Volunteer Award Recipients
Volunteers are crucial to the success of the Garden and are honored at the annual Thanks for Giving luncheons in Atlanta and Gainesville.
2021 Volunteer of the Year
Janet began volunteering in 2016 as a Discovery Volunteer. In 2018, she joined the Docents, and in each of these roles, she energetically engages guests to enhance their experience during visits and tours. Janet also took the Garden Essential Maintenance orientation in 2016 and has been regularly volunteering in the Woodlands over the past six years. She also spends time assisting in the Orchid Center, helping with classes, volunteering for events like Concerts and Garden Lights, and aiding staff with office projects, member evenings and other programming.
We can always count on Janet to commit to her weekly shifts and help whenever and wherever there is a need. She is the June 2017 and September 2021 Volunteer of the Month and has been named a Root of the Garden (top hours) for the past five years, during which time she has donated over 2000 hours of volunteer service.
2022 Volunteer of the Year
Since beginning her service in 2009, Paula White has led tours as a docent tour guide, gardened with the horticulturists, greeted guests in the visitor center, taught about garden collections and conservation work through discovery stations, and helped at numerous events like Garden Lights, Goblins in the Garden, and Concerts. Her most impactful time, however, has been in leadership roles for the Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour, the annual Garden Symposium, the Plant Explorers Auction, and the Garden Flower Show.
In her 2013 volunteer of the month article, she says, “The Garden has offered an opportunity for constant learning, meeting wonderful people, making friends and connecting to a new home.” We are so pleased that she found a home here, had the opportunity to learn, and teach, and we are grateful to have met a wonderful person, too. We cannot thank her enough for her involvement and support over the past 13 years. She has made an impact on countless lives of staff, visitors and volunteers.
2019 Volunteer of the Year
Bob Nelson began volunteering at the Garden in 1997, long before there was an Orchid Center or even a Children’s Garden on the property. Staff describe him as consistent, faithful, and always in a good mood with a great attitude, getting along with the staff and other volunteers.
His journey at the Garden began after taking the University of Georgia Master Gardener course in Day Hall. He discovered that he really enjoyed the Garden and started shortly afterwards volunteering with the outdoor collections alongside the horticulture staff. Then, putting his Master Gardener course to work, he spent time assisting on the Plant Hotline out of the Library. In 2010, the old parking lot turned into the Edible Garden. Nelson signed up to help in the new garden on Thursday mornings and has been volunteering there ever since.
Our first horticulturist in the Edible Garden was Colleen Golden, who states, “I am so glad to hear about Bob’s well-deserved recognition. Some of my fondest memories working at the Garden are with his Thursday morning crew. We were such an effective team that really enjoyed each other’s company and laughed constantly. He is an exceptionally skilled gardener, always reliable, up for any task, and if you could catch his quiet comments, incredibly funny. I can’t think of a more deserving person to be the volunteer of the year!”
2020 Volunteer of the Year
Sally started volunteering 12 years ago as a Children’s Tour Docent. A retired teacher, she loved giving tours to children and helping in the School Outreach Program. You’ll also find her volunteering at the Vanilla Orchid Discovery Station, showcasing one of her favorite orchids to visitors of all ages.
A few years back, she added the Greeter role, greeting guests each week with her cheerful welcome, engaging conversation and infectious smile. Over the years she has helped with so many events and assignments including the Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour, Concerts in the Garden, Goblins and Fall Family Fun, Reindog Parade, member evenings, summer camps, Garden Lights, Garden of Eden Ball and has served on a number of docent committees. She is a steadfast Centennial Volunteer, a member of the 200+ hour club and a two-time Volunteer of the Month.
Her lifetime volunteers hours total over 2500, and she is one of only a handful of volunteers to give over 100 hours during 2020. She is the most positiver person you’ll ever meet, always smiling and bringing sunshine wherever she goes. Adored by all who know her, Sally is the perfect person to be recognized as 2020 Volunteer of the Year for bringing her positivity and cheer to a difficult year.
2018 Volunteer of the Year
Regular Thursday night Garden visits with her daughter led Charlotte Miller to start volunteering here in 2013, first in Discovery Stations, then also as a GEM, a Docent, in the greenhouse and with amphibian conservation, with tours and special events galore, even steaming tablecloths and addressing last-minute escort cards as needed.
In a word, Charlotte volunteers everywhere, this year logging over 600 hours as Root of the Garden for the fourth time. A typical volunteer day for Charlotte starts with leading a morning tour, helping with amphibians and making turtle salad in the afternoon, then staying to assist with an evening class or event.
