The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

SPARC members inspire with arts, crafts at Arboretum

Keeping things green at the Dallas Arboretum doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of green, thanks to the assistance of freehanded citizens, including a couple here at SMU.

The Arboretum, located on the east shore of White Rock Lake, is home to 66 acres of lush gardens and hosts numerous concerts and festivals each year. What makes the Arboretum remarkable is that it is staffed primarily by volunteers.

SMU student organization, SPARC (Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Citizenship,) sent members to offer their services on Saturday, which was one of the Arboretum’s busiest days of the year.

It was the first day of “Autumn at the Arboretum,” and events such as Artscape (a fine arts fair) and Tour des Fleurs (a race featuring the 10-kilometer and 20-kilometer running events) had packed the gardens on a sunny and humid afternoon.

SPARC members Ally Ecklund and Jenny Collins were helping children with arts and crafts in Texas Pioneer Adventure Park. Volunteers at the arts and crafts tent helped youngsters plant flowers and create pictures using crayons and stencils. Ecklund and Collins said they had helped a few dozen children in their first couple hours at the tent.

“This is a really good opportunity,” said Ecklund, SPARC’s basic needs coordinator. “There are a lot of kids that spend lots of time inside watching television or playing video games. It’s good that they can come out here and play in the dirt a little bit.”

SPARC, which has roughly 30 to 40 members, according to Ecklund, is slated to volunteer Saturday at the River Legacy Living Science Center. Buses leave from the campus’ main flagpole at 8 a.m.

Ecklund said volunteer events usually occur early Saturday mornings, which was partly a factor in why only a couple SPARC members showed up at the Arboretum.

SPARC is a university-sponsored organization that volunteers in the Dallas area. Ecklund described the group as “open,” meaning SPARC doesn’t mandate that members attend every project or meetings.

Collins, an old rowing teammate of Ecklund’s, joined SPARC on Saturday morning and was at the arts and crafts tent. She said that she was attracted to the project because of the opportunity it gave her to help children.

Katlyn Young and her mother Erica are frequent passers-by of the arts and crafts tent, one of their favorite stops when touring the Arboretum. The Young family are members of the Arboretum and comes about six times a year, the mother said. Erica and Katlyn were on a mother-daughter date on Saturday.

In other parts of the arboretum, wedding pictures were being taken, art and jewelry were being sold and visitors were taking wagon rides.

Volunteer director Julie Zvara said Saturday was an especially busy day, which made volunteer work even more critical than usual. She said 15 organizations are slated to help at the Arboretum during the six-week festival.

Zvara said there are about 305 active volunteers, who work more than 60 hours per year. There are also special event volunteers, such as SPARC, which come for a day or even a week.

“What’s unique about the Arboretum is that it’s volunteer driven,” said Zvara. “Whether they’re docents in the DeGolyer House, greeters, tram drivers or manning the Cool Thursdays concerts, most people you come in contact with are going to be volunteers.”

Zvara said SMU is one of many colleges and high schools that volunteer at the Arboretum. Eastfield College, Jesuit High School, Mesquite High School and Garland High School are among the handful that offer their services at the gardens.

Ecklund explained that despite SPARC’s meager turnout at the event, she was happy to be volunteering at the Arboretum.

“Traditionally, we’re seen as being in the bubble at SMU,” said Ecklund, who has been with SPARC since her freshman year. “I’ve never been in the Arboretum before, and it’s good to meet and talk to the kids.”

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