By Carly Kwiecien
Coming home for summer vacation after being away at college is always hard. Things change when you’re gone, and you come back to piece it all back together and find your place again. This summer, I interned at Friendship Botanic Gardens, which is where I found beauty, peace and serenity after a hectic school year. It began as just a place of work, but soon transformed into a place I now call home. The coworkers and volunteers I worked closely with soon became my second family.
For the past few months, I wore several different hats. It was a diverse internship for me; I was graciously given the freedom to spread my wings and become successful in a variety of specialties.
I took on several writing projects featuring board members and events at the Gardens. Writing is my passion, and it was easy for me to write about a place that felt so magical to me. Throughout my time at the Gardens, I learned about its rich history and legacy in Michigan City. I taught this mine of information to Garden guests on multiple cart tours through the grounds.
I continuously felt the energy and passion that Board Members, volunteers and staff members had for the Gardens. Their optimism invigorated me to give 110 percent of myself, helping it grow in popularity, and by making guests who visited feel welcome and invited to share this energy and excitement, too.
There were several opportunities for me to grow both personally and professionally. I worked directly with the public while cabin hosting and working events and weddings.
In the welcome cabin, I greeted guests who were at the Gardens to walk, jog or be immersed in its natural beauty. My favorite part was being able to be a part of their experiences. Some people who passed through had never been to a botanic garden, while others had been visiting Friendship Botanic Gardens for decades. I enjoyed informing them of our legacy, along with our hopes of expansion and growth in the near future.
I was also trusted to be a member of committees for events. For example, I was on the committee for our annual fundraising gala, where we discussed what items would be donated for our auctions, who would speak, where volunteers would be placed throughout the evening and what needed to be done in preparation for our big event. This experience was beneficial to my education because I was able to learn about different aspects of a nonprofit and what it took to plan and coordinate an event.
I also attended several Garden events, ranging from family-friendly events such as Bug Safari, Butterfly Bonanza, and Taste and Tribute to more formal gatherings like Gatsby in the Gardens. I helped out wherever I was needed and was willing to take on whatever tasks that would help the events move smoother.
On other weekends where there weren’t events, I had the pleasure of assisting with weddings. The Gardens are a major destination spot for both wedding ceremonies and receptions, hosting anywhere from 55 to 60 weddings each year. I helped vendors and DJs set up and take down equipment and drove guests to and from the venues scattered throughout the Gardens. I found it magical being a part of someone’s special day, no matter the size or significance of the role I played.
It has been a truly rewarding summer being a part of a team that has mentored me and allowed me to grow in places I didn’t even know I could. Friendship Botanic Gardens is a place for peace and prayer and has been tucked away off of Highway 12 for decades. In the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, it was place for concerts, festivals and social gatherings, and we are trying to bring it back to its magnificence.
In the past four years, the Board of Directors, along with its President, John Leinweber, have donated so much effort, time, energy and money to make it thrive.
In order for the Gardens to be put on the map again, the need for volunteers and interns is constant. There is something here for everyone, no matter demographic, skill level or interest. It is my wish to see others have the same passion and drive for success for this place as I have for it.
Thank you to those who have contributed to my summer at the Gardens and to those who continue to see its potential.