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Volunteer Spotlight

Posted on: January 26, 2024

Retired Food Scientist volunteers her time and skills at Arboretum

Retired Food Scientist volunteers her time and skills at Arboretum

Pat Waletzko was born and raised on a farm in outstate Minnesota.

From 1987–2004, Pat fulfilled one of her own dreams to have her own horse farm in Watertown, Minnesota. She raised 6 foals to maturity to successfully compete in many horse shows. In 2004, an accident resulted in losing her left leg. She relocated to the Twin Cities, but she missed country life.

Volunteer Pat Waletzko helps youngsters at Harriet Alexander Nature Center.“I still have farming in my blood,” Pat said.

Pat found a way to reconnect with her roots and help a new generation learn about the joy of growing their own food as a volunteer at the City of Roseville’s Muriel Sahlin Arboretum and community orchard.

Each Wednesday throughout the growing season, she and fellow members of the Arboretum Green Team help prepare the soil, plant, weed, water, and harvest in the fall. 

“I like digging in the dirt. It was one of the highlights of my summer,” said Pat, rattling off the list of produce harvested this year. “There were apples, strawberries, raspberries, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and herbs.” 

The community orchard is a demonstration classroom, largely tended by volunteers, where children and adults attend programs and learn about gardening and healthy cooking. While Pat shies away from taking center stage at activities, she brings some expertise to the volunteer crew. Pat has a degree in biology from the University of Minnesota and was a food scientist for many years, working for Green Giant and at the university on a project for NASA. 

Volunteers work at the Muriel Sahlin Arboretum.“It’s been a pleasure to have Pat join our volunteer team,” said Patti Sullivan, the city staffer who oversees the day-to-day operations at the Arboretum.

“Her past professional gardening experience certainly is a benefit, but her motivation and positive attitude is really something special. In addition to the numerous gardening tasks, she has helped mentor the children in our summer gardening programs. You can tell by the smile on her face just how much joy she gets out of her time at the arboretum. We are fortunate to have her as a Roseville volunteer.”

Pat also volunteers at annual family events including the Wild Rice Festival, Halloween Spooktacular, Cookies & Cocoa with Kris Kringle, Holiday Craft Fair, and It’s Tapping Time. 

“The programs are well run and managed. The staff are wonderful. So are the other volunteers,” Pat said. “They always make sure I have a place to park, so I can take apart my wheel chair. They are very accommodating.” 

Pat Waletzko smiles for a picture while volunteering at the arboretum.In addition to volunteering, Pat enjoys canning pickles. She is working on getting her cottage food license so she can sell her pickles. She also enjoys gardening at her niece's Roseville house.  

She’s also recently rediscovered sports. As a young woman, she loved adventure including remote backpacking in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Tetons, and Utah. Her most adventuresome trip was whitewater rafting on the Colorado River through 220 miles of the Grand Canyon. She also has run two (26.2 mile) marathons.  

Last summer, she attended the largest national wheelchair sports camp in the country outside of Rochester, Minn. Pat waterskied; played softball and soccer; tried archery and trap shooting. She recalls a fellow camper even called her an adrenaline junkie. 

“I said, ‘Thanks for the compliment,’” Pat recalled. “I felt like I had my two legs back and I was 25 years old again. I was the oldest person there. On the last night I was named most valuable player.” 

Pat said she’ll be back at sports camp and as a member of the Green Team in 2024. 

“I just love it. I look forward to it.”

Click here to learn more about Roseville Volunteer Opportunities.

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