Monday, July 15, 2024

Hamilton Gardens volunteers honoured

As part of National Volunteer Week, Hamilton City Council is recognising three decades of contributions from dedicated volunteers at the Friends of Hamilton Gardens.

August this year will mark the 30-year anniversary of the Friends playing an essential role in enriching the gardens through their time, skills, support and fundraising.

Each year the work of volunteers in the Information Centre is the equivalent of more than $120,000 in paid hours. Over the past 30 years, Friends of Hamilton Gardens raised more than $3.5 million to continue the development and improvement of the gardens. Last year alone, their efforts resulted in $130,000 in fundraising, which has supported projects like the new Medieval Garden currently under development. 

Hamilton Gardens Director, Lucy Ryan said the relationship between Hamilton Gardens and the Friends is truly special.

“Their dedication has greatly improved our gardens and community. We sincerely appreciate their ongoing partnership and hard work. Thanks to our volunteers, our Gardens have become a gem in the Waikato and a world-class visitor attraction,” she said.

Vice-President of the Friends of Hamilton Gardens, Carol Webb said the Gardens had been a community project ever since the idea was first put forward by former Garden’s director Dr Peter Sergel. 

“It was community people who got together to make Peter’s dream come true and ever since then one way or another local people have donated their money, their time, and their energy to help the gardens grow. I think the community feels like the gardens are part of them, and thanks to them the gardens are what they are,” she said.

Volunteers at Hamilton Gardens serve in various capacities, from staffing the Information Centre to assisting with events such as the Medieval Festival and Kite Day. A group of keen gardeners grow plants for a monthly plant sale, while others welcome visitors, give advice, and help with wayfinding and accessibility. 

Longstanding member of the Friends, Marilyn Yeoman said they were a dedicated group who believe in the gardens as a great asset to Hamilton. 

“What I get out from being a volunteer? A sense of community but also meeting many people from overseas. And these days it is not uncommon to have people say the sole reason they have come to New Zealand is to see the Hamilton Gardens. We had a guy from Liechtenstein who was a landscape gardener who had bought his family especially to see these wonderful gardens.” 

Carol highlighted the sense of community among volunteers: “There is a lovely social aspect to it. The Friends are people who love the gardens and love talking about the gardens. You form new friendships and meet new people when you are rostered on with them. It is a very community thing; you love the gardens, but you are part of a community of people.” 

She also paid tribute to the memory of a longstanding Friends member, Rena Williams, who died on 8 May this year after many years of great service to the Friends and to Hamilton Gardens. 

“Rena ran the roster for 30 years. And if there was gap in the roster, she was one who would fill it herself. We said she didn’t need to always do that, but she said the Gardens was her happy place. She is sadly missed and was a much-loved member of the community.” 

Rena was awarded runner up in the esteemed Volunteering Waikato Long Service Award at the Volunteer Excellence Awards in 2021and described as a tireless volunteer, and an absolute hero whose knowledge and experience was a taonga. 

“Volunteer Week (16–22 June), is a chance for everyone to acknowledge and thank the volunteers who have dedicated their time and effort to making Hamilton Gardens a world-class destination,” says Lucy. 

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