A Year of Service to Community
Taryn Davis was just 21 when she lost her husband in Iraq. In the midst of her own struggle with tragedy, she reached out to help other young military widows cope with grief by founding a national nonprofit, the American Widow Project. Earlier this year, Taryn and several others visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on a healing retreat that involved planting a “Love Grows On” Wheelbarrow Garden.
“Nature became my healing balm,” she has said.
Taryn’s is just one of many stories that play out every day at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Hundreds of thousands of people visit each year, and we can never know every story, or how the Garden touches the lives of those who visit. We can only be humbly grateful to offer this beautiful space, this common ground, in service to those who are called here.
Your support makes it possible to further this mission of service to the community. As I reflect upon the year that is passing, I’m grateful for the support of our members, donors and volunteers, and for all those who have graced this Garden with their presence. It is only by joining together that we have been able to accomplish all that we have this year.
Together, we have advanced our mission of connecting people through plants to improve communities. I am honored to share these highlights from 2019—
- Children and seniors served by Feed More programs received healthy meals fortified by over 2,300 pounds of fresh produce grown and harvested with the help of many volunteers in our Kroger Community Kitchen Garden.
- LOVE came to the Garden through a partnership with Henrico County and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Each letter of this permanent installation has significance to our work: a planter highlighting seasonal living displays; a honeycomb for the crucial role of pollinators; recycled garden tools; and our planet for our commitment to serve all who revere the Earth and each other.
- More than 14,000 children participated in experiential, nature-based education programs that support state standards of learning and build skills in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Of these children, 36 percent were from underserved communities and attended at no cost.
- We reached exponentially more children by training their teachers. More than 300 educators attended our collaborative Natural Connections conference last spring, taking away valuable interdisciplinary strategies to incorporate nature-based learning in their classrooms.
- Over 2,100 new guests visited the Garden through Museums for All, which encourages people of all backgrounds to visit gardens and museums regularly. We joined the program this year, offering reduced admission and membership to families receiving SNAP food assistance benefits.
- A new free Seed Library in our Lora Robins Library offers a circulating collection of seeds for people to plant, harvest, save and share.
- About 30 young Latinx women in the area participated in hands-on STEM-based lessons here taught by our horticulture staff this summer through our partnership with Randolph-Macon College’s Caminos a La Ciencia/Pathways to Science camp.
- USA TODAY named Lewis Ginter as fourth-best botanical garden in North America in their 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award.
- A total of 14,199 community members received free admission during the CarMax Free Fourth of July and Genworth Free Community Day on Labor Day, as well as during our annual no-cost days in January, and as veterans on Veterans Day.
- Newcomers to the region and our nation can now join the Garden through a new partnership with ReEstablish Richmond. Their Afghan Women’s Wellness Group is also very excited to be growing herbs and vegetables in their own raised beds in our Kroger Community Kitchen Garden.
- Neighbors came together to create and sustain urban green space through the work of Ginter Urban Gardeners. We graduated 40 new gardeners in two cohorts. The ever-growing network of Ginter Urban Gardeners collaborated with each other and with neighbors, schools, churches, nonprofits and corporations to strengthen communities and advocate for sustainability and equity.
Thank you for joining in this good work. As your community garden, we continually strive to serve our region with innovative gardens, programs and exhibits that engage, entertain, inform and inspire. This year’s exhibitions lived up to our goal. The Art of Play invited guests to interact with art installations from a hobby horse to a giant kaleidoscope to the grand pianos scattered through the garden during Pianos in Bloom. The intricate sculptures of Nature Connects Art with Lego® Bricks drew crowds throughout June and July, and M&T Bank Butterflies Live! continued to delight young and old alike.
All told, we have welcomed more than 375,000 visitors so far this year. Those numbers swell daily with the popularity of Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights. USA TODAY recently named our annual holiday light show as second in their “10 Best” for “Best Botanical Garden Holiday Lights.”
We find this recognition to be equally rewarding and humbling – rewarding because of the hard work and talent our staff and volunteers bring to this Garden every day; humbling in the face of their effort — and your support. We can’t do it without you.
As we embark upon a new year and a new decade, we thank our community for making this Garden possible. We look forward to new growth and change in the years to come.