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Virginia Western Community Arboretum

The Virginia Western Community Arboretum began 24 years ago when the state college allowed use of the property with the understanding that it would be developed and maintained using private donated funds. The grounds have one full-time and one part-time staff member, and they rely on volunteer assistance to accomplish the many tasks that face them throughout the growing season.
“Our volunteer program is vital to us because of our limited budget,” explains Clark BeCraft. “Right now we have twelve regular volunteers who come out weekly and help us in the gardens. We have six tour guide volunteers that help us with groups that come into the Arboretum.”
Tour guide volunteers also help out with children’s tours, and will often provide assistance with activities like a scavenger hunt or a learning activity with the children that is related to nature or gardening. Additionally, the Arboretum hosts horticulture students though a program that allows them to complete a one semester internship there.
The garden helper is one of their most popular volunteer opportunities. Garden helpers visit the Arboretum twice a week during growing season, and work closely with an Arboretum tech, Sarah Isley, to care for the plants.
“There is no specific skill set needed,” adds Clark. “We help you identify weeds and instruct you on how to plant things if that is part of the task for the day. Sarah and I work with [volunteers] to answer any questions they have.”
A majority of the current volunteers are retirement age, but the Arboretum is open to all volunteers ages 16 and up. Although they have a need for volunteers who can work during the week, they are open to setting up times for those who work on weekdays to volunteer on occasional Saturdays or evenings if there is enough interest. Every volunteer is required to complete a background check as they are acting as an agent of the college.
“Our volunteers look forward to coming to the Arboretum to work. For many, it is the highlight of their week. They enjoy working in the gardens because it is for the community, but also an opportunity to come out and fellowship with one another. We look at it as getting work done, but it is also a nice way for our volunteers to spend time together and work in the gardens,” says Clark.
If you’ve ever visited any of their gardens, you know that the community effort results in an unforgettable experience. That effort includes a partnership with the Roanoke Master Gardeners, who have worked with the Virginia Western Community Arboretum since 2008. In 2016, the Arboretum logged over 700 volunteer hours, showing that the volunteer program is an essential part of their success in serving the community. Many of the volunteers are Friends of the Arboretum as well, contributing both time and money to maintaining the location.
You can also support the Arboretum by attending one of their events. They will offer a Garden Tour to the Gardens of Pennsylvania and Delaware featuring Longwood Gardens September 7-9, and host a Fall Accent Plant Sale on September 23 from 10am-1pm.
To learn more about the Virginia Western Community Arboretum, and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.virginiawester.edu/arboretum