Back to Nature: Visit and Volunteer at the Boxerwood Nature Center

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What do volunteering and spending time in nature have in common? They’re both good for your health!

Studies have found that volunteering could be a contributing factor to lower blood pressure and spending time in nature can lower stress and improve your overall happiness. Luckily, for Kendal at Lexington residents, there’s a way you can do both — and it’s right down the street.

The Boxerwood Nature Center, located across from Kendal’s property off Ross Road, is a 15-acre nature center and woodland garden. A few Kendal residents are regular volunteers at Boxerwood and spend some time each week tending the grounds, pruning trees and weeding gardens.

For Joe Skovira, volunteering at Boxerwood was practically second nature — pun intended! Before moving into Kendal just under a year and a half ago, Joe lived on 26 acres and frequently spent his time working in the woods. “When I moved, I missed that,” he says. “Somebody [at Kendal] mentioned Boxerwood, and I was able to pick up where I left off.”

Joe describes what he does at Boxerwood as “playing in the woods,” but in reality, it’s a little more official than that. He clears trails of debris and prunes back trees that have become overgrown. “You get to get out and get dirty,” he says. “It’s very satisfying work.”

Heather Marion also volunteers at Boxerwood — and has for the past eight years. As a master gardener, she is required to do at least 20 hours of volunteer work in nature, but she estimates she has logged thousands of hours in the 14 years since receiving her master gardener certification. “A lot of what I do is weed gardens or plant things,” Heather says. “I often just do what I see needs to be done — and there’s a lot. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

Plus, by working in nature through her volunteer time at Boxerwood, Heather has gotten to enjoy some of the de-stressing effects studies have found. “For me, sometimes when I go to Boxerwood, I’m working by myself and it’s a beautiful outdoor setting — well, I don’t have to go to a psychologist,” she explains. “I can just go there and have this wonderful experience every week.”

However, if digging in the dirt like Heather and “playing in the woods” like Joe isn’t your idea of a good time, there are other ways to volunteer. The executive director of Boxerwood, Catrien van Assendelft, says the nature center also uses volunteers to help lead some of the education programs they put on for local preschools and elementary schools.

“We train our volunteer educators and give them all the knowledge and skillset they need,” she says. “They really just need to love hanging out with kids and being outside with the kids in nature.”

Of course, if volunteering isn’t what you’re looking for, Boxerwood is still a great local Lexington attraction to visit. Just this past spring, they started a “walk and talk” series, offering short workshops on the weekends in the fall and spring. “They’re somewhat like a lecture series, but less of a lecture and more of an informal stroll through the garden to look at a particular topic, like seed saving or the importance of native plans,” Catrien explains. While the walks do require a bit of mobility, she says the total distance is usually less than half a mile and participants can bring portable chairs with them, if necessary.

Boxerwood also hosts “Music in the Garden” events throughout the summer, which Joe says he has attended before with his wife. A local band plays on the outdoor stage and visitors can bring picnics to enjoy the music. “It’s just a really great community event where people get together and socialize,” Catrien says.

Luckily, if you don’t want to wait for the weather to warm back up to get involved at Boxerwood, they do have a few upcoming indoor events that will still allow you to get back to nature. Visit their events page to learn more about the upcoming Gifts of Nature workshop and wreath-making workshop.

For anyone hesitant about either volunteering or attending an event at Boxerwood, Catrien says to just come and try it out. “Come explore and feel the magic of Boxerwood. It’s a beautiful place,” she says. However, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to go back again and again. “Everybody who has ever come here seems to fall in love with it. Come experience the place firsthand — and you might get hooked.”

To learn more about what Boxerwood has to offer, visit their website.

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