Volunteers from the Arlington Ward, Jacksonville Florida East Stake, gave a healthy boost to the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens, which are scheduled for a grand opening on Nov. 15.
It was overcast in normally sunny northern Florida on Saturday, Oct. 18, when 105 ward members met to fulfill a New Year's goal to do a service project. The arboretum project was chosen from among several suggested.
The nature setting in the nation's largest city in area in the contiguous 48 stakes has been four years in the making. With limited funds and volunteers, the project was inching its way forward. Ward activities chairman Joe Robinson decided volunteering would be the ideal project for the ward.
The precise and detailed planning took several weeks. Ward members had their assignments. Some sisters offered to tend children at the meetinghouse, others to bring food at lunch time. Blueprints were made for a bridge to be constructed, and materials were secured. Trucks, mowers, tractors, backhoes, earth movers, hand tools and strong arms were procured. Everything that man could handle was planned in detail everything except the weather.
As the volunteer crew arrived at the scheduled 9 a.m., the sky was totally overcast and a gentle breeze blowing, truly a blessing from heaven. Previous days had been sunny, hot, humid and sticky.
The group went to work mowing along the roadway, clearing overgrown areas, trimming trees, mulching areas and pathways, erecting signs, painting entry gates, planting flowers and building a bridge. All put their shoulders to the wheel the old, the young, male and female, the active members, the less-active and the healthy and strong.
As the day wore on, the sun still obscure, a mist of rain occasionally fell. No one ran for cover, but rather enjoyed the cooling refreshment. The gratitude expressed to the volunteers by Meg Gaffney, the gardens' landscape architect, was heart warming.
Late in the day, the clouds cleared and the sun peeked through. The last remaining volunteers were those workers constructing the bridge over a ravine. Their efforts had been long and tireless with the result a beautiful, solid structure that will grace the gardens for years to come.