September 2022 Volunteer Appreciation Event

By Louise Polli

Rainy skies couldn’t dampen the spirits of any of the Arboretum members and friends who gathered in the Meeting House on September 25th to celebrate our volunteers and allies.

The food was plentiful, the conversation lively, and the views off the deck always inspiring, no matter the weather.

As Executive Director Fred Breglia and Board President Jim Paley noted, volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. “It’s great to be part of the Landis family,” Fred said. We were able to accomplish so many things.” This year’s accomplishments included the development and installation of a new entryway sign, the establishment of the Ann Jaster memorial art gallery, the repair of the Farmhouse steps, the dedication of the Shanti Vun Meditation Garden, improvements to the Bog Garden, and record attendance at the 5K race in August. New and ongoing projects are just as impressive: upgrades to our welcoming kiosk, expansion of our footprint in Montgomery County with greater accessibility to our Waterfall Trail, structural pruning of our horticultural collections, and extensive removal of invasives.

Jim and Fred acknowledged that it’s always difficult to choose the year’s awardees, since so many volunteers contribute to every aspect of the Arboretum’s operations in time, materials, labor, and beyond. Without these efforts, Landis would not be the success it is today.

Susan Strangia was named Volunteer of the Year. Jim thanked her for “really stepping up and taking a leadership role.” Susan said “I am humbled since I only started volunteering last year. . . Anne Donnelly pulled me in . . . . “ Looking out at the assembled crowd of volunteers, she remarked, “I couldn’t get this if it weren’t for you.”

In a relatively short time, Susan has led a Second Sunday Snowshoe hike, staffed some of our public events, and coordinated the bake sales. Anne Donnelly and others are mentoring her to eventually assume the role of Volunteer Coordinator. Susan particularly enjoys the public contact, a chance to get new and returning people excited about the Arboretum. What is the most challenging part of her service? “There’s lots of competition for your time . . . . It’s a balancing act.” Like many of our volunteers, Susan is generous with her time here and elsewhere while still finding time to spend with her family.

It's no surprise to anyone at Landis that Nick Zabawsky was selected for this year’s Great Oak award. In addition to a framed commemorative certificate, he received a wine stopper crafted from the wood of our beloved several-hundred-year-old Great Oak, toppled in a storm in 2011. Fred noted that our “Lifetime Achievement Award” has since morphed into the Great Oak award, a fitting tribute to the iconic woody treasure and all it has meant to Landis. “In oak we trust,” Fred quipped.

A skilled gardener, Nick continues to donate approximately 250 – 300 plants a year to our plant sales. His expertise is legendary, a quiet presence out among the rows of plants at the bi-annual sales: he is Landis’ number one plant expert at the sales. If you have a question, Nick has the answers, the suggestions, the help you are seeking in that plethora of herbaceous and woody plants surrounding you.

Why does Nick continue to give so much of his time and expertise to Landis? “I love gardening and plants . . . and the people, a wonderful bunch of people.” Despite the many contributions he has made over the years, Nick was humbled as this year’s awardee. “I’m very honored. When I look around, a lot of people are more deserving.”

We respectfully disagree. Since 1989, Nick has left his mark on the Arboretum. He quickly became a Board trustee, then rose to leadership as its president. Though some things have changed, Nick has been a constant presence and contributor to the Arboretum’s growth and development. We couldn’t do it without him.

This year’s event featured a wonderful meal assembled by the Landis Board and coordinated by Wendy Kass, as well as two perennial favorites, a timely and informative Q & A with Executive Director Fred Breglia and a reading of a Fred Lape poem, “Blue Columbine,” by Landis Historian Lee Latimer.

Our thanks to both awardees and to all the volunteers and allies. Your generosity and support are priceless.

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Fall 2022

Volume 40 , Number 3

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