Giving back, gaining gratitude

Mar 16, 2017

On a brisk morning outside Schaumburg Park District’s Spring Valley Nature Center, Lynn Eikenbary was busy filling birdfeeders.

“I do a little bit of everything around here,” said Eikenbary, a retired physical education teacher turned Schaumburg Park District volunteer. “There’s so much you can learn from giving your time to others.”

Whether helping out with special events, working as historic interpreters at Volkening Heritage Farm, mentoring youth or promoting conservation efforts at the Nature Center—volunteerism touches nearly every facet of what the District offers the public.

 “Volunteers are essential to Schaumburg Park District,” said Kathleen Benson, general program supervisor. “Without them, we would not be able to make such a positive impact at our events and programs.”

Through the District’s ParkFun Volunteer Club, participants earn points toward fitness passes, rounds of golf, merchandise, massage packages and other prizes.  

“I love seeing all the children,” said Norina Waugh, who was serving food recently at the Schaumburg Park District’s Dad & Daughter Fairy Princess Dance. “My favorite thing is just being out and about interacting with the public.”

In addition to pitching in at special events, volunteers feed livestock at Heritage Farm, help with early childhood programs and contribute to cultural arts and sports activities. Eikenbary received specialized training to assist with prairie burns at the Nature Center. She also helps sew handicrafts for the Nature Center’s Holiday Bazaar and teaches children during field trips to Spring Valley through the Mighty Acorns program.

“I’ve had students say ‘This is the best field trip I’ve ever had,’” Eikenbary said. “It’s wonderful. You get a sense of gratitude from being able to go out and do these things for such a great cause.”

Spring Valley likely wouldn’t exist as it is today without the hours of time donated by local residents, said Judy Vito, volunteer coordinator for Spring Valley. It was volunteers who raised the historic barn and restored the prairie to create the natural areas and trails enjoyed by the public.

“It’s amazing,” Vito said. “We have volunteers ranging in age from 14 to 80 plus. Everyone has a common bond in their love of nature and history.”

Burke MacDonald became involved with Schaumburg Heartbeat in 2000 after seeing signs posted throughout the District looking for volunteers to shoot video footage and host segments. The monthly news digest show for local seniors covers recreation opportunities, health topics, community resources and human interest stories.

“My hope for Heartbeat is to help seniors in the community by providing useful information,” said MacDonald, who recently produced a segment on amplified phones provided through Schaumburg Township. “That’s our goal.”

A cycling enthusiast, MacDonald also volunteers at a local food pantry and assists with the Fahrrad Tour Von Schaumburg Bike Ride & Picnic, an annual spring event sponsored by the Village of Schaumburg and Amita Health.

“It makes me feel good that we’re doing something to get families together and help them stay active,” said MacDonald, a retired high school guidance counselor who moved to Schaumburg with his family in 1970. “There’s a lot of lifting and running around when I’m working on the show and at the food pantry, so I get plenty of exercise.”

For Eikenbary, volunteerism for the Schaumburg Park District is about more than serving her community. It’s a way to give something back to a passion that has sustained her mind, body and spirit most of her life.

“Nature has always been a part of me,” Eikenbary said. “Spring Valley is Schaumburg’s sanctuary and a place where people can recharge.”

For more information, call Kathleen Benson at (847) 985-2141, Judy Vito at (847) 985-2100 or visit 

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