Community Gem: Donna Zobrist gives back to Wegerzyn Gardens

Donna Zobrist

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Donna Zobrist

RIVERSIDE —Look for Donna Zobrist in a garden.

She could be walking in any of the Five Rivers MetroParks, but you might have the best luck catching her at Wegerzyn Gardens, where she began volunteering after becoming a Master Gardener in 2007.

“I’m always shocked when I say, ‘Do you know where Wegerzyn is?’” and even lifelong Dayton residents don’t know the park, said Zobrist, 75, of Riverside.

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., has formal gardens and educational programs, as well as a Children’s Discovery Garden where her grandson has especially enjoyed the fossil cave, sand play area and other features.

Zobrist is the volunteer chairperson of Wegerzyn Gardens’ Adult Education Council, which organizes out-of-town bus trips with a focus on nature and horticulture. Although the pandemic put these trips on hold, the council is planning a trip to Cincinnati in early December.

Zobrist also has spent many hours as a Master Gardener volunteer, on educational endeavors as well as projects such as maintaining the flower beds at the site of the former Montgomery County Fairgrounds. The pandemic forced Master Gardeners like Zobrist to replace in-person volunteering with online education.

“The big component is trying to educate and let people know what is going on gardening-wise,” said Zobrist, who retired in 2006 from Tecumseh High School in New Carlisle, teaching mostly biology and chemistry.

Beverly Friel serves on the Adult Education Council with Zobrist and nominated her as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem. The bus trips typically earn about $8,000 per year for Wegerzyn Gardens and go to places like Cincinnati, Zanesville and Columbus, Ind., she said.

Zobrist is instrumental, spending hours organizing, mailing brochures, collecting payments and leading the committee. She keeps the council focused and is always ready to step in when needed, said Friel, of Clayton.

“I think that she’s little-recognized for the great service that she does,” Friel said.

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