Daniel Peacock of Palm Harbor volunteers at Heritage Village in Largo, where he helped to create a sensory garden for visitors.
LARGO – Anyone visiting Heritage Village in Largo on a Friday more than likely will run into Daniel Peacock. The 20-year-old from Palm Harbor has been working at the village as a volunteer since he was 12 years old.
At that time he was a junior docent, which involves giving tours of the village, explaining to visitors about the unique history each of the 28 buildings has to offer.
Peacock says he’s always had a love of history so it was only natural that he would enjoy spending time at Heritage Village. Eventually he started doing other things at the village, including maintenance, clean up, as well as opening and closing the buildings.
Nestled amongst the pines and palmettos at the village, between the House of Seven Gables and the beach cottage, is a gazebo. Originally surrounding the gazebo was what was known as a Garden for the Blind, featuring aromatic plants and herbs. When Peacock noticed the garden was becoming overgrown and in need of repair he asked his supervisor at the village, Paige Noel, if he could work on improving the garden.
Noel, a living history interpreter and volunteer site coordinator, readily agreed. “He’s one of our favorite volunteers and he’s done a number of special projects because he loves Heritage Village so much,” said Noel. “When he came to us and asked about the refurbishing of the circle of the senses we got behind him very quickly. He organized the volunteers to come together and he inspires people to help.”
It is his dedication that led the Pinellas County VIP program to name him Youth Volunteer of the Year.
The garden has now evolved into what is now known as a sensory garden, which allows people with sight impairments to be able to fully enjoy the garden once more. Aromatic plants, such as rosemary, a perennial herb noted for its fragrant needle-like leaves, fill the garden. There is also the Zamia furfuracea, better known as cardboard plant because it feels just like cardboard.
Peacock said they “still have a couple of more plants to plant in the fall and another volunteer is working on getting signs written in braille finished and installed, but the garden is pretty much finished.” The original brick pavers, which had become uneven and damaged over time, were replaced with flexible paving material that makes the pathway more ADA accessible.
Such an undertaking isn’t just the work of one or two people though. Peacock was able to enlist fellow classmates at the Richard L. Saunders special education school to go out and spend a day cleaning up and preparing the garden. And of course there were several local Master Gardeners from the Pinellas County Extension and members of the Largo Garden Club who were instrumental in selecting and planting the plants. Navy recruiters also helped clear the land around the garden and Johnson Controls helped with installing the mulch.
Volunteering at Heritage Village is just one of many activities that Peacock enjoys doing. He also was instrumental in organizing a group of people to repair a playground in Palm Harbor that had seen better days. Through his efforts they were able to clean and fix up the park and make it enjoyable once more for the local children. In 2006, he began mountain bike racing and the following year he became a tri-athlete, which involves a 10-mile bike ride, a half-mile swim as well as a 4-mile run.
“I swim, bike and run every day and have also done volleyball in the Special Olympics,” Peacock said with a big smile. Other interests include playing the guitar and working with Lego bricks.
As for the future, Peacock said he “would still like to continue to volunteer at Heritage Village and get a job at a preschool and become an assistant teacher.” Friends have asked him about volunteering and through his encouragement have since become volunteers themselves. He believes that people, no matter what their interests are, should volunteer to help – somewhere.
Pinellas County volunteers can expect to make a difference in the life of their community, while exploring interests, sharing knowledge, assisting others and making friends. For more information, visit www.pinellascounty.org/volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 464-VIPS (8477). This article was provided by Pinellas County Communications.