After retirement, Sonya Zimmer had some spare time on her hands. To fill it she decided to volunteer at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.

“It’s been fantastic,” she said, standing in the garden’s butterfly house. “It’s a great experience to learn and share
what you learned, and then learn some more. I’m a retired teacher and love sharing what nature has to offer.”

Every week Sonya, and dozens of community volunteers prune, plant and pamper the plants, flowers and trees at the garden, located at 4703 Crossover Road in Fayetteville. For the volunteers, it’s a labor of love.

“I really think it’s a great opportunity to meet people with a shared interest,” she said. “They are very passionate and dedicated. That’s what struck me when I became a member of the botanical garden.”

The programming and beauty the garden offers Northwest Arkansas residents is impressive, Sonya said. “There are so many opportunities to learning about nature,” she explained. “It’s just a beautiful place with a variety of things to do for families and singles, young and old.”

Up close with nature

Knowing the garden garners that kind of praise makes Liz Atwell’s job easy.

“It’s such an amazing place to work,” the garden’s recently hired communications coordinator said. “We see a wide age range come out to the garden throughout the year. We have little bitty ones who come out for our Little Sprouts program. Our big event in the summer is our Firefly Fling where kids come out and
have a fun evening dressing up in costumes and doing fun crafts.”

Interacting with young and old makes her job fun. But, she said, the garden offers some serious educational opportunities, too.

“We have a lot of elementary age kids in the garden for field trips,” she said. “You get to see them connect with nature, the environment and get up close with butterflies and caterpillars. It’s something you don’t always get the opportunity to do in the classroom.”

Go to to learn more about Botanical Garden of the Ozarks events and programs.

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