $18.20 an hour.

Even more amazing, she said, is that six volunteers donated 500 hours of service each and 116 others contributed a minimum of 36 hours each to earn free gardens Friends memberships.

Volunteers at the gardens range in age from 7 to 86 years old and they serve in a variety of capacities. These include tour guides, garden and building maintenance, special event and educational programming support, clerical assistance and staffing of the gallery gift shop.

"They are dynamic and diverse," Fanning-Penny said.

The Rotary Botanical Gardens is fortunate to have such an amazing network of volunteers who give so generously of their time and talents, she said.

"It is with the support of our loyal volunteers that we are able to sustain and grow the gardens," Fanning-Penny said.

Patricia McCormick said she enjoys meeting people as they come to the gardens and seeing all the different items she gets to price for sale in the gift shop.

"It's exciting working in there," she said.

The retired 67-year-old teacher's aide spends two to three days a month working in the gift shop, but she also helps other staff and board members with various projects as needed.

"I just fill in wherever they need me," she said.

After volunteering with the Grumpies at the horticulture center, Patrick began taking on more duties including pruning, compositing and wood chipping. During his second year he also became a part-time seasonal employee.

This winter, he's been at the horticulture building daily and since January has already logged 180 volunteer hours.

"I spend most of the time outside," said the 69-year-old retired telecommunications engineer.

"I wanted to stay active and with this I get good exercise," he added. "(Gardens horticulture director) Mark (Dwyer) always has something that needs to be done."

The McCormicks also have found camaraderie at the gardens, which is what they hoped for after moving here.

Volunteers like the McCormicks are the heart and soul of Rotary Botanical Gardens," Fanning-Penning said. "The energy, passion, creativity and commitment we see from volunteers daily is awe-inspiring."



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