Volunteers are an essential resource in any nonprofit organization. This is particularly true when the focus of an organization is to educate the public about medicinal herb research while constantly striving for adequate financial support to sustain that mission.
Annette Coulstock has volunteered in the American Botanical Council’s gardens for almost two years. Beginning in April 2006, she started coming in twice a week and since 2007 has come in every Tuesday. Among the weeding, pruning, and planting she has done for ABC during this time, she has also spent several months layering the mulch that has created the new pumpkin patch—a tedious process that has doubled the size of ABC’s vegetable garden. In fact, since Annette has consistently exceeded expectations as a volunteer, she was the obvious choice for ABC’s 2007 Volunteer of the Year.
“Annette is one of the most devoted volunteers we have ever had and has the most pleasant personality,” said Gayle Engels, ABC education coordinator, who heads the volunteer program. “She has given so much to ABC; she comes in the hottest of the hot weather and works cheerfully in the gardens with Nate [Nate Sponseller, ABC’s gardener] on whatever project he has going. ABC is lucky to have such a committed volunteer and it will be a great loss when she returns to the UK.”
Since her relocation to the United States, Coulstock is still waiting to obtain her work visa. Instead of waiting “cooped-up in the house,” as she calls it, she has decided to donate her time to a number of causes. This past summer of 2007 she volunteered a few hours a week at Central Market (a leading regional grocery store specializing in organic produce and gourmet food items) helping children learn to cook. Since October 2007 she has volunteered and trained at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFBD), an organization that mainly records educational textbooks onto compact discs (CDs) for blind children and adults, with the potential to record a book onto a CD soon. When she originally saw the post requesting ABC garden volunteers, she thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity to continue the work she used to do in her own 100 ft by 45 ft garden in the United Kingdom where she grew plants and herbs, including rosemary, basil, and mint.
“I like being outdoors,” said Coulstock. “It gets me out of the house and there’s good company. I think Nate has sort of an uphill task with the garden. There’s always something that needs to be done and he knows so much about gardening. He’s also well-read and while we work, we discuss everything from politics to literature.”
Previously a graphic designer at Hallmark in the United Kingdom, Annette also occasionally helps the ABC art department with some overflow design work. Recently she designed an organization e-card, an aesthetically pleasing electronic invitation to join ABC, though graphic design is clearly not her only passion. “She’s a graphic designer by trade but she’s definitely a gardener by heart,” said Sponseller.
In acknowledging Annette’s superlative contributions, ABC also extends its genuine appreciation to all its 2007 gardening volunteers: Key Choi, Allison Freytag, Alix Garrison, Aisha Monique Hill, Anita Kurialacherry, and Kim Nagy. More information on volunteering at ABC is available on the Support ABC Web page within the main ABC Web site at www.herbalgram.org.