Denise and Max Davis: Holiday at the Arboretum

Story and photos by Rochelle Dunbar.

Denise and Max Davis, are ardent and enthusiastic volunteers who devote their time to making things better and finding passion in their lives as well as the lives of others. They live by the philosophy “if it’s not fun, then why are you doing it?” It prompted their move to Little Forest Hills in order to be closer to the Dallas Arboretum where they have been volunteering for seven years. As co-chairs of this year’s Holiday at the Arboretum, Denise and Max are still holding their regular volunteer posts—Denise volunteers in the Children’s Garden while Max works as a docent in the DeGolyer House. Denise is a docent for the George Bush Presidential Library as well.


One of the couple’s favorite programs at the Arboretum is known as “Winter Walks,” a program where volunteers seek out visitors who may be new to the Arboretum, and offer to give them a tour of the garden. The tour could last for an hour or longer, depending on the visitor. On one occasion the couple led three one-hour tours back-to-back!

“The “Ask Me” sign is a magnet for people,” Max said. “When they see you with an “Ask Me” sign, it doesn’t matter if you have a badge on or not, people are ready to ask.” One of the questions Max was once asked was “What do I ask you?” to which Max responded “That’s a good question!” One of the deeper questions that Denise was asked by a person was, “What is the meaning of life?” Denise then responded to that question by saying “Peace, love, joy, and hope.” The pair take great pride in providing a memorable experience to the Arboretum visitors and spend time preparing possible answers to questions that people may ask. 

Denise and Max used to volunteer at an elementary school in Dallas for a reading program. They were concerned about children who were reading below their level, and wanted to make a difference in their lives. “The fun thing about that is being able to find what they like to read,” Denise states. “If you can find a topic that they are interested in, then it’s really so much easier for the kids to want to read.”

The biggest takeaway about volunteering for the couple is the satisfaction of helping others. “You’re able to make a difference to someone’s day,” Denise added. “It creates memories for people. Sometimes you don’t know what someone is going through in their personal life, but if you can make someone smile, or forget about the problem that they are having, then our job is done.”


Volunteering is more than a way to spend time, it is a legacy. Denise shared that she saw her mother volunteer while she was growing up and thought it was only natural for her to do it. Max then added “That was just how we were raised. Our parents raised us to make things better.” Both Max and Denise used to volunteer part time before retiring. 

Their favorite thing about volunteering is being able to meet new people from all over the world and matching people with their passions. They also love volunteering with the Arboretum because everyone feels like family and they feel as if they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves. 

The Davises are committed runners and running actually brought the pair together! They met later in life and tied the knot in 2009 at the Las Vegas Marathon. Together they have completed 16 full marathons and train together for their races. 

With such a love for volunteering, Denise and Max plan to continue helping at the Arboretum for as long as they can. We’ll be carrying our signs, answering questions as long as it’s fun.”

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum.

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Arboretum.

If you want to ask your own garden questions, the Arboretum is all decked out for the holidays and ready for your visit! This year’s brand new Pauline and Austin Neuhoff Christmas Village is a beautiful area filled to the brim with Christmas magic and loads of Arboretum volunteers. You can purchase advanced tickets at the Arboretum website, or at the gate. A general ticket to the Arboretum includes admission to The 12 Days of Christmas, the DeGolyer House “Christkindlmarket Treasures”, and the Christmas Village, all on display through December 31.

If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.