Over the past 25 years, the American Botanical Council (ABC) has been fortunate to have the participation of local volunteers who help maintain and improve ABC’s grounds and extensive herb and medicinal plant gardens and assist with administrative tasks, among many other areas of the organization’s activities. ABC’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year is Clark Dufour.
Just after moving to Austin from Conroe, in East Texas, Clark decided to dedicate his spare time to volunteering while he was searching for a job. “I was looking for somewhere to volunteer that was enjoyable and enlightening, and where my time would benefit someone,” said Clark. “I was looking for a way to improve myself when I found ABC online.”
While volunteering at ABC, Clark — a hard worker and a humble human being — began to develop a botanical education that helped him secure a position in the garden department of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, a retail chain for which he had previously been employed. “I learned more in six months at ABC than I had learned in a year and a half working in Lowe’s garden department,” said Clark. “Now I can recommend homemade organic pesticides knowing that they work, based on what I’ve seen at ABC.”
Clark also gained a more defined sense of his long-term life plan while volunteering at ABC.
“I’ve learned a lot about horticulture and gardening and what I really want to do with my life,” continued Clark. “I didn’t have a clear idea in high school or after, but I knew it wasn’t to do what was best for me, but something that was best for the rest of the people on the planet.”
“Now I know I want to buy some land in Washington or Canada and start a hemp farm,” said Clark. “I’d like to see the plants be fully utilized through the manufacture of all types of hemp products as well as teaching people the value of the plant.”
Clark’s enthusiastic attitude struck a chord with many among ABC’s staff. “When I met Clark and he told me that he ‘needed some time to donate,’ I had no idea that it would go on for over a year and his help would be so valuable to us,” said ABC Gardener Toby Bernal. “‘I can do it,’ ‘What’s next?,’ and ‘Yessir’ became his slogans around here.” According to Bernal, Clark’s volunteerism at ABC also has been illustrative of the friendships plant cultivation encourages.
“It feels good to do good, honest work for an excellent organization that is doing good in the world. I appreciate ABC’s mission and that the organization works hard to get credible information about medicinal plants out to the world at-large,” said Clark. “I would recommend that people read ABC’s publications and think about helping out in some way, whether it is by joining or volunteering.”
“Clark Dufour is one of those people who exemplifies the many benefits and true spirit of volunteerism,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director. “Without a cadre of volunteers, many nonprofits would find it more challenging to survive in difficult economic times, much less flourish. In his own meaningful way, Clark has propelled ABC’s unique nonprofit educational mission by helping ensure that our grounds and gardens are beautiful, providing educational opportunities for visiting school children, senior citizens, and many others.”
Clark has recommended ABC as a volunteer site to a number of people, and one of his friends also has started volunteering at ABC.
—Gayle Engels and Ash Lindstrom