“Our Garden attracts good people, people who care” – Karen Christeson, Volunteer Manager
By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator | 06/15/2022
June in the Idaho Botanical Garden is a beautiful thing! Blooms, music, yoga, a gathering place for our community… But the key ingredient that makes it the ideal meeting place and outdoor therapist for many is YOU, our volunteers! You can find volunteers supporting us in visible ways: sharing the love of garden spaces and our colorful history, helping you find your way, or being a friendly face for the traveler. Few people know that we have many that aren’t so visible: working behind the scenes in our office, prepping for kids crafts at home, studying and gaining knowledge to share. What – or rather who – is the glue that binds our volunteer community together? Karen Christeson, IBG’s Volunteer manager!
I have known Karen for 13 years now; since I began as a volunteer myself. We evolved to tag-teaming weddings together, but during this cooler afternoon day, I learned that our paths crossed much earlier in another work life. Karen is a life-time Idahoan with a lineage of gardeners and animal lovers. Conservation was very important and her father bestowed the mentality that wherever you go, you plant trees. The influence of her father in her life is evident as she excitedly shares the story of his leaving the Navy after WWII, travelling out west in his MG convertible to work for the Atomic Energy Commission in Eastern Idaho.
Karen graduated from BSU in communications and worked for Kandor, a kitchen, garden, and bath store. I mentioned an Italian cooking class that I attended on a First Thursday downtown, and we realized that she was there that night, working! Karen shared that while working at Kandor, she became a facilitator for the FISH! Program that helps create a positive employee culture. She said it was life-changing. Though she has always been a positive person, the components of that program stuck with her move to IBG where Karen said it was time to reinvent herself.
Karen loves IBG and it shows! She tells me that she believes in our mission and that “the Garden is a safe place to connect with people and nature; where birds sing and children laugh in pure delight. Hope blooms here.” Karen began as a meld of office manager/private event manager/volunteer manager in her 15-year career at the Garden but currently finds herself as the full-time volunteer manager and her heart for our community and volunteer family is evident! As we struggled together navigating COVID life, Karen focused connecting our community with positivity in the weekly “Cheers for Volunteers” newsletter.
Karen tells me we have over 800 people in our volunteer database and she says that in addition to the beauty of our garden spaces, her favorite aspect of IBG is your generosity! Now that we are back in full swing at IBG, there are many opportunities to volunteer again. We have volunteers in a variety of areas such as Ambassadors that give tours and represent IBG at events, Garden Attendants that are a friendly presence throughout IBG, the cottage Information Station where you can talk to people drawn to IBG from all over the world, or celebrate in the Garden by volunteering for this summer’s concerts and events!
So, thank you to each of you from Karen and the IBG crew! We couldn’t be Us without YOU!
“The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable”
– Oscar Arias