Meet Darcy Nickel, your Chicago Cares Leader of the Month for February. A strong commitment to the work at Kilbourn Park and a positive relationship with Kirsten Akre, the park’s greenhouse coordinator, are two of the things that make Darcy a great leader.  Darcy and Kirsten work together to consistently deliver strong projects and keep volunteers informed, busy, and having fun!  Darcy even has her own plot at Kilbourn Park, so she is especially motivated and invested in the area.  She’s an educator for her “day job” and her patience and good teaching skills translate well into garden work. We are proud to have her as a leader and know Kirsten appreciates her work as well!

Chicago Cares: Darcy, can you share with us how long you have been a leader with Chicago Cares and what project you lead?

Darcy: I’m about to start my sixth year as a leader for the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse Project.

Chicago Cares: Wow! Your commitment to this program is tremendous. What has been your motivation for volunteering?

Darcy: I volunteer for many reasons. Volunteering feels good. I love creating a transformation in a space or knowing that I’ve helped make someone’s day brighter. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to learn and experience things that I might not have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Finally, since I’m a teacher by profession, environmental projects give me moments of serenity and keep me connected with the beauty of nature here in Chicago.

Chicago Cares: What has been your biggest challenge as a leader for Kilbourn Park and how have you overcome it?

Darcy: There have been a variety of challenges I’ve had as a leader. For me, challenges are all about problem-solving by thinking creatively. How can I get a job done with fewer volunteers? How can I approach a project with limited materials available? For every challenge, I start by focusing, creating a plan, and jumping in to get the task at hand done.

I’ve dug garden plots in the rain, mulched the entire garden with a team of two, and finished painting a room when half my crew left after lunch. In each situation, it’s always important to stay positive! Search for talent in your volunteers and believe you can handle anything. My greatest triumph as a leader is seeing the transformation of Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse since I’ve been volunteering there over the years.

Chicago Cares: What advice would you share with others interested in a leadership role?

Darcy: If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer leader, go for it! As a volunteer leader at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, and as a leader for special events, I’ve learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do. It’s an awesome feeling!

Congratulations to Darcy for being February’s Leader of the Month!

If you are interested in learning more about leading environmental projects like Darcy, contact Adrienne Cherry or call (312) 780-0800 ext. 165.

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