VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: LaVerne Cook
We asked LaVerne Cook, a Parklands neighbor and longtime volunteer, to tell us why volunteering and being involved in The Parklands is important to her. Here’s what she sent us.
As you know, I’m always willing to share the love for “my” park. One day I’m sitting in public meetings about a development over the hill from our home and the next Dan Jones is giving presentations about this amazing, life-changing project. I’ll never forget his words, “What do you want to see in YOUR Park?”
Within the blink of the eye construction started. My husband and I were sneaking in every chance to watch the progress. It was mind-blowing. Soon after, an email arrived asking for volunteers. Since I was there every day anyway, I thought, why not?
Since then, I’ve met volunteers that give hundreds of hours. My “formal” volunteer hours are limited to one or two days a month. However, they expand to looking for visitors that seem confused on where or what to do. I carry flyers and offer suggestions. If you invite me to a neighborhood gathering, I will have flyers in hand. If you invite me to go out and eat, I will probably ask you for a walk in The Parklands beforehand.
One of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I’ve had was with an elementary school summer camp. It was one of the hottest days of summer. There was a girl I’ll call Jane that was dreading outdoor activity and not accustomed to hiking. She really struggled. The two of us bonded and I coached her through the Coppiced Woods Trail. She was so proud of herself. The next day of camp she gave me a rainbow she had painted. I nearly cried.
It’s hard to think of myself as a cancer patient on drugs that have a reputation of making you tired. My antidote is to go to the park. Happiness is being around people that share my joy. Just ask any visitor or camper and I assure they will feel the same. There were over a million visits last year. The word is out.
The Parklands is life changing and health changing for me and my family. After 30 years of marriage, I say we are dating again. We’re at the park every chance we get either biking, hiking with family and friends, kayaking or the many other activities offered. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.If you’ve been to the park, you’ve probably run into LaVerne. She’s often spotted walking along the Loop or volunteering with our education programs. She sends us photos of things she sees in the parks and she sends us suggestions and comments all the time. We appreciate her enthusiasm and dedication, and wanted to say “thank you” for all your hard work and advocacy – this park would not be possible without members and volunteers like you!
Photo by Ted Wathen, Creekside Jam 2014