Volunteer Spotlight: Carolyn and John Chosay - Cheekwood
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Carolyn and John enjoy the outdoors, and they share that enthusiasm with us by participating in so many of our events and activities! Classic Car Show, 250K Tree Day, community outreach, our LIGHT: Bruce Munro nights, concerts, Art Hop, gardening, Fall events, Holiday Lights and projects…you name it! John and Carolyn are warm and welcoming, and always heed the call if we need extra help! They volunteer as a couple, but sometimes choose individual opportunities…we offer a nice range of assignments that appeal to different interests.

Tell us a little about yourself, background, former profession, etc.

John: I'm originally from a small town in Michigan. My wife and I met in Kalamazoo Michigan and had four children which have blessed us with 9 grandchildren that range from 10 to 18 years old. After I retired, we came to Tennessee to help one of our daughters. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years ending my career working for Pfizer. From there I went to work for Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri which is now Bayer as a “gene jockey “(that is someone that puts new genetic information into plants for GMO).
Carolyn: As my husband stated, we are both from Michigan. We lived in Kalamazoo, then moved to Ann Arbor, then to St. Louis, then to Virginia Beach, which finally brought up brought us to Tennessee. I have worked as an RN in each location. My main interest has always been obstetrics and related fields. I worked as a labor and delivery nurse, postpartum, education, and Neonatal intensive care, as well as surgical IVF.

What are your favorite hobbies, activities, or interests?

John: I enjoy being a hobby farmer and Beekeeping. I have a strong background in computers and biology where I try to keep up with new science developments.
Carolyn: I have been retired for three years. I now find myself riding my horse, kayaking, gardening, reading, and helping my husband with this busy farm.

What is your favorite garden or area at Cheekwood and Why?

John: This is a hard question to answer because there are so many beautiful gardens among the estate, I think I like the natural Trillium Garden the best because it's something that is truly natural.
Carolyn: There are so many beautiful spots at Cheekwood! I enjoy the Carell woodland and Sculpture trail. It’s beautiful and I enjoy a lovely walk in the woods. Although the flowers all throughout Cheekwood are always a joy!

What is your favorite room or area in the Historic Mansion & Museum, Frist Learning Center, or Botanic Hall? Why?

John: My favorite room within the estate is the museum section in the mansion. There's periodically different art that comes in which I always enjoy! These displays stimulate different ideas, the most recent one last year was the Adams exhibit. It was full of great sketchings with funny characters.
Carolyn: I enjoy the antiques throughout the mansion, but my favorite area is the art collection. It is so beautiful.

Do you have a favorite art piece at Cheekwood, or, if not, a favorite exhibition that Cheekwood has hosted? Is there a reason you like it?

John: For my favorite piece of art within the estate is the “crawling lady hare”. It's back along the trails and is just an interesting mixture of art and wildlife.
Carolyn: The only exhibition I have seen is the current Bruce Monroe exhibition. It's amazing what he has done with the lights to illuminate Cheekwood and create a wonderful experience.

In what ways have you been involved as a volunteer with Cheekwood so far?

John: I've been involved with a lot of the event activities. Some of the best ones are the Classic Cars, Christmas lights, Under the Star’s series, Bruce Monroe lights, and the Fall Festival where they have thousands of pumpkins. They had a gentleman that carved pumpkins faces that was just unbelievable.
Carolyn: We have been volunteering for two years. My husband and I have volunteered for a wide variety of events and enjoyed them all. Variety is the spice to volunteering at Cheekwood!

Why did you become a volunteer?

John: My wife and I both enjoy the gardens and we're looking for fun activities where we could meet new people and provide a service to the community. Cheekwood gave us an opportunity to do both.
Carolyn: After volunteering for holiday lights, which was our first visit to Cheekwood, I was taken in by Cheekwood's beauty and felt the draw to get more involved. It is fun to meet new people as well as have a variety of experiences while providing a service to the community.

What have you enjoyed the most about your volunteer experience?

John: My wife and I enjoy working together as a team and go to most events together. There seems to be multiple opportunities for us to do things together. This is a great thing. Not only did it allow us to help other people, but we were able to attend many of the events for free by helping during that day. Volunteering has exposed us to different events that I might not have gone to. By going there, I feel I've benefited from the excitement of the event and the opportunity to talk to new people.
Carolyn: I have enjoyed meeting other volunteers and the Cheekwood staff of varied ages and backgrounds, while experiencing different events. My husband and I volunteer together frequently, which is a fun time for us.

Is there a funny or inspirational story you can briefly tell about your volunteer experience?

John: At our very first ground service event we showed up not knowing where to go for sure and we're told we were going to help work in the gardens that day. Unbeknownst to us, The Rose Society was also working at Cheekwood, so we joined in and helped them. At the end of our shift, we found out that they were not associated with our work group that we were supposed to work for. We did learn about roses!!
Carolyn: I think my funniest was as my husband stated – working with the rose society. They asked us how we found out about them, and we kept saying “on the website” and got very quizzical looks!

Do you have any advice for individuals considering volunteering with Cheekwood?

John: Every task you get assigned will be different, just look around you when you're doing it, generally you'll be with others, and they will be doing the same task you're doing. It's a great way to meet people, start conversations, and learn new things.
Carolyn: My advice for others considering Cheekwood is “try it you'll love it! “. It is easy to volunteer because there are no minimum requirements. You can volunteer 4 hours a month a week or a day and at any type of event that interests you. It's fun, it's enjoyable, and you meet awesome people while spending time in a beautiful and interesting environment.

For more information about volunteering, contact us at [email protected].

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