People of the Preserve
Voices of Our Volunteers
Mary Ellen Sibley
Since May 2014, Mary Ellen has assisted the Preserve’s development and volunteer staff once or twice a week. Her duties include ensuring that membership information packets are received promptly by new and renewing members; mailing requests for the annual fund campaign; and tracking the thousands of hours that the Preserve’s 200 volunteers contribute each year—an impressive figure that helps support grant requests.
One of her favorite places at the Preserve is the Pond. “It’s a relaxing place where I can go to sit and enjoy nature.
“I also like the camaraderie here,” she adds. “It’s like my family, like my second home. The staff and volunteers are so welcoming, and everybody is excited about the Preserve and what’s happening here.”
Blame it on the birds. Twenty years ago, Jean Barrell had an empty yard and wanted more birds. After finding a list of the top 10 plants that attract birds, she learned that Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve was the only place near her Pineville home that sold them. So she purchased a few shrubs and perennials, then came back each year for more. The employment specialist with the Bucks County Opportunity Council so liked the Preserve’s volunteers and staff she met that she started helping with the plant sales and special events. Then, after retiring in 2008, she took the Preserve’s naturalist classes and began leading guided walks, and also started up-potting native plants with the Native Plant Nursery’s volunteer propagation team. Many of her exquisite photographs also have been featured on the Preserve’s website and in its newsletters. “I like the people, I like the mission, I like the plants,” she explains. “It’s my happy place.”
Rick Anderson noticed a newspaper article about the Preserve that included an invitation to apply to become a volunteer naturalist. As his background includes teaching nature/ecology to Boy Scouts, being a master gardener and having extensive vocational experience in estate and landscape gardening, he applied. Rick currently leads guided walks several times a month throughout April to November. "I enjoy being with others, and like many volunteer naturalists, have an engaging manner and inquisitive mind," says Rick. "“BHWP is "THE” place to learn and share the wonders of nature."
Terri Layton, a native of South Korea and graduate of Villanova University, is a retired accountant. Sixteen years ago she moved into the woods near Lake Nockamixon and “started getting curious about birds and plants and started going to seminars at the Preserve." Terri was drawn to propagation volunteers and found them to be a diverse group. “We talk about anything and everything. After retiring, I was not getting a lot of intellectual stimulation. I live with four dogs, and they don’t talk much,” she jokes. “I feel like I’m part of small community with fantastic talent.”
Judy Hallberg became a volunteer propagator a short time after moving to Bucks County. She is a former art gallery director and resident curator of a timber house (built in 1677) and its 12 acres, including seven gardens and a meadow. Before she took over, the meadow was mowed regularly “and you never saw wildflowers.” She stopped the mowing and became interested in wildflowers. Judy's first volunteer role at BHWP was at the front desk, where she saw the propagators wearing jeans and gardening gloves and, as she put it, “...wanted to be with them, and now I am. I really enjoy learning, and I really enjoy the people.”
Mary Anne Borge
Mary Anne Borge lives nearby the Preserve and thought it would be an interesting place to walk. Curious about native plants, she soon joined the naturalist program. She currently focuses her efforts on teaching several of the Knowing Native Plants classes, leading the butterfly count, and developing other programs relating to plant-animal interactions. Mary Anne also takes the message of the importance of native plants outside the Preserve. "The more I have learned about plants and their relationships with animals, including people, the more I understand how true and vital that mission is—and I’ve adopted it as my own," she says.
Jeffrey A. Buckwalter
Jeffrey A. Buckwalter is a retired ear, nose and throat doctor. A propagation volunteer since August of 2015, he is also a member of the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve Board of Trustees. Jeffrey was drawn to these roles by a longtime fascination with plants and how to replenish them. “The relationships at the Preserve, and what one learns about nature, can be a remedy for the human tendency to ‘live too much in the moment,’” he says. “Nature teaches us about the important relationship of things in life, and how insignificant the time a human lives is compared to all of nature.”
Patsy Wang-Iverson, a member for many years, became a volunteer propagator in 2016 after she came to hear Pat Sutton speak and was inspired to volunteer. Patsy initially responded to a propagation ad and now is involved every other week. “The other volunteers are very welcoming,” she says. A biochemist who has also worked in math and science education, Patsy wants to keep learning—about the plants, planting conditions, locations, and different types of native plants and what wildlife they attract—and as a propagator she gets that chance
Dot and Bill Gaboda
Dot and Bill Gaboda first visited the Preserve when their daughter was young and rediscovered it after their retirement. "We were looking for volunteer opportunities, and happened to pass the Preserve. After we learned from the website that there were many attractive volunteer opportunities, we realized that we had to be members," say Dot and Bill. Dot has been volunteering at the Twinleaf book and gift shop for about three years, where she enjoys the contact with members and visitors, and getting an overview of everything that goes on. Bill has been part of the stalwart weed patrol, helped to set up the Gala, and has assisted with general maintenance (spreading mulch, etc.). Most recently, Bill is taking the naturalist training, which he feels is a great way to get involved with the whole Preserve. Since they began volunteering at the Preserve, they not only have expanded their home gardens, they have removed invasive species and want to plant more native shrubs. "It’s fascinating how many native bees, butterflies and birds are drawn to the native plants like giant hyssops (Agastache genus) and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum genus)," say Dot and Bill. "We enjoy seeing so many butterflies we’ve never noticed before."
Adela Agnew has found a variety of volunteer opportunities at the Preserve. "I’ve assisted with communication projects and participated in a nursery volunteer day and Butterfly Walk Open House, and worked at the front desk in the Twinleaf Book & Gift Shop. I've also participated in the Summer Student Program to help with trail maintenance and restoration.” Volunteering at the Preserve has been an education for Adela. “I have been influenced by the native plants at the Preserve; our garden at home is full of them,” says Adela. “Natives provide habitat—homes—for insects and animals. They also create beautiful landscaping!”
David Shanno, a retired math professor who still conducts research, has degrees from Yale and Carnegie Mellon and taught for 41 years in major universities. David began volunteering 17 years ago and discovered it was a wonderful escape. “It’s dirty work, but it makes you feel good,” he says. “Volunteering involves people you want to be with and jobs you want to do.”