by Brenda Brown, Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated”
Recently, I sat down with a few of the Garden’s staff on the Operations Team. Talking with them gives me valuable perspective of how the recognition of their service can make an impact. The Operations Team is responsible for the daily tasks related to keeping the Garden facilities and programs functioning at their peak. The team is comprised of nine dedicated employees, I interviewed four: Danny Fleming, Orelia Tyler, Nemjru Stone and Jean Falls.
Visitor’s first impressions are important and a key indicator whether someone will visit again. Here at the Garden, the Operations Team is one of many teams working to make sure visitors are having a great experience. Danny Fleming’s title is Operations Coordinator, but that title does not begin to describe all he’s doing on a daily basis to keep the Garden in tip top shape. Danny impressed me as a quiet, behind-the-scenes type guy until a situation at the Garden requires him to be otherwise. Fleming has worked here 6 years. He knew the exact month and year he started. When I asked Danny to describe a typical day at the Garden he said, “Oh there is no such thing as a typical day here.” He explains as situations change the team has to make adjustments to make things work. Danny and his team don’t hesitate to think outside of the box when solving problems. Because of this, his team seeks his guidance for solutions to a problem and the solutions aren’t always conventional. Danny says he likes helping his team figure out what to do. The Operations Team is a part of every event, class, exhibit or concert at the Garden, he explained. When the doors open, someone from the Operations team is there to unlock them and at the end of each day someone from Operations locks them. “We’re the first to get here and the last to leave.”
I asked Danny what the word team means to him. He says a team is like a well-oiled machine with different parts all working together to accomplish what needs to get done. He says that there are always strategies and time limits but the goal of his team is to figure out how to offer the best they can to both the staff and Garden visitors. Sometimes what seems like a simple problem to fix, may not be simple at all. Danny says all the work is worthwhile when during events like GardenFest Grand Illumination, he sees a child tugging at his mom’s coat while telling her how pretty the lights are. The Operations Team puts up and takes down each of the 700,000 lights for Gardenfest.
Orelia Tyler is Housekeeping Team Leader and her attention to detail for the pristine conditions of the buildings and all their amenities is evident in her service to the Garden. Orelia has that “willing, ready and eager” attitude to go above and beyond to make sure that the Garden’s first impression on visitors is positive. When one enters the Robins Visitors Center everything is neat and tidy, polished and shiny, buffed and dusted and it is Orelia and other “Ops” team members who make it that way. The Garden buildings and classrooms are impressive in their own right, but they are kept in such good condition because of meticulous maintenance and attention provided by the Ops team. A car cannot not run properly without sufficient upkeep and oil changes and Oreila’s service might be described as oil running through the Garden’s engine. Orelia has been at the Garden for 5 years now and when I asked her for her most memorable moments she says it’s when visitors need her services and she is able to above and beyond to make sure that need is met. She says memorable moments are everyday when she is making visitors comfortable with lots of TLC. I asked her what her definition of a team is. She thought a little bit and said, “Serving each Garden employee and visitor to the best of my ability with the help of everyone on our team.” She does that and more. When she comes to take care of housekeeping needs, she’s connects with those around her making them feel special — like family.
Nemjru Stone is an Operations Assistant and has worked at the Garden for one year now. Nemjru is responsible for setting up rooms for classes, buffing floors, facilitating accommodations for events like weddings and many more tasks. He works with the team to make sure that visitors get the experience they expect. If there is a change in plans for a room layout or number of guests for events then Nemjru and the operations team shifts gears and make it happen. When immediate attention is needed to assure the success of an event, he and the Ops team jump in, like heroes to the rescue and workvery hard to make every event, class, exhibit or concert a good memory for visitors. Nemjru says some of his most memorable events are weddings. He says anything can happen and weather is unpredictable. Nemjru remembers wedding day events when thunder clouds are rolling in quickly and it’s pouring rain. Nemjru immediately starts bringing an outside wedding inside. If it stops raining, he shift gears again, wiping down hundreds of seats making the wedding outside again. He says, “It is all about making the people having the event happy regardless. If they tell me to move the event inside and then move it again, I’ll do what it takes to get it done.” Nemjru and the Ops team hoist tents for special events. He says it makes him feel good when he’s walking through the visitors lobby and someone comments about how beautiful the floors look or how great in smells. He says team means getting it done right and doing your job so others on the team can do theirs. He says being on the Operations Team requires lots of energy but he enjoys it.
Jean Falls is Housekeeping Assistant and she gives me further insight into how her job along with the other team members is critical to make the Garden a great place to visit. Jean has been serving in the Garden for 11 years now and she is shares maintenance responsibilities for 13 Garden buildings with Orelia and additional housekeeping team members. They keep their assigned buildings in tip top condition as well as making sure each room for classes and events specific to their buildings are opening on time and ready for visitors. I asked Jean to describe what it takes to serve at the Garden every day and she says, “You have to be a jack of all trades and the master of none.” I asked Jean to tell me about a memorable moment she’s had at the Garden. She remembered a child getting separated from a parent. Taking the child by hand, Jean gave reassurance to the child to find his mom. She stayed at the Robins Visitors Center until the child was re-united with his mom. Jean says the child looked up at her and said in a most genuine way, “Thank you, lady, for finding my mommy.” She said that was a great end to her day. Jean says a part of housekeeping efforts to support the Garden is to use “Green” products. She was referring to the Garden’s initiative to “Go Green” using products that clean well yet are safe for the environment. Other dedicated Ops team members are John Vance, Operations Assistant; Steve Fleming, Operations Assistant; Justin Brown Operations Assistant; Chitaqua Shaw Assistant Housekeeping; and Perry Clapper, Housekeeping Assistant.
An acrostic for TEAM can mean “Together Everyone Achieves More” and the Garden’s strength in offering quality programs in a beautiful setting with top-notch service is possible thanks to the Garden Operations Team. Thank you Ops Team for your continued service at the Garden.