OC Community Resources
Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House & Gardens
Since the opening of Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House & Gardens as an Orange County Park in 1992, Beth Newell has been an active volunteer, docent, caretaker and all-around champion of the site. In addition to leading tours of the historic home for more than 20 years, Beth goes above and beyond her docent duties to serve as the site’s volunteer coordinator. For nearly a decade, she has scheduled docents for each public tour and special event held at Arden, ensuring that this national historic landmark is open to the public and staffed with knowledgeable docents ready to share the site’s history.
With a staff pool stretched between OC Parks’ seven historic parks, Beth’s ability to schedule docents for each tour relieves park staff of a time-consuming task while helping to fulfill the goal of educating the public about the incredible life of Helena Modjeska and her time spent in Orange County. Without Beth’s commitment, it is very plausible that OC Parks would not be able to staff the twice weekly public tours currently offered.
Beth’s dedication to Arden extends far beyond her tireless work as both a docent and volunteer coordinator. In many ways, she is the glue that helps hold Arden’s docent organization, the “Friends of Arden,” together. Beth organizes monthly docent meetings, each with an education component so current docents can continue to learn about the site and enhance their tours. She writes a monthly docent newsletter chock full of historical tidbits and stories about Helena Modjeska and compiles topics that require more research.
Above all, Beth acts as both an ambassador and guardian of Arden. Local to Modjeska Canyon, she and her husband, Bruce, who serves as a senior reserve officer with the Modjeska Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, help ensure the safety of the historic site by providing staff with fire prevention strategies and keeping watch in the event of inclement weather or fires that are common in the Canyon area.
A recent event may best sum up the extraordinary impact that Beth has made at Arden and why she deserves to be honored for her outstanding contributions to the site. With the increased availability of public tours offered at Arden, park staff recognized the need to recruit more docents to assist current docents. Immediately, Beth jumped in to help coordinate a docent recruitment program at the park. She organized Arden’s volunteer team to work the event and provide potluck items, and in the weeks leading up to the gathering, Beth campaigned throughout the Canyon to garner local support. Her enthusiasm is always evident and thanks to her active promotion of the site, two-thirds of the participants in the docent recruitment event were local to Modjeska Canyon. Five of those local participants are now enrolled in the OC Parks Volunteer Training Program and are ready to become active Arden docents. As one docent noted recently, “You can’t say no to Beth!”
Thank you and congratulations to Beth Newell, recipient of the 2015 Excellence in Volunteerism Award!
Click here to find out how you can volunteer with OC Parks.
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