Why I Volunteer: Bob VanBragt

Written by Nancy Crawley

Dirt. Digging in dirt. Planting in dirt. That’s what Bob VanBragt wanted to do when he retired.


Bob VanBragt

It was natural, really. He grew up on a tulip farm in Holland, the West Michigan town famous for its annual Tulip Festival. He had learned how to grow all kinds of bulbs, but once he went to work in an office, he missed spending time with a spade and shovel.

So Meijer Gardens was on Bob’s to-do list when he retired 10 years ago. Attending one of the volunteer orientation meetings, he met horticulturist Ian Warnock. who gave him a tour of the Children’s Garden. It was clear they would find a common bond in their affinity for dirt.

“He has a Scottish accent and a great sense of humor,” Bob said of Ian, whose impressive resume includes the H.M. British Embassy garden in Washington, D.C.

Soon, Bob was a Monday morning regular at the Children’s Garden, tending the ever changing landscape winding through places like the sensory garden, butterfly maze, and the Great Lakes ponds.

“We’ll pull mums, plant bulbs and pansies, do a lot of weeding and pruning. You never know with Ian,” he chuckled.

Bob, 81, has gained many friends during his 1,500 volunteer hours. “I love being outside, with all the kids.” And, besides, at the Gardens, there’s always plenty of dirt yet to be dug.

To explore volunteering, visit meijergardens.org/involved/volunteer/, or contact Tom Hoving at thoving@meijergardens.org or 616-974-5221. Volunteer orientation sessions are set for Dec. 7, 2016, and Feb. 7 and April 11, 2017, starting at 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

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