Jan 18th, 2012

The Inner Philanthropist

by Nancy Turnage, Public Relations & Marketing Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; Photos by Don Williamson Photography


A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
Albert Einstein

Recently, just for fun, I put together a list of my top ten dream jobs.  We’ve all probably comprised just such a list, even if only in our thoughts.  Among my jobs are “Jeopardy question writer” and “vacation resort critic”.  And, my lineup also includes “Philanthropist”.  I love the word – “fi-lan-thruh-pist” – and I delight in saying it and hearing it roll off my lips.



1: goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially active effort to promote human welfare
2: an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes; an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes

There are many familiar family names of just such individuals around Richmond and across Virginia and beyond.  We’ve all seen them, in any number of places, including the Garden.  It would be no surprise to admit that when I hear, or see, the contributions of, for example, of Lora M. Robins — her dedication, generosity, and selflessness to her community — I want to emulate her, in my own way and by my own means.

Thanks to the hard work of hundreds of volunteers (both regular Garden volunteers & those helping out for just the day like the Virginia Department of Taxation or HandsOn Richmond) and the countless hours of work by the Garden’s staff, we had record-breaking attendance at this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  Over the course of 44 evenings, in weather ranging from balmy to downright cold, visitors were welcomed and given a beautiful gift:  a lovely, memorable evening amongst beauty, nature, and 700,000 lights.


To identify the level of effort — the task lists, follow-ups, planning and training, and all the astounding talent — that went into this incredible venue is not possible.  Certainly, there will be attempts to track hours and figures and dollars and numbers.  But how does one measure the strength in the artists’ hands that so beautifully crafted “The Old Tree”?  How does one tabulate the vision to string seven-hundred-thousand holiday lights “just so” as to take one’s breath away?  What unit of measure quantifies the cherry-cheeked visitors huddled around a bonfire and sharing of hot chocolate, conversation, and holiday spirit?

We are all Philanthropists, every one of us.  From the smiling faces of the bundled parking attendants to the volunteer engineers on model train duty (those blasted mini-cows — always crossing the tracks …) to … dare I say it?  To the big guy, Santa himself!

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden GardenFest model train engine

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden GardenFest model train engine

So, getting back to my list — right before “chocolate company quality control specialist” — there’s that word again “Philanthropist”.  Hmmm.  How about that.  I’m living my dream job after all, and so are you my fellow Gardeners.  Say it with me – “fi-lan-thruh-pist”. Go us!

The results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation.
Miriam Beard

Nancy Turnage is a former PR & Marketing Intern.

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