Volunteers Celebrate Meeting House Renovation

By Nolan Marciniec

2023 Volunteer Awardees
Shawn Bevins, Jim Paley, Craig Blevins, Fred Breglia, and Peter Bakal

On a Sunday afternoon in late September, the Landis Board hosted its annual Volunteer Recognition event to honor its cadre of volunteers. More than 50 attendees gathered at the Meeting House. Three volunteers were recognized for their special efforts in the renovation of the building that has become the focal point of many of the Arboretum’s education programs and social events.

In his introduction, Executive Director Fred Breglia highlighted the year’s accomplishments made possible through the contributions of Landis volunteers: two highly successful plant sales, including a flourishing “Landis Grown” propagation program; a 5K race that attracted a record number of participants; the maintenance and reopening of the Waterfall Trail – and, above all, the renovation of the Meeting House.

Shawn Bevins and Peter Bakal received Volunteer of the Year awards. This award is the second for Shawn: he, his wife Ann, and their son Terrence previously received the Great Oak Award for their service to the Arboretum in 2020. “I certainly didn’t volunteer to get awards,” he quipped. Like the other award winners, he agreed to a “suggestion” by Board President Jim Paley. He knew he had committed himself to the undertaking when he saw the materials delivered. “It was good. It got me back in shape again,” he said.

Peter Bakal was drawn to the Arboretum because of his commitment to environmental causes supported by organizations such as the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy. He was having lunch with Jim when Jim issued an “invitation,” perhaps hoping to capitalize on Peter’s volunteer construction experience with Habitat for Humanity. Peter said that he was proud of what a “great bunch of guys” had accomplished.

This year’s Great Oak recipient, Craig Blevins, is the only one of the recipients with formal training in construction. Craig has shared his expertise with the Arboretum on other projects, such as the installation of the stone patio at the Welcome Center. When Jim asked him to participate in the renovation project at the Spring Plant Sale, he didn’t realize it would become a “way of life,” he said. “We were here from the last of May until the first of September.”

Despite his aversion to climbing the scaffolding, Jim was an active member of a team that transformed the appearance of the Meeting House. Jim coordinated the project and did a fair share of cutting, sanding, and staining the siding.

All three award winners said that they planned to continue their volunteer work at the Arboretum. They talked about the deck . . . . and the flooring . . . .

In his introduction, Fred said that “many hands make things happen.” These four pairs of hands certainly did just that.

We appreciate all of the many volunteers who contribute their time and talents to the Arboretum, and we welcome new volunteers to join the “Landis family.” Contact Volunteer Coordinator Susan Strangia at Landisvolunteering@gmail.com or 518-875-6935.

Fall 2023

Volume 41 , Number 3

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