Volunteer transitions from tech to tour guide

Courtesy of Laurie Schutters
Tonia Spyridi has found a new calling as a Hidden Villa volunteer.

High-tech retiree Tonia Spyridi, a Los Altos resident of 35 years who grew up in Greece, fell in love with volunteering as a Hidden Villa farm and wilderness guide in 2016, but she started out reluctantly.

“I wasn’t sure I could do this,” Spyridi said.

Now Spyridi leads tours two days per week. Typically, guides conduct tours once a week.

“The more you know about Hidden Villa,” Spyridi said, “the more you want to be there. The more I have to be there.”

Hidden Villa, the nonprofit educational farm and nature preserve in Los Altos Hills, provides science-based, hands-on learning opportunities for schoolchildren from communities of all means. Its farm, organic Education Garden and nature area offer a backdrop for the outdoor learning.

“The kids are so curious, kind, adventurous and enthusiastic,” Spyridi said. “You have hope for the future. Even if you can change a little bit how they feel, you feel like you’re contributing. They get a little bit of confidence from the experience of knowing new things. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

Spyridi noted that Hidden Villa’s programs still feature the inclusiveness and diversity valued by founders Josephine and Frank Duveneck.

“The Duveneck legacy is everything for me,” Spyridi said.

Guides often receive notes of thanks and appreciation in the form of drawings from the children. But Spyridi recently received a note from a parent who accompanied one of her tours.

“What I noticed and loved most was that she seemed to be discovering it all for the very first time with us,” the parent said of her daughter. “Instead of just touring us around, I felt she was exploring and discovering with our group – what a wonderful way to do this.”

According to Spyridi, the appreciation is well deserved by all the guides.

“I was just doing what I learned from everyone else,” she said.

When Spyridi is not volunteering at Hidden Villa, she enjoys reading historical fiction, attending the theater and traveling with her husband, and going to concerts, museums and dinners with family and friends. She also volunteers for a nearby food bank and has volunteered with her two daughters at Hidden Villa through the National Charity League.

New this year, Hidden Villa has scheduled an open house for potential volunteer guides. Staff will introduce participants to the organic garden, animals and nature area during a short program Aug. 23. Rather than official training, the session will offer the opportunity to become acquainted with Hidden Villa and its programs and give attendees an idea of what to expect at the September guide orientation.

The next orientation for potential guides is scheduled 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. If participants subsequently decide they want to volunteer, all necessary training is provided free of charge. No experience is required.

For more information, call 305-7213 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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