The Conservancy's Volunteer Department turns 30 this year, and over the last three decades, our dedicated volunteers have donated over 700,000 hours of pruning, planting, raking, mulching, weeding, giving tours, greeting visitors and generally adding cheer to the Park they love and love to care for. They come from diverse backgrounds, but most have similar motivations for volunteering: giving back, socializing and staying active outdoors.
Volunteers usually work in specific areas of the Park, becoming experts of their zones. At the Conservatory Garden, one volunteer has been dubbed "Volunteer of the Century" by Diane Schaub, the Garden's curator. Bill Dodds, who Diane also likes to call the "Wizard of Dodds," has given the Park more than 1,500 hours of his work and, at 90, continues to appear twice a week to garden, rain or shine.
Bill's love of gardening began on the Iowa farm of his childhood, where his parents gave him a small flower garden to tend on his own. After a career as a Broadway stage manager, from 1954 until 1991, Bill got involved with community gardening. Then, in 1995, Bill found the Conservatory Garden. His 17-year commitment to volunteering has earned him a reputation as a hard worker and one of the Conservancy's best dead-headers (who judiciously prune flowers that have passed their prime). But Bill is beloved by his teammates for a more basic reason: he's an exceptionally nice guy.
Bill and Diane have worked together since 1995, and Diane says when Bill shows up for work she is "instantly cheered." She says that "he has that kind of effect, not just upon me, but upon everyone else, too." Bill's sense of humor and kind spirit, Diane says, match his dedication and talents as a gardener. In a book assembled by Diane for Bill's birthday, containing poems, letters and photos by the Conservatory Garden team, a fellow volunteer said of Bill, "We have all enjoyed every minute of his company all these years." Asked what he enjoys about his work in the Conservatory Garden, Bill answered with the dedicated simplicity typical of a Conservancy volunteer: "Once you get all the dead flowers, it looks great. I love to weed, to deadhead, anything to keep the Garden the way it should be."
The Conservancy offers a variety of volunteer opportunities in the Park and at Park visitor centers. Learn more on our volunteer page.