An Iowa State University Alumni Perspective

close up photo of a red and black butterfly on a green leaf

Hello, my name is Lori Underwood.  I am an Iowa State alumni.  I moved back to the Ames area almost two years ago.  You may currently find me helping out in the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing or with Caterpillar Club.

There are many reasons that I enjoy volunteering at Reiman Gardens.  It takes countless hours by many talented, dedicated employees and volunteers to make Reiman Gardens the destination it is.  What is not to like about volunteering while surrounded by horticulture and entomology experts, dedicated staff and volunteers, and acres of gardens plus a Conservatory and Butterfly Wing?

My own interest in flowers, trees, and meandering gardens led to my first visit.  Gardening was a part of my growing up years.  I started it back up as a hobby to complement my day job as an engineer.  I have enjoyed being a Master Gardener through the Iowa State Extension Office for about 10 years.  When I moved back to the area, a visit through the Gardens was a respite from the chores of moving and unpacking.  It only takes a stroll down the garden path to absorb the sights, sounds, and fragrance of a garden.  I am still intrigued by how the Gardens changes throughout the Iowa seasons.

I also find it pleasurable to meet many people while working together on a challenging, new project.  The college students bring their own enthusiasm and energy to it. Collectively, they might be able to match Nathan Brockman’s energy level during pumpkin carving. If you have seen the carved pumpkins, you know it takes many hands and lots of work to pull that display off!  I find it refreshing to have such a diverse and committed group of volunteers to work with.  There are plenty of activities to join in and try your hands at a new skill.  The flexibility offered is appreciated when juggling a schedule.  If you like meeting new people and learning something practical every day, this is a great place to volunteer. 

I did not expect that I would discover yet another interest:  butterflies.  I am still surprised at the sight of butterflies from all over the world right here in Iowa!  Even a short visit to the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing is beneficial for chasing the winter chill away.  If you have more time to visit, all the better.  The exhibit offers an immersion experience with the butterflies that is hard to describe.  Because the arriving shipments vary, the exhibit is never the same experience twice.  

The more that I volunteer, the more I am convinced that I always gain more than I thought I was giving away.  New friends, new knowledge, a chance to serve my community, all wrapped up in a beautiful setting.

I hope you can enjoy a visit to Reiman Gardens soon.  I look forward to seeing you!

 By Lori Underwood