Master Gardener volunteer Charlie Reynolds Stand by Vegetables growing at Avon Park Elementary school.

Ode to a Volunteer

As a volunteer Master Gardener, Charlie Reynolds wrote a weekly article for our local paper, called Growing Pains. Like everything he did, it was a labor of love. During his time as a Master Gardener volunteer he wrote at least 80 horticulture related articles. He wrote with humor as if he were having a conversation with each reader. When you read them he might as well been spinning a tale in your own living room.
Charlie was retired Navy as a Senior Chief Petty Officer before his life as a Master Gardener volunteer. He proudly kept a Navy tag on the front of his truck and those that knew him, understood how deeply patriotic he was. Occasionally that gruff sailor would surface but rarely in an unkind way.
Charlie was a Highlands County Master Gardener volunteer for 13 years. Before that he was a Michigan Master Gardener and worked at the University’s Botanical Garden. He also earned a two year degree in horticulture from South Florida State College.
In the five years that I worked with Charlie, he never told me no when I asked for help. He never waited for me to give him directions on what to do either. He jumped in when a local Housing Authority needed help with their community garden. He visited that garden weekly and worked with the tenants. He started his Dream Chaser’s 4-H club before I even caught wind of the idea. His 4-H club was comprised of underprivileged kids from that same housing development’s community garden.
Group of Community Garden participants pose with Charlie

Charlie poses with the transitional housing residents, some of his Dream Chaser 4-H club and other volunteers at the Housing Authorities Community Garden.

Charlie struck up a friendship with Tommy Sauls, who was in charge of the Avon Park Correctional Institution’s Ornamental Plant Nursery. Together they forged a path for the inmates to be trained in FNGLA (Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association) certification and Agriculture pesticide applicator training. He drove 30 miles each way once a week for nearly two years. He proudly spoke of his students as “My Boys”. The program gives inmates an opportunity to take a trade and knowledge with them as they left the prison system.  Two of his first students now work in Florida’s Agriculture industry.
When Cindy Marshall of the Ridge Area ARC Aktion Club called, an organization serving and advocating for individuals with developmental and other disabilities in Avon Park Florida, Charlie went to work. He taught them about vegetable gardening and helped them set up the raised beds for their gardens. One of the raised beds at their garden has a plaque with his name thanking him.
Charlie receiving Florida Master Gardener volunteer of the Year award

Charlie receives the 2017/2018 Florida Master Gardener of the year award from Michael Dukes of UF/IFAS’s Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology

Once a month, Charlie spent an hour on the Barry Foster Show giving homeowners’ advice on taking care of their plants and growing gardens. The arm of his knowledge stretched out into the community and his knowledge was multiplied by those that learned from him. As quick as he was done with one project, he was off helping somewhere else. Whether it was planting school gardens, where he was known as Mister Charlie, or fixing an irrigation pipe at the Boys and Girls Club he was always busy.  When he wasn’t forging new paths in our community he was helping me with any help on projects I needed. Behind him, he left a trail of trained Master Gardener volunteers. Temikia, from the Housing Authority Community Garden, Tommy from the Correctional Institution, and Cindy at the Ridge Area Arc Aktion Club. When he earned State Master Gardener of the year in 2017 it was no surprise to me; I just wondered how it took so long.  The next Monday he was back at work volunteering. That was just Charlie.
Charles V. Reynolds passed away Sunday, June 3rd. He was swept away by a sudden illness much too soon.  As a Master Gardener, friend and volunteer; Charlie left an impression on those of us fortunate enough to know him.  He will be dearly missed.
Their will be a Celebration of Life for Charlie at the Avon Park Correctional Institute Nursery on June 21st at 11 am. For information on attending please email me at davidaustin@ufl.edu

 

 

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