Lashaun Woodliff takes mission-focused approach as new facilities director for New England Botanic Garden

BOYLSTON — A focus on mission is what appealed to Lashaun Woodliff at his new job as director of facilities for the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill.

And it was the focus on mission that motivated him as facilities director at House of Hope, a shelter for homeless families in Lowell, for six years.

The mission at the Botanic Garden is different but requires an equal commitment to people.

“What I’m good at is facilities. I want to run the best facility I can,” Woodliff said. “At House of Hope, it was giving people who are suffering the best facility — an environment that feels like home.”

Woodliff’s goal at the Botanic Garden is “to make kids and their families feel like they don’t need an invitation to be here. I want them to feel at home.” That sentiment was actually expressed by one of the directors, but it struck a chord with him.

“I want to introduce people to this kind of environment,” he said.

“It’s so gorgeous here,” Woodliff said. “We have 171 acres of beautiful gardens, conservatories, a garden shop, a café, walking trails and breathtaking views of the Wachusett Reservoir. I have the privilege of coming here in the early morning and hearing the birds chirping and seeing the flowers. There’s so much to do here, but it makes coming to work easy,” the Fitchburg native said.

He watched Manager of Youth Education Marissa Gallant “working with kids coming here who might not have been exposed to this environment.” One group was from Boston. “Seeing her interact with kids and helping them learn about trees and plants, that is mission work to me,” Woodliff said.

He wants children to be outside and not staring at screens all the time. He remembers his parents encouraging him to play outside and wants today’s children to experience the outdoors.

Up until three years ago, he lived in Nashua, N.H., with his wife, Ashley and children Zaiden, 10, and Zalakei, 7. Their daughter, Zalora, 2, was born after they moved to Townsend. There, they have 2 acres and he can find plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors and to hike with his children.

The Botanic Garden is open year-round, and Woodliff’s first visit was as a child attending Night Lights, an annual holiday event.

The Botanic Garden is within easy reach of communities in the Lowell and Fitchburg areas. It’s a 35-minute drive from Lowell and a 25-minute drive from Fitchburg, according to Woodliff, who is familiar with the roads out of both cities.

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