Dona Brandle-Boylan has been a sailboat charter captain and racer in the Caribbean, a pilot, a cake decorator, a sailmaker, a residential construction contractor, and presently serves as a teacher aide at Pearl Creek Elementary. She’s also a volunteer at the Georgeson Botanical Garden, where she helps at nearly every event as well as gardening in the Native Wetlands area. “I like facilitating others’ success,” she explains.
Dona first came to the Garden in 2000 as a newcomer to Fairbanks, part of an ever-northern migration that took her from the Virgin Islands to Michigan before placing her in an Ester house and, since 2012, in a dry cabin. Back then, her two children were in the 1st and 3rd grade, and the Garden was a perfect place to take them. “I like to learn and teach, so it was a natural place to come. Everything about it was perfect.” In addition to being beautiful and relaxing, the Georgeson Botanical Garden also served as a replacement of Dona’s own garden that she lost in the move, and gave her an outlet to share her values of learning to grow her own food.
A few years ago, Dona started working with fellow volunteer Leslie Teders to beautify the Garden’s Native Wetlands area. With her background in construction, the area’s rocks provided a great outlet. “I know very little about arctic horticulture,” says Dona, but “I have knowledge and skills I enjoy sharing, and I know how to get things done.” Soon, Dona learned about the various events held at the Garden – mostly Music in the Garden and the annual fundraiser Wine & Peonies. “I live for Wine & Peonies now!” As a wine server at that event, she’s taken the same industrious-yet-friendly approach to an even wider audience.
“I believe in giving back: if I’m using services, I should pay in some way. I have more time than finances, so that’s a way for me to contribute.” Dona has indeed contributed, and her skills, time, and smile are practically a fixture of the Garden in the summertime. Of course, she does not limit herself to the Georgeson Botanical Garden – Dona was also chosen as the 2018 Spirit of KUAC award recipient, where she’s given a new life to the radio station’s Kids Club mascot Kitt. We’re lucky to have Dona here in the Garden, and we look forward to seeing how she’ll spend her time with us in 2019!