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Arboretum volunteers now eligible for national recognition

July 08, 2009

When a volunteer pulls a weed or trims a tree at The Arboretum at ASU, someone in Washington, D.C. now notices.

According to Deborah Thirkhill, program coordinator for The Arboretum at ASU, the arboretum now is registered as a community volunteer organization at and

“Volunteers can track hours and be eligible for a Presidential Volunteer Service pin award and letter from President Obama,” she said. “Our volunteers, both new and experienced are very excited to be participating in the President’s United We Serve program.”

Volunteers are no small part of The Arboretum at ASU. “Last year the Arboretum volunteers racked up a combined total of 1,800 hours, saving ASU an estimated $30,222 in labor costs (based on the estimated value for volunteer hours nationally - $19.51 per hour and adjusted for the Arizona economy - $18.73 per hour),” Thirkhill said.

The current year-round volunteer force numbers 35, while more than 450 people help with the Campus Harvest and campus clean ups each year, Thirkhill said.

The volunteers tend ASU’s rose gardens, do all-around garden maintenance, pick fruit when it’s in season and work with the date palm collection, pollinating and harvesting the fruit.

Who are the volunteers?

Penny Wilson, who lives near the Tempe campus, cares for the roses near the Music Building. “She thinks that passers-by should always see these ASU roses looking their best,” Thirkhill said.

Many volunteers work at ASU, such as Susie Nowak, a program coordinator for the Center for Meteorite Studies, cares for the roses outside her office on Palm Walk near Bateman Physical Sciences Center, and Judy Case, who works in office of the University Architect, has recently volunteered to care for the tropical and potted plants in the atrium of the Farmer Education Building. “She’s excited about the possibly of adding some orchids and other exotic tropical plants,” Thirkhill said.

Susan Hutzell, an accountant for the Department of Supply Chain Management in the Business Administration building, cares for the potted plants and plants near her building, and she also brought her daughter with her to volunteer at the Polytechnic Date Palm germplasm project (the collection of genetic resources from the palm trees).

Community volunteers such as Amy Aditipyungkul. Russell Latterman, Jordan Dietch and Teresa Reed are doing all around landscape maintenance on campus, from raking the Zen garden, watering plants to pulling weeds out of planters, and the latter three also have helped record all the locations for the trees that The Arboretum will be planting to replace the trees that were destroyed by last year’s Aug. 29 storm, Thirkhill said.

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, according to its Web site, was established in 2003 “to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in our communities and encourage more people to serve. The Council created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.