Judith Deel smiled, her eyes lighting up as children screamed and jumped up and down with excitement because they found a spider in a pile of leaves at Runge Nature Center.
"I mean, how endearing is that?" she said.
Deel began volunteering at Runge five years ago when she was an active participant in its since-retired Nature's Needlers program, making nature-themed quilts. It was there that she found out about the volunteer program.
"I said, 'Well, I'll go for it,' and it's just been so much fun," she said.
When she was first accepted as a volunteer, she knew she would enjoy it. But she didn't realize just how much.
"It's such a wonderful place," she said. "It really has a family feel out here. We've got such a diversity of volunteers. It feels like good friends, almost family."
Starting her volunteer work with coordinating the Nature's Needlers program, she is now involved in many programs, including archery, native plant gardening, maintaining the formal garden, tracking monarch butterflies and participating in a variety of events where she enjoys seeing children get excited about nature.
"So much of the programming here is focused on the kids, and it's so much fun to work with them and see their excitement," Deel said.
She has always had an interest in nature and archery. She did archery in college but never made time for it after graduating. It has been a joy to pick it back up again, she said.
"It's been so much fun," she said. "I surprised myself because I am actually apparently fairly decent, at least with the compound bow."
Deel spent 38 years working at the State Historic Preservation Office, where she spent the majority of her time sitting in an office having tense discussions on the phone.
Now she enjoys being outdoors, learning and teaching about nature and doing fun physical activities.
"Now that I'm retired, I have all this time, and just the opportunity to volunteer here is amazing," she said.
She said she loves all the opportunities Runge provides and the wealth of knowledge it brings her.
"It's an opportunity to expand my mind and learn so much more about those topics that I have been interested in -- the native plants, the butterflies, the insects, and the physical skills and the opportunity to pick up archery again," she said.
She also enjoys the companionship it provides.
At Runge, the volunteers have lots of freedom and opportunities, with staff members encouraging the volunteers to create programs, such as the native garden. Deel said she loves being able to be creative and develop programs with her colleagues.
"It's an all-around good time with plenty of challenge to it," she said. "The staff can't say thank you enough, it seems, and from our viewpoint, we almost can't say thank you enough to them for the opportunities."