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Council of Garden Clubs cultivates civic responsibility

by Stevon Gamble | March 19, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.
Various flowers provide a pop of color in the meditation garden at Hospice of Texarkana. The flowers were planted by the Texarkana, Texas, Council of Garden Clubs. "Families like sitting out there getting some fresh air. It’s a very peaceful space," hospice director Cindy Marsh said. (Photo courtesy of Beth Pesek)

The Texarkana, Texas, Council of Garden Clubs is rooted in its mission.

"We're all about civic beautification in Texarkana," said Sandra Tipton, president of the council.

The council consists of two representatives from six regional garden clubs – Bluebonnet, Daisy, Gateway and Rose in Texarkana; Dogwood in New Boston, Texas; and the Linden, Texas, club. It operates under the auspices of Texas Garden Clubs Inc. and stays alert for opporunities to serve the community.

"We think of a place we might go in and give it a little beauty with horticulture," Tipton said.

Hospice of Texarkana has benefitted from the council's service in the form of a meditation garden the council has worked on over the past few years. Director Cindy Marsh said the garden has given the hospice another way to support families who have loved ones receiving care at the inpatient facility on Galleria Oaks Drive.

"The families like sitting out there getting some fresh air. It's a very peaceful space," she said.

Marsh said when the weather is nice, up to a dozen families a week will make use of the garden, which sits just outside the facility's Larry Sims Chapel of Caring.

The work that went into planning and constructing the shaded area – which includes a fountain – was "thoughtful and diligent," Marsh said.

"It was an enjoyable project where we could get all of the council member clubs together," Tipton said.

And the council's efforts have not gone unappreciated.

"We've had an unsolicited donation or two of statuary or a plant show up in the meditation garden from one of our families who have enjoyed the space," Marsh said.

Tipton said her group, Daisy Garden Club, intends to plant a tree in the garden in memory of two longtime club members who have died.

Right now, the council is about to start planning its first project of 2022 – a garden at Harvest Regional Food Bank in Texarkana, Arkansas.

"We've gone out and looked at the beds," Tipton said.

Besides tilling the soil, the council also is devoted to nurturing the mind. It does so in the form of an annual scholarship for graduating seniors.

This year's award is $1,500. Applications have been placed with counselors at nine area Texas schools, including in Texarkana, Hooks, New Boston, DeKalb and Linden, said Beth Pesek, first vice president of the council and a member of Gateway Garden Club.

The deadline to apply is April 1.

Funding for the scholarship comes from two sources. The first is the council's marquee fundraiser: a fall pecan sale.

Tipton said the locally sourced and pre-shelled pecans are sold as pre-orders. Sometime just before each Thanksgiving, the council acquires the nuts, bags them and makes deliveries with the help of member clubs.

The second source of funding comes from what Tipton called "an enjoyable function for all" – the Bouquet of Garden Clubs. The 2022 event, the third annual gathering, was Friday, March 11 at Williams Memorial Methodist Church.

Tipton said the Bouquet allowed members of area clubs on both sides of the state line to exchange horticulture ideas and enjoy association. Attendees also were asked to contribute to the council's mission.

"What we asked was that the various attendees make a donation to the council's ways and means, which would help fund our scholarship," Tipton said.

Donors received tickets for a chance to win door prizes that participating clubs brought to the event.

Whatever is left from the proceeds after the scholarship is fully funded is invested in the foliage and other items needed for the civic plantings, including hiring laborers to help complete the projects.

Tipton said the Bouquet has become "a really creative" opportunity for the council to fund its scholarship.

"When you take an individual garden club, we really don't have the finances to offer a very big scholarship, just (on a) club-by-club basis. So, if we pool our monies and go through the council, we can offer a more sizeable scholarship."

After the council receives this year's scholarship applications, it will review each applicant's qualifications, especially grade-point average, and make a decision. The recipient will be announced at his or her school's senior banquet, Tipton said.

"Most of the people who have received it have gone into horticulture, agriculture or farm management," Pesek said.

Like most organizations, the Council of Gardens has had to adjust to the pandemic. One thing, though, has weathered the COVID storm: the council's devotion to each garden it plants, Pesek said.

"We were with everybody else, closed down a little while for COVID," Tipton said. "We're coming out of that now and ready to get started on our projects."

(Applications to join an area garden club are available at the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, 819 N. State Line Ave. Call 903-792-7191 for information.)

photo The meditation garden at Hospice of Texarkana sits just outside the Larry Sims Chapel of Caring. (Photo courtesy of Beth Pesek)

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