With her warm smile and welcoming attitude, Mardie Heller has a rare ability to put people at ease from the moment they meet her.
Mardie, a life-long Southern California resident, was born and raised in San Diego before making Whittier her home. However, her desire to be closer to her grandchildren brought Mardie and her husband to Redondo Beach, where for the past two and a half years they’ve rented a second home.
Having volunteered for over 30 years with the Girl Scouts of the USA and her church, Mardie is no stranger to donating her time and effort to organizations she believes in. Mardie explained, “It’s great to be with people enjoying the same thing. It’s fun!” So when her ten-year-old grandson came home from school one day talking about “the garden ladies,” Mardie’s interest was piqued. She asked her daughter about it, and it took off from there.
The Beach Cities Health District Garden Angels program is a perfect fit for Mardie. As a natural organizer, she loves being a caretaker for all of the different elementary school gardens. “The people I’ve met are great friends and that’s all part of it. Why would you not want to be outside?” exclaimed Mardie. As a Garden Angel, Mardie volunteers up to three times per week and spends a large part of her time weeding, trimming, planting and organizing. She especially enjoys seeing which crops grow well in the gardens. With a fixed smile, she described this year’s harvest of tomatoes, squash, arugula and basil.
Garden Angel Coordinator, Mishell Balzer, explains, “Mardie is a true pleasure to work with because she always has a great attitude about everything and is supportive of others. We can always depend on her to show up and do her share and then some.” Patty Bevis, the Garden Angel volunteer coordinator adds, “Our gardens and our group are much better having Mardie on our team. There isn’t a gardening task that she doesn’t cheerfully accept and it is clear she does it with joy.”
Although Mardie is set to return home to Whittier permanently, she remains committed to Garden Angels and plans to return weekly. Her advice to those thinking about volunteering is to just do it. “After all,” explains Mardie, “You live longer when you volunteer!”
Written with thanks to Christina Parisi