Volunteer Spotlight: Joel Avila

Volunteer Spotlight: Joel Avila

Weeds don’t stand a chance when Joel is on garden volunteer duty! He’s also a proven pumpkin checker! He carves out time in his busy work/husband/dad life to enjoy our beautiful gardens and finds a real sense of accomplishment after completing his tasks with our horticulture team. It is a great way to learn about our plant collection and what it takes to maintain our display gardens. One of the benefits of our volunteer program is that everyone can select assignments based on their interests and what works with their schedule. Thank you Joel for supporting Cheekwood!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I moved to the Nashville area in 2018 after growing up outside Memphis and then living on Chicago’s South and West Sides for 15 years. My family and I now live in Franklin and we love all the wonderful year-round hiking, biking, and various other outdoors activities that one can enjoy in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been in healthcare consulting for most of my career, and I’ve recently taken a Healthcare Manager position in the consulting division of PwC.

What are your favorite hobbies, activities, or interests?

I love hanging out with my kids outside. Usually this means working in the garden or yard or walking through the trails of Percy Warner Park. I also love sports and music of all sorts, and I love reading old classics, fiction and nonfiction.

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

I love the Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden. And I’m not just saying that because my kids love it. I love it all on my own! I’m so glad my kids and the kids of Cheekwood Members and guests more broadly have a place where they can explore some of the wonder and beauty of nature.

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

It’s probably the observation room in the art gallery on the third floor of the Historic Mansion & Museum. From there you can see downtown and the surrounding countryside. I consider it to be architectural art of the highest caliber.

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?

Chihuly at Cheekwood was a pretty spectacular exhibition. I also really like the outdoor sculptures on The Carell Trail, especially James Turrell’s Blue Pesher. I don’t know much at all about modern sculpture, but I am pretty amazed at the ways in which Chihuly and Turrell use color, shape, and space so dramatically.

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

So far I’ve volunteered only in the gardens. I’ve done most of my work in the Bradford Robertson Color Garden, which is fun because there’s always something new to do.

Why did you become a volunteer?

I love getting to participate in cultivating and preserving Cheekwood’s natural beauty. I spend a lot of time in my home garden, but my space is pretty small. I’m also a fervent believer in Cheekwood’s mission, vision, and values, so the opportunity to become part of its mission is pretty rewarding.

What have you enjoyed the most about your volunteer experience? 

I just love the work. It’s dirty, sweaty, and energy-intensive. But the payoff is an even greater experience of the health and beauty of the trees, shrubs, flowers, and lawns.

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

At my most recent volunteer experience I checked pumpkins in the pumpkin patches and removed any rotten ones. It was quite stinky!

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

Just do it! You won’t regret it!


Are you interested in volunteering at Cheekwood? We need volunteers for our El Día de los Muertos celebration on October 30 & 31. Click here to learn more!


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