When Margery Hexton was 68 years old, in 1994, she moved from her home in Chicago to the rural island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii to be near her daughter and grandchildren during retirement. Although her family was there, she left behind friends and a deeply rooted life.
The way she coped, the bridge to her new life and community, was volunteering. The same week she moved Margery started volunteering at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), a stunning green space dedicated to research and conservation of rare tropical plants. More than 23 years later, at age 91, she is still volunteering and helping to save endemic native Hawaiian plants and using her artistic abilities to make crafts sold at local art sales, with proceeds benefiting NTBG.
Describe your volunteer role at the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
A friend of my daughter’s introduced me to the garden and I’ve loved it ever since – it’s such a magical place. I’ve always had a big garden, and my mother had a garden too. When I volunteer on Monday mornings, I sit at the plant site surrounded by pots and dirt and transplant. On Fridays, I work with other volunteers in our Oshibana group; we make crafts out of fabric and other materials, which we sell at local craft fairs. We make a lot of money – maybe $800 a year that goes to the garden.
Why is it important to you to support your community in this way?
Because I think we have to preserve our natural resources. This is a very small island and we need to take care of it. We have so many endangered plants, they are just going to be gone if we don’t do something. The smart people who run the garden go on expeditions, they climb up rocks to get three or four seeds to grow rare plants. It’s so wonderful. I just have to do something – to feel connected and support the environment.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your volunteer service?
It really isn’t a challenge at all! It’s pure enjoyment, I love working with plants. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t volunteer. I was a Girl Scout leader for years. You have to give back a part of yourself.
Why do you think it’s important to give back?
We receive so much. I have my life, my grandchildren. I have to thank God for everything.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
Being part of something bigger, that feels good. You just can’t go through life sitting and taking.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I’ve learned a lot about plants, and transplanting. I’ve also learned that I, as one person, can truly make a difference. I tell people, just try it, and try volunteering. See how it goes.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Margery? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunities.