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Clackamas District Garden Clubs devoted to community service

Before every meeting of the Clackamas District Garden Clubs, all members recite a pledge vowing to “protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet Earth and promise to promote education so we may become caretakers of our air, water, forests, land and wildlife.”

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Left to right, Michelle Baker, student life and leadership advisor and head of CCCs food bank, and Darby Walker and Dolores Smith, co-presidents of Clackamas District Garden Club, unpack donated items to stock the shelves at the food bank. That’s a big job, but the group is up for it, said Dolores Smith, co-district director.

She added, “All of our 300-plus members in the 11 clubs in the Clackamas District are dedicated and active in their clubs and communities. We could not accomplish what we have done and will continue to achieve if it were not for the participation of all our members.”

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Green Corps members Dijaun D., Brenden R. and Jake M. welcome an additional beehive, given to the group by the Clackamas District Garden Clubs.  Gardeners by their very nature are people who are willing to share, Smith said, adding that members of the local clubs donate their time and money to a huge list of orgnizations.

They support local libraries and community gardens, work at the Sara Hite Rose Garden at the Milwaukie Senior Center, serve meals at senior centers, work with local youth at schools, adopt families at Christmas, support Clackamas Women’s Services, Clackamas Animal Shelter, Clackamas Services for Abused Children, Fill-a-Stocking-Fill-a-Heart program, and maintain flower beds at adult centers and the Milwaukie Pioneer cemetery.

And this is just a partial list from six of the Clackamas District clubs, Smith noted.

Although all the local clubs had their own community-service projects, Smith said that in June 2013, when she and Darby Walker became co-directors for the Clackamas District clubs, they decided that the district should also give back to the community.

Green Corps, CCC

“I had met Rachel Pearl, community connection coordinator with the Clackamas Juvenile Department, about three years ago when she was in the talking stages of a community garden maintained by the youth offenders in Clackamas County. I contacted her and found that their need was for a second beehive at their gardens, located behind the Clackamas Juvenile Department in Oregon City,” Smith said.

The youth, in the Green Corps, Fresh Start program, learn the entire bee business, from raising the bees to the production and sale of the honey. Their honey business is called Sweet Justice, Smith said, noting that the Fresh Start program helps the youth turn their lives around after making some bad choices.

Smith and Walker next turned their attention to Clackamas Community College, since many of the local clubs in Clackamas District raise funds to donate to CCC’s horticultural scholarship fund every year through plant sales and other fundraisers.

The Clackamas District Garden Clubs have donated $5,800 in scholarships to the program, Smith said.

She and Walker spoke to Michelle Baker, the student life and leadership coordinator at Clackamas Community College, who told them that CCC’s student food bank was in need of food donations.

“Since the connection with the college was already established, the food bank project fit right in,” Smith said.

Members brought food donations to the Clackamas District semiannual meeting and luncheon in October, and on Oct. 3 Smith and Walker delivered about 150 pounds of food to the CCC Cougar Cave to restock some very bare shelves.

Penny Pines, Blue Star Marker

But wait, there’s more.

Many of the local clubs already donate to Penny Pines, a cooperative program with National Garden Clubs and the U.S. Forest Service, in which each $68 donated is used to plant one acre of forest land.

“Our district decided to take up a special collection at our district meeting in October and designate the funds to be used to replant the Mt. Hood National Forest, where thousands of acres were destroyed in the 36 Pitt Fire that burned near Estacada in September,” Smith said.

The clubs also support the Blue Star Marker program, adopted by NGC in 1946 to acknowledge all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States. The markers are inscribed with a tribute to members of the military who have defended the nation.

The markers are purchased by local clubs and districts and placed along state highways. The Clackamas District has placed one at the Boring Fire Station and is in the process of finding a location for a second one.

Clubs in the local district have purchased and placed markers in Sandy, Estacada, Oregon City (above Willamette Falls), West Linn (at the viewpoint on I-205), and the newest one dedicated on Oct. 18 in Milwaukie along the waterfront on McLoughlin Boulevard.

Gardens of Enchantment

And yet another venue supported by local clubs is the Gardens of Enchantment, a five-senses garden for the blind in Oral Hull Park near Sandy. It was created and dedicated in 1971 as a garden therapy project by the garden clubs in Clackamas and Multnomah districts.

A gentle and sloping wheelchair-friendly path winds through the gardens, and the elevated beds in the taste, touch and fragrance areas make it easy for the blind and physically challenged to see and experience new sensations.

A fountain at the entrance to the garden is what contributes to the sound sense along with the many birds in the gardens.

“Many of the clubs in the Clackamas District donate funds, and/or club members work at the garden. Clubs are assigned certain beds and maintain them during the year starting in March, when we wake up the beds, and until the last week in October, when we put the beds to sleep. The gardens are open to the public year- round,” Smith said.

Membership important

“Membership and growth is an important part of our existence, the more members we have, the more we are able to achieve for our communities. We have, just this month, activated a website, clackamasgardenclubs.org, that will give anyone interested in becoming a garden club member in the Clackamas District the information to help them make that decision,” Smith said.

The Clackamas District mainly raises funds for projects through the generosity of their members by donating items for sale tables and raffles held at semiannual meetings and then purchasing items from the sale tables and tickets for the raffle items. In the past, the district also has promoted garden tours to raise funds, she said.

And, Smith added, “Several of the clubs in the Clackamas District decorate assigned rooms at the Stevens-Crawford House for their Christmas Open House.”

The 11 clubs in the Clackamas District have many different fundraisers, including plant sales, garden tours, garage sales, bake sales, silent auctions at their meetings, box socials and sale tables just to name a few.

Smith added that people can help support the clubs’ many projects by attending and purchasing items at club fundraisers; these will be posted on the website.

As for longevity of the organization, Smith noted that the Lake Grove Garden Club recently celebrated 90 years of being a garden club and Milwaukie Garden Club will have its 75th anniversary celebration in November.

But, she added, the group is still looking for a community garden to donate to for one more community service project for the next semiannual meeting in April 2015.

Visit clackamasgardenclubs.org for more information about the Clackamas District Garden Clubs. These clubs are part of the National Garden Club and the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs. There are 15 District Garden Clubs in Oregon and 89 local clubs in OSFGC; the Clackamas District has 11 clubs.

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