OGDEN -- Mike Keyes has been beautifying the Ogden Temple grounds for almost 21 years now and loves every minute of it.
He only has one other part-time paid employee to work the grounds and all of the rest are volunteers. Keyes figures there are about 25 volunteers total and about eight to 10 volunteers a day working the gardens during the busy seasons of spring, summer and fall, totaling about 300 to 400 hours per month.
He doesn't really know what will happen with the grounds during or after the renovation, but hopes to be there to see it all through.
"My whole life has been spent in horticulture," Keyes said.
He grew up in Uintah and has always loved Utah flowers and learning new things about how to make them beautiful.
He knows all his volunteers feel just about the same way. He noted that many of the volunteers are master gardeners through the Utah State University Extension Service.
"I have no trouble getting volunteers," Keyes said.
Volunteers will often notify their bishop, who in turn gives the information to the temple recorder and passes it along to Keyes. He likes the fact that it goes through the proper channels. There are also lots of youth groups and even individual families that help out for one-day projects like plantings.
Kathy Johnson is starting her third year as a volunteer and looks forward to her service there.
"I have sure learned a lot," Johnson said of her service and getting to know the other volunteers.
Keyes also takes the volunteers on "field trips" so they can learn more about gardening and planting tips, which Johnson said has been very beneficial. She has been to Thanksgiving Point, a variety of nurseries and different temple grounds to get tips with other volunteers.
Both she and Keyes like the overall spirit while working the gardens.
"I love to see the excitement of those coming and going to the temple," Keyes said. "There is so much energy, it is fun to see."
Keyes works with the volunteers on ideas for different kinds of flowers and plants that will go in the garden and enjoys the tips he gets and applying them in the gardens.
"It all comes from being there for so long. I also have some lady volunteers that help me out," Keyes said of his planting strategies.
Johnson finds the work to be very satisfying.
"I like to pull the weeds and know that I am making something look better," she said.
She admitted it's not always all work.
"Some days we have devotionals or just sit and talk," she said of her and the other volunteers.
She also likes the large age range of the volunteers, from around 19 to 60 or 70.
She also likes the freedom of the volunteer schedule because nothing is set, but you can work as long as eight hours at a time during the summer, she said with a laugh. She usually volunteers in two- to four-hour chunks of time and in the early morning hours on hot summer days. Mondays are also prime volunteer days because there aren't as many temple patrons.
For more information on volunteering in the gardens, people are encouraged to contact their bishops.