Summer 2019 Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter

Chair’s Corner

Meet the Arboretum’s Hard Working Volunteer Coordinators!

 Q: How many hours have volunteers worked at the Arboretum in the first 6 months of 2019?
A: Approximately 13,125 hours.

Q: How many Arboretum volunteers are registered and active?
A: About 400, of whom 100 are Johnson County Extension Master Gardeners who work on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Q: Who are the talented people who manage all those people and hours?
A: Our beloved volunteer coordinators Kim Alvarez and Cindy Muehlberger!

Kim and Cindy job share each week, with Kim working Monday through Wednesday and Cindy finishing out the week Wednesday through Friday. But they’re not just tied to a desk and a computer – they’re often out working alongside volunteers doing whatever needs to be done, especially at events where it’s “all hands on deck.” Regardless of how stressful it might get, these ladies are always helpful and cheerful. I thought you might be interested in learning more about Cindy and Kim and what brought them to the Arboretum, so I asked them to tell us a little about themselves:

Cindy Muehlberger:“After being retired from Johnson County Government for eight years and running out of fun things to do I decided to go back to work.  My friend Billey, a job developer for felons, actually discovered the part-time volunteer coordinator position at the Arboretum while looking for jobs for her clients. Through my previous career I assisted low-income and no-income families and individuals with emergency needs; rent, utility assistance, medications, eye exams, food, etc.  During that time I started a food pantry and recruited amazing and dedicated volunteers. Becoming a part-time volunteer coordinator at the Arboretum fills the void I felt of meeting and recruiting people to fill a need within the community.”

Kim Alvarez:“My family moved here from Florida almost 10 years ago and prior to that I helped my husband in his State Farm agency and worked as an auto underwriter with State Farm. The Arboretum is way more fun than insurance BTW! The thing I enjoy most about my job is working with our talented, big-hearted, hard-working volunteers! I feel like we have the best volunteers of anyone in the KC area and I’m so grateful they have chosen the Arboretum for their volunteer service.” 

The next time you see Kim or Cindy, be sure to tell them how much we appreciate them! And if you’re interested in volunteering at the Arboretum, you can contact them at or

Sonya Wright
Chair, Friends of the Arboretum

It’s Good Business to Give Back to the Community

We’re thankful for all the local businesses who support the Arboretum through sponsorships. You’ve probably seen their names and logos on our event marketing materials, and we appreciate their generosity!  

FOTA Chair, Sonya Wright, recently enjoyed visiting with Dr. Kory Kirkegaard, who promotes the Arboretum through his new dental practice, The Art of Dentistry, located at 7550 W 160th Street in Overland Park (just south of the Quik Trip at 159th & Foster). When Dr. Kirkegaard opened his office last year, he knew he wanted to support the local community in some way as his business grew. He and his wife had received a FOTA gift membership from his in-laws, so he decided that the Arboretum would be the perfect way to give back. With every new patient, The Art of Dentistry makes a donation to the Arboretum, as well as for each new “like” on their Facebook page. And if patients in the waiting room want to know what’s going on at the Arboretum, they just need to watch the large screen monitor on the wall displaying our current event calendar!

Dr. Kirkegaard’s goal is to develop trusted, collaborative relationships with his patients in a fun environment. His dental practice focuses on patient comfort and features free wifi and refreshments. Patients can relax on a neck pillow while viewing entertainment options including Hulu and Netflix or listen to custom music stations through personal headphones. For more information, you can contact The Art of Dentistry at 913.274.9200 – and Dr. Kirkegaard told me that new patients who mention they saw this article will receive a free electric toothbrush after their first appointment!

Volunteer Spotlight: Geo Committee

The Arboretum offers not only a beautiful conservatory, but also many programs and activities for families and children – especially during the summer months. One such program is Geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers called “geocaches” or “caches”at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. 

Here at the Arboretum, we have eight geocaches hidden – one cache in each of the eight ecosystems. Each cache has a bookmark explaining the ecosystem in which it is found, a log book and an ink pad and stamp specific for that ecosystem.  

Members of the Geo committee also offer classes: GeoKids which teaches younger children how to use a compass and GeoArboretum which teaches older kids and adults how to go geocaching using latitude and longitude coordinates. The committees’ latest endeavor included entering all eight caches online at with the goal of introducing the Arboretum to those that may not know about it.

Take a look at the positive comments since they’ve been registered on the world wide web: 

“Thanks to the Overland Park Arboretum for setting these up!” 
“What a great adventure! We had a good time. I loaded the caches down with stuff kids should like.” 
“Enjoying the beautiful nature at the arboretum while doing some caching. I also left a Toonfanatic trading card.” 

Members of our Geo committee – Celeste Gogel, Charlie Loftus, Mary Moreau, Claudia Smiley, Sharon Rakos, Jess Bryan, Larry Morrissettte, Harold Bradley, Ken Goldstein, Will Fraley and chair Sally Williams – put in many hours making sure our caches are well supplied and in good shape, keeping the literature up to date and readily available and sharing their love of this fun activity through thoughtful instruction. This specialty group of volunteers got involved with geocaching for various reasons.

Celeste Gogel says she wanted to learn all about geocaching. She says, “I love finding gadget caches and love hiking the mountain trails while out in Arizona. The Virtual and Earthcaches show me interesting places I would not have gone to.” She says she has found caches in almost more countries than she has states.  

Will Fraley has been geocaching since 2013 and has found nearly 6,000 geocaches in 35 states. He points out that four of the seven oldest geocaches in Kansas can be found at the Arboretum. Will says he had the opportunity to adopt three of those four caches and that’s what drew him to the Arb. He has been instrumental in helping formalize the Arboretum’s geocaches and promote the Arboretum through geocaching.  

Sharon Rakos states she got involved with geocaching because, “I love kids and challenging them to hike at the Arb.” She remembers the time she invited her church friends to hike one hot summer day and they got lost; “that’s when I realized I’d spent too much time hanging around the paved paths, so I took my own advice and joined a group that hikes with a GPS.” 

Mary Moreau admits she knew nothing about geocaching. She said that after she retired, she attended a Geo committee meeting and found out they offered kids classes and wanted to get involved in this “game” of finding hidden caches. She has found some in Scotland and other places she has visited. Mary also enjoys family and friends, golfing in the summer, bowling in the winter and devoting time to Cosmopolitan International- a service club that supports diabetes related research and improving the lives of those who live with diabetes. She says she “loves being associated with the Arboretum” and “has had the pleasure of meeting some very interesting people that I would not have known without my volunteering here.”  

We are extremely grateful to all members of the Geo committee for their involvement. From creating, implementing and maintaining the caches, to the classes they teach, to putting the information on the world wide web to promote the Arboretum – we are very thankful for your dedication. Our Geocaching program has evolved into a skillful, well thought-out activity, an experience which is sure to keep visitors coming back.