Judy Brooks-Levar, Wehr’s bundle of energy

It’s hard to imagine a time before Judy Brooks-Levar volunteered at Wehr. For 24 years, Judy has been a ray of sunshine to all she encounters at Wehr. Judy came to Wehr with a background in special education. She continues to share her enthusiasm for children of all ages by conveying her love and knowledge of the natural world with the hundreds of schoolchildren who visit Wehr each year. Judy shared some thoughts about volunteering at Wehr and those she has built relationships with at Wehr with Wehr volunteer coordinator, Mary Gaub on February 6, 2024.

Getting Started at Wehr

How did you get started volunteering at Wehr?
“… it would have been around 2000. I walked at Wehr a lot. …I saw John Jubeck (a Wehr volunteer) taking kids out on a hike when I was hiking, and I thought…ohh! I can do that! The first thing I did as a volunteer was Maple Sugar Days since it was that time of year that I got interested. I helped with the boil-down. I started taking volunteer teaching training right off the bat.” You can see Judy in action in this 2010 video https://youtu.be/6gM-Uj2l6jQ?si=T23A8mK8hmTnGzc3) of our Maple Sugar program.

A Family Affair

Judy and husband Frank gutting pumpkins in 2004.

Volunteering at Wehr has been a family affair. What other members of your family have volunteered?
“Oh, Megan and Brooke (granddaughters) were characters at Halloween, and their brother, Dan, was a spotlighter for them. Megan still volunteers at Halloween. She started out as a little lost pumpkin.” Cheryl (Judy’s daughter) volunteers sometimes in the food areas at special events. “Frank (Judy’s husband) used to drive people from the golf course parking lot when we had to park there for so many of the events. Oh, and his thing was carving the pumpkins. He loved doing that.”

A Reason to Volunteer

You have been here 24 years. What keeps you coming back?
“For the friendship. And I feel loved. I feel appreciated. I feel wanted. I feel useful. You know, and I’m outside doing something helpful for the planet. So, all those reasons.”

Advice for New Volunteers

What advice would you have for new volunteers just starting at Wehr?
“Just sign up for things that are fun for you. Don’t ever sign up for something because you think you should. My advice would be to go out with a variety of people as you are learning. Don’t just shadow the same person.”

Stories from 24 Years of Volunteering at Wehr

Sharing a Love for Wehr’s Land

I love to see the seasons change at Wehr. I like August and September best when the prairie flowers are out, and the weather is always nice.  Even if it’s buggy…I just think the flowers are amazing! And I find it just fascinating how you can walk the same trails in the late summer and they feel like I could almost get lost in them because the plants are so high and I’m so short. 

Cabin Chores at Prairie Day Adventures

I helped out at Prairie Day Adventures in the mid-2000s. I helped the school marm in the schoolhouse.  And I helped with chores too. I was with Debbie McRae teaching the children how to break beans and prepare them for cooking. I had a different point of view of how you should break beans. I had read many years ago that the little pointy part on the end of the bean where the flower was was where all the nutrients were. So, I never broke that off, but I did break off the stem end. Debbie told me that I had to break off both ends. “You need to do it like this,” she told me. But I didn’t! I also helped in the Prairie Preschool area. I have a story about that too. There was this little guy. This little guy cried the whole time. He wasn’t having a good time. He didn’t want to be there. He just didn’t want to do anything. Finally, at the activity where we were at the “pretend” fishing pond in the building, it was his turn to fish. He loved the fishing! Bev and I looked at each other and said, “He can fish all he wants. He’s not going to have to do anything else, because he is having fun, and he’s not crying.”

Trapped in School!

I helped with Nature in the Parks and Outreach also. I was with Brooke in a school. To get to the room we were in you had to walk through a lot of classes.  It was a little bit of a disruption. When we were finished, Brooke said we could go out this other way, because she said she had done it the day before when she had been there.  It was out through a closet and then you went out through another door. So, we went into the closet and sadly, the door closed behind us and locked, and the door to the outside was also locked, probably from the outside. So there we were, wondering how long it would be before somebody missed us. And then Brooke, being Brooke started pounding on the wall adjacent to the classroom that we were trying not to interrupt and screaming “Help! Help! Help! Somebody help us! Someone get us out!” And they did come let us out.

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