With the US economy still in the doldrums and many taxpayers in an ugly mood when it comes to any sort of government spending, agencies like the National Park Service are under pressure to trim their budgets by tapping into the spirit of volunteerism. It makes perfect sense, if you don’t believe in so-called Big Government, to put your money (or your spare time) where your mouth is and make a purely voluntary contribution to the commonweal.
The folks who run this region’s top-shelf historical and cultural treasures, the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites, are currently offering an opportunity to do just that. They’re looking for volunteer gardeners to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the landscape at Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill home in Hyde Park.
Come on, now: Who doesn’t love Eleanor? Even people who are dubious about the New Deal, or about FDR’s less-than-sterling personal track record when it comes to “family values,” tend to cut the author of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights a bit more slack. She set an example of activism, intellectual brilliance, hard work and concern for the common American that subsequent first ladies have found exceedingly tough to match. We are lucky to have her beloved private retreat right here in our own backyard, and it should be a matter of national pride to keep it looking spiffy at all times.
Volunteers at Val-kill will work under the direction of the parks’ horticulturist on projects throughout the landscape. Gardening experience is not required; volunteers are only required to enjoy working outside. The Val-Kill lifestyle celebrated the outdoors, and the gardens and grounds are a central part of the story of the Roosevelts’ private and public life in Hyde Park.
The volunteer gardening program will meet on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. To find out if volunteering at Val-Kill is for you, and to learn about the restoration plans, attend the informational meeting on Wednesday, February 22 at 9 a.m. at the Val-Kill Playhouse. To register for the meeting, call National Park Service horticulturist Anna de Cordova at (845) 229-4218 or e-mail Anna_DeCordova@nps.gov.