Volunteer Group Profile: Volunteer Representatives

By Penny Williams, Communications Volunteer

“Quiet leaders,” says Heidi Jakop (Assistant Executive Director), praising volunteers who do so much behind the scenes. Case in point, the Volunteer Representatives — the individuals who meet every six weeks, now by Zoom, with Heidi, Elise Hall-Meyer (Manager, Volunteer Engagement & Operations), a Board member (in rotation) and each other.

Six teams are involved, all of them volunteer-led teams that report to Heidi and Elise, rather than directly to a staff member: Bloedel Docents, Plant Sale, Garden Guides, Seed Collectors, Master Gardeners, and Visitor Services. They meet to share information. In every direction.

Verna Semotuk (co-chair, Seed Collectors) lists some of those directions. “First, it’s a flow of information from Heidi and Elise about what’s going on. Second, we hear from a Board member about their prospects and challenges. Third, it’s cross-pollination with the other groups. So important right now! For example, we share how we’re dealing with the pandemic, how we’re putting things back together.”

Betty Andres (Visitor Services) echoes the cross-pollination theme. “We’ve always interacted more with visitors than with the other volunteer groups, so this is a great opportunity to learn more about their activities and share ours.” Mari Matak (Plant Sale) adds several more dimensions to the information flow. “We communicate back to our own teams, and we also use what we learn to work more closely with the others — with Master Gardeners, for example.” Julie Paul (Master Gardeners) talks about the opportunity to quell rumours: “This gives us a place to get and share the straight information.”

Heidi stresses the importance of volunteer input to VBGA planning: “Volunteers are deep in the daily practice. We need what they can teach us from that perspective.” Board member Ann-Marie Copping agrees: “It’s the volunteers that make the Garden and the Conservatory such special places. It’s important for Board members to learn first-hand from their experience.”

Mari sums it all up: “This committee is an important communications tool.” Heads nod agreement, around the virtual table.