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Personality: Elizabeth Lee ‘Bee’ Wright

Spotlight on Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden top volunteer

4/28/2017, 12:44 p.m.
When Elizabeth Lee “Bee” Wright started volunteering at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside more than 25 years ago, she ...

When Elizabeth Lee “Bee” Wright started volunteering at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside more than 25 years ago, she did not have her sights set on receiving an award.

But her service could not go unnoticed. In late March, the 91-year-old Ms. Wright was recognized with the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as a volunteer.

The award is the highest distinction a volunteer can receive for service at the public garden. “She is just one of my most favorite people,” says Martha Anne Ellis, manager of The Garden Shop at Lewis Ginter, where Ms. Wright does the majority of her volunteer work.

Ms. Wright’s primary responsibilities have been working as a cashier and greeting customers. But her effort goes beyond the basics.

“What stands out about Bee is her energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the gardens,” Ms. Ellis says. “She is such an advocate, even bringing friends over to show them the place that she loves.” Ms. Wright also pitches in to help with events of all kinds. In the past, she has helped with mailings. She is one of many volunteers who help make the annual GardenFest of Lights come alive. The event draws tens of thousands of people to a display throughout the garden grounds, more than 500,000 twinkling lights, handcrafted botanical decorations, model trains and more.

“I am a behind-the-scenes kind of person,” Ms. Wright says. “Lewis Ginter is a wonderful place to work. Very nice people work there and the managers are very nice.”

Born in Fredericksburg, Ms. Wright now lives at Westminster Canterbury retirement community. In addition to her work at the botanical garden, she also volunteers to help her fellow residents whenever and wherever there is a need.

“She has an incredibly nurturing presence at Westminster Canterbury and has also been active in her church,” Ms. Ellis says.

“Bee is one of these people who isn’t going to give you just 100 percent. She gives 150.” Meet this week’s Personality and award-winning volunteer, Elizabeth Lee “Bee” Wright.

Date and place of birth: July 25 in Fredericksburg.

Current residence: Richmond.

Education: bachelor’s in medical technology, Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C.; master’s in medical social work.

Family: Brother, one niece and three nephews.

Occupation: Worked in the clinical lab at Johnston-Willis Hospital.

Latest honor: Recipient of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Lifetime Achievement Award for volunteering.

How I got news that I was an award winner: Lewis Ginter officials had planned a surprise to present it at the volunteer meeting. I almost didn’t make it.

What this award means to me: I’m very humbled. Very appreciative.

Why I volunteer: I like to stay busy and I enjoy the people.

Why I volunteer at Lewis Ginter: A former resident at Westminster Canterbury got me interested. I wasn’t good with flowers but I enjoyed the companionship and it has been a lot of fun to see the gift shop grow from one room.

Number of hours I volunteer a week: It varies. A lot of times if they are short on staff and in need of help, they call me.

Outlook for the day: I take each day as it comes. I like to stay busy.

Best late-night snack: Peanut butter.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: Be nice to everyone.

Next goal: To keep breathing.