In the spring of 2022 Lakewood launched a new volunteer program, the Welcome Team, supported by the Lakewood Heritage Foundation. This group of dedicated volunteers helped at a variety of Lakewood events and served as a resource for visitors, including assisting with locating burial sites and navigating Lakewood’s vast park-like grounds. During this past year, the enthusiastic volunteer team collectively donated over 230 hours of time to support Lakewood families and community members.
A New Purpose when Visiting
Lakewood has long been a special place for Carole Johnson to come and visit her daughter and her parents who are all memorialized in the Community Memorial Mausoleum. Last year, when Carole saw that Lakewood was forming a Welcome Team, she knew she wanted to be involved with Lakewood in a new way.
Carole volunteered welcoming guests to the popular Music in the Chapel events and the Annual Midsummer Memory Mandalas event last July. She has also staffed the Information tent on Sunday afternoons, answering questions and guiding visitors.
Carole says the most meaningful event for her was The Great Big Garden Party in August, a celebration honoring Lakewood’s 150th anniversary. She spent the day talking with visitors in the Memorial Chapel. “I’ve been coming to Lakewood since 1978, but prior to becoming a volunteer I’d never been in the Chapel. I immediately discovered that pictures don’t do the Chapel justice. In person, the 10 million mosaic tiles that decorate nearly every inch inside the building are truly stunning.”
Carole recalled one young man she spoke with that day who worked as a sound engineer. He was especially impressed with the pitch perfect sound in the center of the Chapel. Carole was able to tell him that Chapel architect, Henry Wild Jones designed the building so that a person speaking in the center of the room can be heard clearly without any need for a microphone or speaker system. “The young man,” Carole continued, “kept insisting his friend stand at the center and speak so he could test the sound from different angles.” Carole enjoyed watching visitors take in the beauty, majesty and ingenuity of the historic building.
Carole looks forward to new volunteer opportunities and says she’s happy to make the trip to Lakewood from her home in Carver, because she so enjoys sharing her love of Lakewood with others.
Learning From Other Volunteers
Clare Laverman is a Lakewood neighbor and became a frequent walker during the Covid pandemic. Curious about Lakewood’s memorials, she visited the website looking for tours and discovered information on the Welcome Team. “I was excited,” she says, “because it was something different to do at a place I love.”
During her volunteer stints, Clare most enjoyed getting to know other volunteers and discovered many of them had a rich knowledge of history and genealogy. She volunteered on numerous Sundays in the Welcome Tent and along with helping visitors, Clare learned detailed histories of some of Lakewood’s most historic residents.
“One man who worked with me shared the history of Senator Paul Wellstone. Walking over to his memorial site and seeing all the stones left on the grave sparked my interest in learning more. Since then, I’ve read a lot about Senator Wellstone’s life, his work and his untimely death. The more I learn about Lakewood,” she continues, “the more I learn about Minneapolis because the two are so intertwined.”
Clare has also enjoyed volunteering at big events like Midsummer Memory Mandalas and Lakewood’s Fall Colors Celebration. “Next year, I’m excited to share with visitors all the stories I’ve learned from my fellow volunteers.”
Giving Back to the Community
When Mike Campbell came to Lakewood last Memorial Day with his family, he did not expect to discover a new volunteer opportunity. But Mike was so impressed with the volunteers and staff who welcomed him that he decided to get involved. His next interaction with Lakewood cemented his interest. “I’ve reached out to organizations before and sometimes you don’t hear back or it takes a long time, but right away Amanda Luke, the Community Programs Manager, responded and set up my volunteer training.”
Mike’s favorite volunteer role last year was at the Lantern Lighting Celebration. “It was an honor getting to welcome guests to the evening. So many people asked me if it was okay to commemorate their loved one with a lantern even if they weren’t memorialized at Lakewood. When I assured them they were welcome, their relief and gratitude were apparent.”
After Mike helped distribute the lanterns, he helped launch some of them on Jo Pond. “I met two sisters who were very emotional. It was gratifying just to be helpful and welcoming. It meant a lot to them, but also to me.” He added that watching the beautifully lit lanterns—gliding along the pond at sunset—was very moving.
Although each of Lakewood’s new Welcome Team members enjoyed different aspects of their volunteer roles, they are all united in looking forward to new experiences and opportunities when they volunteer again this year.
Join the Welcome Team
Visit the Volunteer page, if you’d like to join the Welcome Team or learn more about our program.
The Heritage Foundation proudly supports Lakewood’s Welcome Team
Lakewood’s volunteer program is supported by the Lakewood Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created to sustain Lakewood by supporting educational programming and the preservation and restoration of Lakewood’s landscape, art, architecture and public spaces—for the benefit of all.