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People--Jerry Wilkins and Cindy Sullivan

Guiding the Way

Have a question about downtown Portland, Oregon? Ask Jerry Wilkins, who has been leading convention groups on day tours of the city since 1995.

 Wilkins, who taught second-, sixth-, fifth- and eighth- graders for 20 years and was a library media specialist in a K–6 school for the last 10 years of his career, works for a convention event planner who schedules and designs day tours of Portland according to each group’s needs. Wilkins narrates (but doesn’t drive) a tour bus around Portland and local tourist attractions like the Columbia River Gorge.

“You get a little history and a little geology—a lot of scenery—little tidbits people wouldn’t normally pick up on their own,” Wilkins says of tours of the gorge, which usually lead through the Cascade Mountains. Occasionally, groups opt to leave the bus to hike through the gorge, Wilkins adds.

Wilkins also leads tours to the Portland Japanese Garden and the Portland Classical Chinese Garden, which he says are among the most interesting places to visit.

 Wilkins first became interested in leading tours as a volunteer at the Oregon Convention Center when he saw tours led by others. An event planning manager directed him to the preparation courses, which he took for the next few months to learn all he needed to work as a tour guide.

When he started, Wilkins led several tours a week for as many as five event planning groups. Now he works exclusively with one event planner, and leads tours several times a month, leaving him with plenty of time for his other volunteer positions with his local senior center, Ride Connection, the Portland Department of Transportation, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and Easter Seals.

—Erica Addison


Growing Great Gardens—and Kids!

Here’s a common scenario: parents struggling to get their children to clean their rooms and make their beds. Most wouldn’t even dare trying to convince their children to weed the garden. But Cindy Sullivan, a now-retired teacher of 32 years in Harrisburg and Waynesboro public schools in Pennsylvania, has no problem getting youngsters to get their hands dirty.

Almost 85 sixth-graders compete for two dozen spots in “Bloom It Up Mowrey,” a program Sullivan helped create in 2002 in which students perform a variety of garden tasks in order to beautify areas outside Mowrey Elementary School.

Sullivan retired from secondary school teaching in June 2008 and started teaching at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. But she missed the elementary-aged students and returned to help out with the thriving program.

Sullivan takes a hands-off approach: She’ll help students identify weeds, but it’s the kids who physically pull them out.

“The kids do all the work,” Sullivan says. “And it’s often not the top-notch students or the leaders. Most of the time, it’s the kids who don’t shine in other areas but love being outside and working with their hands.”

 In the fall, students often work up until the first snow flurries. They begin work again in the spring, planting seeds, watering and feeding the soil, creating new beds, and weeding, watering, and mulching.

“When school is out the first week in June, everything is in bloom,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan’s dedication and the surrounding community’s praise teach students the value of service at a young age.

“They are very pleased when parents or visitors to the building comment on how hard they work and compliment them on how great the grounds look because of their beautification project,” Sullivan says. “They learn community service.”

—Collin Berglund

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