Jun 23rd, 2017

CarMax Free Fourth of July & CarMax Volunteers

When I look back at how Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has changed over the years, I think about some of the physical changes: the new Lotus Bridge, the floating docks and the new gardens we have created thanks to generous donors (the Morton Native Plant Garden, and the Cherry Tree Walk, among others)  I think about new exhibits that we’ve added: Butterflies LIVE! as a yearly exhibit, and this year’s Wild Art.  I think about the important contributions of the Kroger Community Kitchen Garden growing food for FeedMore, and I think about our community outreach (Beautiful RVA and Ginter Urban Gardeners). But the most significant and long-lasting change that I can see in the Garden since 2008, when I started working here, is the increased diversity of our guests.Child looking at butterfly at CarMax Free Fourth of July

two adults having fun at carmax free fourth of july

Diverse in every way — from different neighborhoods in the Richmond Region, different tax brackets, different backgrounds, ages, races, religions and ideologies.  These days it’s common to hear a variety of different languages being spoken by our guests.  You’re just as likely to see a visitor playing Pokemon Go as you are to see a visitor smelling a flower.  Our visitors come from all 50 states, many countries, and drive from all over Virginia, too. I’ve seen visitors with dyed hair, in full goth outfits complete with spiderweb fishnet stockings, visitors with too many tattoos and piercings to count, Amish women wearing bonnets, Indian women in saris, and Muslim women full burkas.  It’s a testament  to a welcoming atmosphere and universal love of nature that our visitors come from a huge range of backgrounds, all brought together by a common love of gardens and beauty.

Are you wondering what has changed to make this diversity possible? There are many reasons, but one that’s right at the top are our free admission days, like CarMax Free Fourth of July. Free admission days offer great access for first-time visitors. Once people see the Garden and how welcoming it is, they become members and come back to visit again and again.  Because of this, it is with deep gratitude that I write this reflection as we gear up for our fourth year of offering a free admission day sponsored by CarMax. Before CarMax Free Fourth of July, our visitation on this day was typically about 500, but since adding the free day, visitation typically tops 5,000 people, and once hit a record 7,668.

CarMax Volunteers to Improve the Community

CarMax cares about our community. Not only do they sponsor our free day, but they also volunteer here in order to make our garden more beautiful.  Last week, 16 CarMax volunteers spent the day weeding a garden area that we’ve been developing called the Glen.  The group, from treasury and expansion planning at CarMax, had the opportunity to work at a different non-profit indoors, but they said they wanted to come to Lewis Ginter and be outside.  Did I mention it was hot, and they started during the hottest part of the day?  Horticulturist Megan Lacey, who worked with the team, was impressed with the CarMax volunteers’ work ethic. “They were actually my first ever corporate volunteer group [2 years ago] so it was interesting having them back again last week. They did a great job and I would be honored to have them back in my areas again.”

A huge pile of weeds that the CarMax volunteers managed to clear within the first hour of working.

A huge pile of weeds that CarMax volunteers had cleared within the first hour of working.

Enrique Mayor-Mora and team weeding.

CarMax volunteers Enrique Mayor-Mora and his team weeding in the Glen.

The group’s leader, Enrique Mayor-Mora, VP Treasury, CarMax, explained that his team is adventurous and outdoorsy, and they enjoy the fresh air. “This is what folks wanted to do — go outside, be in nature, get a little bit dirty.”

He joked about how he was glad they didn’t have to weed the same area they worked on two years ago again because that would mean they didn’t do a good job the first time. This of course made me laugh, because weeds are a constant battle, even for a botanical garden.

And like the diversity that CarMax Free Fourth of July brings to Lewis Ginter, not just on July 4, but year-round, it’s not about them, but about the community. In addition to the volunteering, the CarMax Foundation gives a matching grant to the Garden, based on the number of hours worked by CarMax volunteers.

“I come visit [Lewis Ginter] when I’m with my family. Anything that we can do to help with the beautification of it is worthwhile because it benefits the community,” Mayor-Mora explains.

We love that CarMax is such a positive influence in the Richmond community, and we are honored to offer free admission thanks to their sponsorship. We hope to see you on July 4 for the CarMax Free Fourth of July!

CarMax Free Fourth of July
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
FREE admission


CarMax Cares volunteers weeding in the hot sun and still smiling

By volunteering together, CarMax associates get to know each other in a different setting.

CarMax volunteer dumping weeds in a buggy for hauling

A CarMax volunteer dumping weeds in a buggy for hauling. Did we mention it was a very hot day?

Jonah Holland is Digital Content Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where she has worked for 14 years overseeing social media, the blog, and the website. She is also a mom, yogi, open water swimmer, gardener, and seeker. She's been known to go for a walk in the Garden and come back with hundreds of plant photos, completely inspired to write her next blog post.

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