Voices of Volunteerism: Karen Bergstrand

5, Mar, 2020

Written by Isabel Smith, Volunteer Programs Coordinator 

As a non profit, the Greenway Conservancy depends on the efforts of our many talented volunteers, both in the park and in the office. It is their dedication to The Greenway that makes it possible for us to have such a dynamic public space. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Bergstrand

Karen is the definition of someone with  a “Green Thumb”. As one of our Zone Volunteers she is out in the park (at least) one day a week tending to plants on The Greenway. Karen came to Boston from Chicago in 1978 and is now a proud resident of Jamaica Plain. Karen’s first introduction to The Greenway came by watching the progress of the infamous “Big Dig ” through her office window at One Financial Center.  Before it’s completion Karen left her job in IT and followed her passion for plants to Russell’s Garden Center. 

Volunteering is an important aspect of  Karen’s life. Although we would hardly call JP the burbs’, she says that coming into the city every week keeps her tapped into the Boston scene, and allows her to express her passion for plants in the community she loves. One of the other aspects of volunteering that keeps Karen coming back is the community of volunteers she works alongside. In fact, it was Bonnie, a long time Conservancy volunteer, who met and “recruited ” Karen when they were introduced at the  Isabella Gardner Stewart Museum. When Karen started gardening along The Greenway it was love at first sight, a place where she could be active, in the middle of the city and utilize her love and talents for horticulture! 

As a Zone Volunteer, you pick one neighborhood of the park to really focus on and take some owness over. Karen is enamoured with Chin Park on The Greenway in Chinatown. “I love Chin Park because it is completely different than the rest of the park. It is a community, working there you get to know some of the people who are there every day, the plants that come back to bloom every season, and where the best coffee shops are”.  She loves the routine of being a dedicated Zone Volunteer, the familiar places and faces and for her, that makes all the difference.  

When she is not working in Chin Park, Karen helps out at our Demonstration Garden on Dewey Square, which grows organic produce for Loving Spoonfuls, a local nonprofit. This year one of Karen’s major achievements was the absolutely massive cucumbers that she grew with the seasonal staff this past summer. If there was a local country fair, these cucumbers could have easily been ribbon winners. “It was so rewarding to not only take part in growing food, but also being able to help those in need!”


Karen loves being in the city, she enjoys being able to walk everywhere and going to the great restaurants of the North End, her advice for best sandwiches goes to Salumeria Italiana shop, and if your in Chinatown the soup dumplings at Gourmet Dumpling House are a must. 

Karen is dedicated to her volunteer work on The Greenway; her advice to others who are considering volunteerism is “don’t overthink it” and start small.  If you see something you think you’ll be interested in, just do it! You’ll be surprised at how passionate you become at giving back while doing something you love. 

Would you like to be a Horticultural volunteer with the Greenway, or learn more about volunteering with the Greenway Conservancy? Check out our website!