“She is such an asset for the Garden,” says Heather Rice, Family Programs Coordinator. “She can be stationed anywhere and know exactly what to do. Her versatility along with her amazing attitude about working here and engaging guests and other volunteers is something we lean on to ensure programs run smoothly.” Other staff echo that praise with accolades like “She is an unforgettable force!” and “She is a joy and a treasure! We are so, so fortunate to have her here.” As one staff member puts it: “There are not enough positive words to describe her!” Little wonder that Charlotte Miller was a nearly unanimous choice as 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
2018 Lifetime Achievement Award
The Lifetime Achievement recognition is not an annual award. In fact, in the Garden’s 43-year history, there have been only seven members in this club. This award is reserved for volunteers who not only provide outstanding service to the Garden but continue that service for years without fail, and is only presented when a volunteer truly stands alone in his or her support, reliability and commitment to the Garden over the course of decades. This year, that special recognition was presented to longtime volunteer Nancy Waterfill.
Nancy started at the Garden in 1989 in the Garden Gift Shop, at the time housed in a trailer. She has volunteered in the same place, for the same shift, the same day and same time, once a week for the entire 30 years. Amazingly consistent, she was a member of the 1991 Centennial Club class and has given over 100 hours of annual service nearly every year since. Described by staff as dependable, dedicated and enthusiastic, she is a two time Volunteer of the Month and has volunteered during the many new additions and changes through the years, always with a smile and a sly and funny wit. The Garden is grateful and proud to add Nancy’s name to its history books.
2017 Volunteer of the Year
Kathy’s service to the Garden began in 2009 after nearly 40 years as a Librarian. She is an expert in her profession, volunteering in the libraries of course, but also as a docent and during events.
Kathy leads tours and has served as Docent Field Trip Chair and Docent Food Committee Chair. You’ll also find her volunteering for events like the Concerts in the Garden, Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, the Reindog Parade and children’s events throughout the year. She was invaluable last year when the library received a donation of nearly 500 rare orchid books, all of which needed cataloging.
She made Centennial Club every year 2009-2017, and was Volunteer of the Month in 2013 and 2017. She volunteered for 200 or more hours 2015-2017. As if that weren’t enough, she enlisted her husband to join her.
2016 Volunteer of the Year
Jack Nolan started volunteering in 2004 and is a trusted, reliable volunteer, taking on challenging tasks in a timely and professional manner. In the conservatory, he has built water features, constructed new planting areas and helps with projects in the headhouse and Conservation Garden. His plant maintenance, including dividing and repotting, planting, transplanting, watering, and sweeping.
“Jack takes on any task with a smile and a positive attitude,” said his supervisor, Conservatory Manager Paul Blackmore, “His gracious, friendly manner and easy laugh have made him a favorite with visitors and staff alike. It takes a special person to make it nearly 15 years in the conservatory. He is a key part of the team, a trusted assistant, and we are quite honored to have him around. He’s my right-hand man.”
2015 Volunteer of the Year
A three-time volunteer of the month, Anita Wallace started volunteering in 2000 as a docent after the Children’s Garden opened, and now regularly assists at events like Concerts in the Garden, Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, and the Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour. Her true passion was realized when she started volunteering with amphibians. Wallace spends her time in the Frog Lab and Amphibian Display Areas collecting and growing insects for frog feedings, making algae plates for tadpoles, misting display tanks, and making salads for the turtles.
According to her supervisor, Wallace revolutionized the way the Garden keeps baby frogs by first suggesting the use of tulle (the fabric used in a ballerina’s tutu) as a lid for the baby frogs to keep the tiny bugs in the tanks. This technique has been adopted by other institutions that have amphibian captive breeding programs.
2014 Volunteer of the Year
Bob Holmes is always willing to assist, whether it’s pulling weeds, outplanting seedlings, plotting plant locations or leading tours. He donated more than 200 hours in the three years leading up to his award. He was also the March 2013 Volunteer of the Month and is a Root of the Garden for top volunteer hours.
“We are pleased to have such a renaissance man, knowledgeable in so many areas and helping in nearly every aspect of the volunteer program, as our 2014 Volunteer of the Year,” Garden President & CEO Mary Pat Matheson said in presenting the award at last fall’s annual Volunteer Luncheon.
2013 Volunteer of the Year
Since 1989, Judie Taylor has volunteered in nearly every role, from docent tour guide to garden maintenance helper to Fuqua Orchid Center assistant. She has been a member of the Centennial Club, volunteering more than 100 hours annually, every year since 1997 and was named a Volunteer of the Month three times.
“For more than 20 years, Judie has shared her time and talent and incredible dedication to the Garden and its staff, and it is a great honor to present her with this award,” said Volunteer Manager, Josh Todd.
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award
Kathryn LaTour is one of only seven volunteers to receive this coveted award.
Named Volunteer of the Year in 2008, LaTour has donated more than 7,000 hours to the Garden since 1987. She has been a member of the Centennial Club since 1993; been named a Root of the Garden (an award for top volunteer hours) six times; and was Volunteer of the Month twice.
According to Volunteer Manager Josh Todd, her docent tours are considered a treat by visitors because she educates and entertains.