A Message from the Garden

Learn more about Garden staffing during the COVID-19 closure and a PPP loan funding positions through June 15.

It has been a disorienting time, when each of us individually and corporately has had to face and overcome an uninterrupted stream of change and challenge.  When we are past this moment in history, I hope we may look back on it with compassion for ourselves and others.  We are making hard choices daily during this crisis.  May we continue to make  choices that are best for our particular circumstance, for our families and for our world.

Just last month Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was completing its most successful year ever when the COVID-19 pandemic and concern over the health of our neighbors closed the Garden to public visitation.  At the beginning of April, Garden staffing was reduced to a  small “caretaking” group tasked with emergency guidance from the Board of Directors to

  • Ensure viability of Garden regardless of duration of COVID-19 closure and business interruption;
  • Maintain core garden, building, and system infrastructure;
  • Ensure core capacity for revenue generation, earned or raised

Retained employees accepted increased responsibility and reduced pay, even as we watched valued and valuable colleagues depart.

The Garden was greatly encouraged to receive  a CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan. There are still many outstanding questions regarding the use of these funds. We hope to get clearer guidance from the government over the next several days, but we are cautiously optimistic.

In anticipation of final regulations consistent with preliminary language from the Small Business Administration, the Garden’s Executive Committee has authorized the use of funds to restore for two months the reduced pay of retained staff.  The committee allowed the re-opening of  some but not all positions on a temporary basis  if they can help with the emergency caretaking priorities above.  Positions meeting this criteria have now been filled.

The PPP loans are for eight weeks.  The Garden can increase emergency staffing through June 15, but cannot guarantee positions beyond that point. A Garden closure past June 15 would continue to impact vital revenue  streams.

A date for the Garden to reopen to the public is still unknown. The Garden will continue to follow guidance from elected and health officials as we move forward. The safety of staff, guests, members and volunteers will continue to be the Garden’s top priority.

Unfortunately, this is not a return to “normal”.  While my colleagues have shown amazing courage, creativity, and energy, the Garden can engage safely with the community, volunteers, visitors, and members only remotely and electronically.  However, this is incredibly good news for the preparations and planning underway now for the Garden’s re-opening, whenever that becomes possible.

Shane Tippett
Executive Director
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden