My son Mitchell and I volunteered to rake leaves in the Japanese Garden at the famed, gorgeous park that is Richmond’s Maymont this past weekend. I’ve always loved Maymont, but the Japanese Garden is probably my favorite [although the Italian Garden offers stiff competition].
It seemed like every inch of the garden was covered by a wide variety of leaves when we got started, but it was cleared well before noon. I expected maybe 15-30 people to show up on a moderately chilly and damp Saturday morning, but there seemed to be more like 80-100 people. It was a wonderful time and we made some new friends.
I was especially psyched to see so many kids there — and happy kids at that. My son is six, so it helped that we ran into a friend of his from the pool this past summer. They played and worked well together. There were so many parents with their kids, including a dozen or more teenagers.
Some of the attendees that I spoke with that had been volunteering to rake leaves at Maymont for years said that they have had some years with just 20 people and they were pleased to see so much youth.
I enjoy volunteering in parks and gardens because it gives me a sense of ownership. I usually volunteer where I most often visit so that when I come back, I can see how well my area is doing. I have done this at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Bryan Park and other locations around town, and it is amazing how much pride it gives me to help out. It also helps that my kids remember where I’ve worked and can see what I’ve done, and I hope that they get the message that it is good to give your time to the things you love.
Like any treasured park, garden or shared civic gathering place, Maymont couldn’t be the glorious destination we know it to be without volunteers.
From the Maymont website: “Volunteer hours provide Maymont with the equivalent of 11 full-time staff members. They are an integral part of our organization and serve in a number of capacities.”
I’m glad to have spent my first volunteering effort at Maymont with my son, and plan to continue. Of course, it wasn’t all work and socializing. I realize my son had his own vision of why someone would choose to rake leaves (especially softer, dryer bald cypress leaves)!