Gardener Helps Grow A Community

By Sandra Zunino

Adkins Arboretum Volunteer of the Year for 2008, Pat Bowell of Queenstown, sets the example when it comes to giving back to the community.

Pat’s love for science and interest in gardening inspired her to pursue these passion upon retirement. In 2004, she decided to become a Master Gardener through the Queen Anne’s County Master Gardener program.

The Master Gardener program, run through the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension office, promotes a healthier world through environmental stewardship. Master Gardeners receive 40-50 hours of basic training from University of Maryland and related industry professionals on environmental horticulture. Participants agree to pass on their knowledge as volunteer educators within their communities.

“After you pass an exam, in the first year you are expected to donate 40 hours of volunteer service,” explains Pat. “Most of us do way more than that.”

Pat says the class of 2004 is particularly active doing many important things through the program such as planting demonstration gardens and consulting with homeowners about utilizing environmentally sound gardening practices through the Bay Wise program.

As a Master Gardener, Pat is very involved with the Junior Master Gardener Program run through Kennard Elementary School. “This is an afterschool program designed to get children connected with outdoor activities,” explains Pat.

The Junior Master Gardener Program started in 2005 and was made possible by Kennard’s Enrichment Coordinator Lee Franklin. “She does a phenomenal job of creating things at that level for the children,” says Pat.

The children respond favorably to the program. Each spring, children grow vegetables and other plants in the Junior Master Gardener program and listen to guest speakers from the University of Maryland on subjects such as butterflies and ladybugs.

Pat volunteers 500 to 600 hours a year to the Master Gardener program, rivaling the same number of hours she donates to the Atkins Arboretum, a 400-acre native garden and preserve in Ridgley dedicated to promoting the appreciation and conservation of the region’s native plants.

Pat works in the nursery where she helps propagate and nurture native plants. As a docent, she also leads guided walks through the arboretum’s woods, meadows and wetlands.

Just one of 120 volunteers at the arboretum, Pat acknowledges that with the small staff and budget, the institution relies heavily on volunteer assistance. “Without a strong group of volunteers, it would not be as enriched as it is,” she says.

Pat says she was honored for the Adkins Arboretum Volunteer of the Year award for 2008. “I was very touched by being nominated and selected,” she says.

When Pat is not volunteering her time with Adkins or the Master Gardener program, she helps with the Queenstown government on the finance committee. Recently she helped procure a stimulus loan to assist residents with improving their wells.

“If I’m not working in the garden,” she says, “I’m working on finding funding for town endeavors.”

Pat says donating time to the community helps it thrive. “It’s what you have to do to make a better place for children to grow.”

“It’s a marvelous place to live,” she adds. “The Eastern Shore is unique and that must be preserved.