Volunteering, Chuck Mueller said, “is something you have to believe in .… [it’s] a way to follow your passions and make an impact .… “ It is this belief that led Chuck to follow his passions to Landis.
Scouting initially brought Chuck to the Arboretum. He grew up as a scout, working his way from camp counsellor in training to program director. His sons, Chas and Cory, were members of Landis’ Scout Troop #501, where he served as assistant scoutmaster. And since his wife Corinne was also actively involved, scouting was very much a family affair. “Scouting and the Arboretum go hand in hand,” he said, pointing out the opportunities to learn from nature that abound there. Scouting, he firmly believes, gives young men – and young women – “a code to live by” and teaches them to be leaders. At Landis, he said, these young people can satisfy an intuitive “thirst” for learning from nature. These scouts have, in turn, given back to Landis: they help shoppers transport their purchases at the plant sales and have worked to maintain some of the trails and outbuildings. Some scouts have earned their Eagle Scout rank through their projects at the Arboretum.
Over the years, Chuck and his family have welcomed 31 foreign exchange students to the US. Four of these students became active in scouting during their stay.
Chuck has also been providing food service for many of the Arboretum’s events for almost a decade. Landis has benefited from his over 40 years of experience in the food industry. Another instance of following a passion – “I really enjoy seeing people enjoy food,” he said – feeding and giving to others. For the past 20 years, he has managed shops for Subway and operates his own catering business, Creative Connoisseur.
For a time in 1990, these two passions came together in a special venture: he stepped up to cook at the International Scout Jamboree in England, which included providing a meal for some distant members of Britain’s Royal Family.
Chuck has often encouraged people to visit the Arboretum. He recommends the “peaceful” hiking, the great views of the Schoharie Valley, and a place to unwind apart from the often frenetic and plugged-in pace of life. At the events, Chuck has been impressed by the camaraderie he’s observed: people of various backgrounds working together for a common purpose – very much like scouting, he said.
There are lessons for all of us to be learned at Landis. Chuck admitted to being haunted by the image of the Great Oak, the Arboretum’s legendary 500-year-old white oak, finally felled by age and an ice storm. Perhaps we take nature for granted, he suggested, and blind ourselves to its sometimes destructive strength.
Following one’s passions. Believing in something, believing in others. Learning from nature, learning from one another. This is what Landis is all about.