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Wittenberg Interns Transform Community Through Work With Hollandia Botanical Gardens Festival

August 13, 2010  
 Filed in Headlines

Stephanie Zmina (left) and Heidi Wollaeger worked to beautify the Springfield community by contributing service hours to Springfield's Hollandia Botanical Garden.

Springfield, Ohio – Wittenberg University students Heidi Wollaeger, class of 2011 from Highland Heights, Ohio, and Stephanie Zmina, class of 2012 from Willoughby, Ohio, recently combined professional aspirations with environmental passions to create community service projects that not only satisfied university graduation requirements but helped to beautify their adopted community.

Wittenberg’s 30-hour community service graduation requirement allows students to engage with the greater Springfield community as they learn new skills, build resumes, develop a strong work ethic and contribute to the organizations and programs they serve. Wollaeger interned during the fall 2009 semester and Zmina interned during the spring 2010 semester with Springfield’s Hollandia Botanical Gardens (HBG), and both completed their service projects during the fourth annual Spring Bulb Festival in April.

Wollaeger selected HBG for service after seeing signs for the bulb festival last the previous spring.

“I am interested in botany, “ said Wollaeger, a biology major, “and have previously volunteered at Cleveland Botanical Gardens, so I was eager to find out what the botanical gardens in Springfield had to offer. As I found out more about the goals of Hollandia as an organization, I admire the idea of revitalizing the downtown Springfield area – an environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing, popular attraction is a fantastic idea.”

Computerizing lists of those who attended the previous year’s bulb festival to update a mailing list for newsletters, donation pleas and event announcements, researching grants to support the organization, planting bulbs for the 2010 festival and attending a festival planning meeting were among Wollaeger’s responsibilities.

Zmina knows her service added to the efficiency of the office. She prepared online copies of HBG Director Paul Parlato’s calendars for his records and referrals, and she made electronic copies of all of his calendars from previous years. She also accompanied him to a presentation he made at the United Methodist Church.

“Paul did a ton of networking,” said Zmina, a biology major, marine science minor at Wittenberg. “It was really an experience to watch him, really interesting because of all the connections, all the interpersonal relations, and the festival was a great experience. I can’t work at it next spring since I’ll be at the Duke Marine Lab, but I will my senior year.”

“The students put in lengthy shifts at the event itself, one as a greeter/counter and the other as a sales processor,” said Parlato, who retired as Wittenberg’s Dean of the School of Community Education in 2007. “Thanks to hard work and good luck on the weather, Heidi and Stephanie got to participate in what turned out to be a highly successful event.

“The festival attracted more than 2,300 people, exceeding last year’s total by 37 percent,” he added. “We in HBG are greatly encouraged by this turnout. If a mere preview event can attract this level of interest, imagine the appeal of the real garden, once constructed.”

Parlato noted that two very successful Wittenberg-related items at the festival were Mom Andrasik’s Hungarian cabbage rolls provided by Administrative Assistant for Community Services Cindy Larson and her husband Mike, and the Vintage Auto Show, which began with a suggestion from former SCE student and Packard fancier Greg Groeber, Wittenberg class of 1969.

Others from Wittenberg helped out at the festival by driving a golf cart, painting faces, taking sales orders or “counting noses,” while others helped with marketing and IT issues. Administrative Assistant for the Computing Center Kathy Dennis organized the posting of yard signs to promote the event.

“Still others have participated as visitors, donors and even board members,” Parlato said.

Free and open to the public, the festival included a presentation of the master plan for the gardens, gardening tips from experts and the opportunity to purchase first quality flowering bulbs. Craft booths and foods from local restaurants were available, and entertainment was provided by The Springfield Youth Symphony Orchestra, Springfield’s Banjo and Brass band.

Wittenberg was well-represented in the entertainment field as well, with performances by the WittFREE rock band and the Wittenberg Dragon Dance Team.

Written By: Phyllis Eberts
Photo By: Erin Pence

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