CHICAGO, Ill. (April 7, 2014) – Six Chicagoland institutions have a shared vision of conserving nature and connecting people with plants, trees and wildlife. Their common missions could never be fully realized, though, if it were not for an army of volunteers who dedicate time, hard work and tireless efforts to support this worthy cause. This week, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, The Morton Arboretum and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum are celebrating nearly 7,000 individuals who devote more than 425,000 hours of volunteer service annually to connect people with the natural world.
Take for instance Chelle Cain, a guest relations volunteer for Lincoln Park Zoo, who has volunteered every week for 40 years; or Sherry Ginsburg, who has served the zoo for the past 26 years, helping urban youth better understand rural life at the Farm in the Zoo.
Eileen Semeniuk has volunteered more than 23 years at Shedd Aquarium and over those years has dedicated an unprecedented 16,000 hours of service. She has served in a number of capacities, from helping kids in classrooms to outreach programs to nursing homes. Jim Grice has been one of the aquarium’s longest serving volunteers, with more than 28 years and 11,000 volunteer hours. Through his volunteer service with the Caribbean Reef Diving program, he has helped educate millions of schoolchildren and adults.
Peter Dogiakos volunteers four days a week at the Chicago Botanic Garden, not only planting, weeding and helping visitors in the Enabling Garden, but also caring for birds who visit the garden. Last year alone, Dogiakos volunteered more than 700 hours.
Diana Tomasiewicz and Don Krause contributed 327 and 659 hours, respectively, at Brookfield Zoo in 2013. Both travel from the far northwest suburbs to interact with guests, sharing their knowledge about the animals and providing extraordinary experiences. They also assist in many of the zoo’s special events and teacher workshops offered throughout the year, as well as mentor new volunteers in the program.
Doris Devine and Dee Kenney didn’t know each other before signing up to volunteer at the Nature Museum almost 15 years ago, but they’ve become an inseparable institution—both inside and outside the lab—at the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. Every Wednesday morning you can find them volunteering together, pinning chrysalides from all over the world onto a display case for visitors to see, and putting out trays of fruit for the butterflies in the Haven to eat. Devine also volunteers at Lincoln Park Zoo. Volunteer Greg Landgraf was so intrigued by citizen science projects at the Nature Museum that he recently wrote a book on the topic, Citizen Science Guide for Families: Taking Part in Real Science. Landgraf said the beauty of citizen science is its appeal to people of all ages and the way it’s a direct connection to nature.
A former national park ranger, Cindy Crosby has volunteered with The Morton Arboretum for 13 years, leading guided walks as a docent and acting as a steward supervisor for the Arboretum's Schulenberg Prairie. Crosby and others with the "Tuesdays in the Tallgrass" volunteer group spend their time pulling garlic mustard and other invasive species and collecting seeds for use, not only in the prairie, but in other restoration efforts throughout the Arboretum's 1,700-acre grounds.
National Volunteer Week, April 6 to 12, began 40 years ago to inspire, recognize and encourage people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. Here in the Chicago region, the zoos, aquarium, nature museum, botanic garden and arboretum would not be the nationally recognized experts and leaders in nature conservation and education that they are without the support of their extensive volunteer force.
Below is a breakdown of volunteer service during 2013. Each institution is extremely grateful to these dedicated and caring individuals.
Brookfield Zoo: 702 volunteers devoted approximately 80,000 hours of service.
Chicago Botanic Garden: 2,067 volunteers devoted 107,235 hours of service.
John G. Shedd Aquarium: 976 total volunteers served 128,000 hours.
Lincoln Park Zoo: 1,481 volunteers served 32,912 hours.
The Morton Arboretum: 1,244 volunteers contributed 64,287 hours of service.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: 313 volunteers logged 13,378 hours.
ABOUT THE CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
The Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, is a 385-acre living plant museum featuring 26 distinct gardens and four natural areas. With events, programs and activities for all ages, the Garden is open every day of the year. Admission is free; select event fees apply. Parking is $25 per car; free for Garden members. Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, IL, the Garden is smoke- free. Opened to the public in 1972, the Garden is managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society, accredited by the American Association of Museums and a member of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA). The Chicago Botanic Garden is the 12th largest tourist attraction in Chicago and is the area’s sixth largest cultural institution. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org, or call (847) 835-5440 for seasonal hours, images of the Garden and commuter transportation information.
ABOUT THE CHICAGO ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY
The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294),Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit www.CZS.org.
ABOUT THE JOHN G. SHEDD AQUARIUM
The John G. Shedd Aquarium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public education and conservation, is among one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums. The facility houses more than 32,000 aquatic animals representing some 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the world. Beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Shedd Aquarium is known as “The World’s Aquarium.” Since its opening in 1930, the aquarium’s mission has been to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the aquatic world. Shedd Aquarium is committed to a number of projects designed to preserve threatened or endangered aquatic species.
ABOUT LINCOLN PARK ZOO
Lincoln Park Zoo, a historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, is dedicated to connecting people with nature by providing a free, family-oriented wildlife experience. A leader in conservation science both globally and locally, the zoo exemplifies the highest quality animal care and educational outreach. The not-for-profit zoo, managed by the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, is a member-supported organization and one of the nation’s only free, privately managed zoos. For more information, call (312) 742-2000 or visit www.lpzoo.org.
ABOUT THE MORTON ARBORETUM
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum on 1,700 acres. Plant collections, scientific research and education programs support the mission to plant and conserve trees and other plants for a greener, healthier and more beautiful world. Designed with natural landscapes, the grounds include the award-winning, four-acre interactive Children’s Garden, the one-acre Maze Garden, plus specialty gardens, 16 miles of trails and nine miles of roads. Visitor experiences include the open-air tram ride, guided walks, Arbor Day celebrations, concerts, art shows, Fall Color Festival and special exhibits. The Arboretum welcomes 885,000 visitors annually and receives support from 38,600 member households. Located 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open daily from 7 a.m. until sunset. Learn more at mortonarb.org.
ABOUT THE CHICAGO ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AND ITS PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM
The Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a finalist for the 2014 Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal—the nation’s highest honor granted to museums and libraries for service to their communities—serves as an urban gateway to nature and science. Located in an eco-friendly building amid abundant wildlife and nature in Lincoln Park, hands-on exhibitions allow visitors of all ages to connect with regional wildlife and public programs that inspire green living and sustainability. With a history that spans more than 150 years, the Academy’s conservation efforts study, explore and protect urban wildlife and the unique natural history of the Great Lakes region. Today, collaborative conservation programs include citizen science initiatives, native habitat restoration and one of the region’s largest environmental education programs. For more information, visit naturemuseum.org or call (773) 755-5100.