Thank You, Volunteers!
Each year our volunteers spend countless hours preparing for the show, wrapping lights, building structures, and brainstorming ideas about how they can make this year’s show even better than the last. Then, when the light show starts, they take on a whole new range of volunteer opportunities. In fact, there are 21 different roles for volunteers and 20+ shifts to fill each night that the show is open! When you visit GardenFest you’ll see countless cheery faces with their signature lanyard badges welcoming you, directing you, handing you will call passes, scanning your Eventbrite tickets, even taking your family photo in front of the holiday tree in the Conservatory.
We have a whopping 700+ volunteers at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and over half of them — 384 — work during GardenFest. There are more than 925 volunteer shifts to fill during each year’s show and so the simple truth is we could never host GardenFest without them! Last fiscal year our volunteers worked 7,677 hours JUST on GardenFest. That’s the equivalent of 1,024 full days of work! So far this year, our wonderful volunteers have worked over 3,500 hours; we expect to exceed last year’s number.
It’s not uncommon to find a volunteer who has worked here for 20 or 25 years. Do you remember what Lewis Ginter looked like 25 years ago? Here’s a reminder. There wasn’t much here. The Robins Visitor Center and Kelly Education Center had not yet been built. The Visitor Center came in 1999 and the Kelly Education Center didn’t arrive until 2002. Our plantings were mostly new. We hosted a very modest 3,296 visitors 25 years ago. This year we hosted 408,928 visitors!
But most importantly we love our volunteers. They are the heart and soul of everything we do. There is simply no way that we could pay them back for their gift of time, attention, caring and love that they extend to our Garden and our visitors. We try to thank them in a few earnest ways for these priceless gifts. Twice a year we take a turn at serving them dinner and performing some wild charade or song and dance to entertain them. Needless to say, it’s a fun tradition. Each year we honor one special volunteer with a lifetime achievement award. We offer volunteers a range of benefits including a free Garden membership after 100 hours of service and discounted or free classes. And, this year, for the first time, we invited volunteers to preview GardenFest before anyone else. But, most of all, we thank them by simply telling them how much we appreciate them.
You may notice a common thread in when you meet our volunteers. They are good-natured, humorous, happy, and extremely nice people. These folks show up each day ready to learn something new, meet interesting people and make a difference in our community with their service. For many of our devoted stewards, volunteering at Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights is how they celebrate their holiday season. After all, there’s nothing like watching kids and families enjoy the winter wonderland that is “Magic in the Air.”
Thank You, Volunteers!
Mike Spence was on Lewis Ginter’s staff for about three years and has now been a volunteer running the Conservatory trains for 3-4 years. “The year before last I came every day of GardenFest to clean them. This year I have two guys lined up to help…the trains run five hours a night and each night in order for them to run smoothly I clean the track and oil the engines.” Image by Harlow Chandler.
“We love Laurie,” says Rose Garden volunteer Catherine Walker (left) who has volunteered with Rose Garden horticulturist Laurie McMinn (center) for the past two years. Rita Hendricks (right) has volunteered for nearly a year and says, “I’m new to Richmond and volunteering here is a great way to meet new people.” Walker’s favorite thing about volunteering? “All the people — the other volunteers — we’ve had a blast and the staff: Justin [Brown], Sean [Bassemier], Tyler [Crossen ], and Mary [Lincoln] they are truly amazing. They are delightful to work with.” Image by Harlow Chandler.
Special thanks to garden volunteer Harlow Chandler who volunteered his photography talents to photograph our dedicated volunteer crew.