As I drove by Dunwoody Nature Center this afternoon (I left work early to take AG for a strep test), I saw one of our volunteers using his own leaf blower to clear the entry. This same volunteer has painted, installed a new light fixture, built much-needed shelves, and re-organized special event storage.
I am so grateful to the volunteers who come singly, in families, and in groups to Dunwoody Park. Their motivations are quite diverse: some do it because their companies are committed to volunteer service. Many do it for the love of the outdoors and a desire to preserve this little oasis in our urbanized community. Schools bring children for hands-on environmental education. A few teens and adults come to us for community service hours required by schools and institutions. They mulch trails, pull out overachiever invasive plants, organize special events like our silent auction and wine-tasting parties, wash comforters and towels, pick up trash, tend to the bees, and make the park a magical place for our visitors.
When I explained to the kids my political philosophy during the cacophany of rhetoric they can't tune out, one example I gave was volunteering. If someone is hungry and I give them a meal, should I then have the authority to tell them how to eat, when to eat, and what to eat? If I take care of the trails in a public park should I also have the authority to say who can walk those trails and when? I shouldn't. No one should. But that's one of the debates going on in our country - those who want the government to take care of everything and those who want people to take care of each other because it's the right thing to do.
If someone is hungry and can't afford food to eat, I want to do more than just give them a meal. I want to feed them AND help them learn how to get the next meal - and leave it up to them what they choose to eat. If someone is homeless, I want to do more than shelter them. I want to give them a safe place to sleep AND the tools they need to take care of themselves - as well as the freedom to live where and how they wish. Independence and self-reliance are the truest freedoms we have.
Dunwoody Park is the beneficiary of hundreds of people who each year decide they should take care of it and preserve it for the future. Then they step back and let the community enjoy the fruits of their labors, with no strings attached.