This weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Columbus’ esteemed Park of Roses. While visiting, I got to learn a bit of history about one of the city’s most celebrated landmarks. The Park of Roses, previously known as Whetstone Park, has been a geographic and community staple of Columbus since 1944. The fertile land was initially used by local residents to grow victory gardens during World War II. After the war ended and Americans recovered, the needs and interests of the Columbus community changed, and the park adapted accordingly. In 1952, the American Rose Society decided to move from Pennsylvania to Columbus. A more central location as well as close access and partnership with The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture appealed to the society, and thus, Columbus was the obvious choice for the American Rose Society’s new home.
Due to harsh Ohio winters, the American Rose society moved further south in the late 1960’s. However, that did not stop the Park of Roses from remaining a Columbus community fixture. The park became an experimentation area for “heritage roses” or naturally occurring roses that had fallen endangered since the commercialization of roses. The exploratory efforts sparked a new interest in gardening in the public, and soon Columbus citizens from all different backgrounds we coming together to garden as a community.
40 years later, the Park of Roses recognized our community’s newest issues concerning environmental sustainability and, once again, responded accordingly. An Earth-Kind garden was implemented so that gardeners and agriculturists could explore ways to restore roses’ natural cultivation processes to help them survive the changing weather with little maintenance.
So, what does this mean to me, a young professional exploring the non-profit sector? Why do I care so much about the 70-year story of a rose garden? To me, the history of the Park of Roses is largely about identifying needs in your community and adapting to meet those needs. In 1944, we needed victory gardens to support ourselves while the majority of our countries resources were being shipped overseas. Today, as climate change becomes increasingly concerning, we need to innovate ways to work with nature rather than against it. The Park of Roses is just one of Columbus’ attractions that aims to do more than provide a pleasant service; it consistently and impactfully responds to the needs of its own community.
I think that may be one of the biggest transformations I’ve made over the summer. Ten weeks ago, when I asked why I want to explore the non-profit professional sector, I would probably have given a vague description about wanting to help people and “do good.” While this is a good mindset, it’s a pretty weak goal. Watching successful non-profits and public services in action has made me realize I want to do more than simply “help out;” I want to have a significant hand in impacting and sustaining a community in which I want to live. I want to respond to the needs of my community and move it forward. I want to be a major player in a community that adapts and grows as needs and interests change. This type of leadership and initiative seems to be more often associated with high-level business executives, but why is that? Why is shaping a corporation called leadership when shaping and supporting an entire community is shrugged off as “helping out”? I realize now that working in the non-profit sector is much more than glorified volunteering – it means being a leader, an innovator, and a catalyst for positive change in the world you live in.