Updated: Nov 20
Activities and accomplishments: November 2020 – November 2021
The Garden Club has a great deal to be proud of as we look back over the past year. It’s difficult to list all the positive things that we have done as individuals and as a group for the benefit of our town and our environment, but I’ve tried to compile a list of our most important activities and accomplishments.
Improvements in organization and administration: The newly revised by-laws were adopted in fall 2020,put into practice,and at the end of this year amended to increase the number who can serve on the Board of Directors. The goal is to make our administration more inclusive. You can review the revised by-laws at https://gardenclubofwindhamct.org/about-us/bylaws/.
Several new people stepped up to fill important roles as officers(president and vice president) and as chairs of the Budget and Finance and Membership committees. Our financial record-keeping was strengthened with the recruitment of Jennifer Duchesne, an experienced bookkeeper, as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. We also created a separate account for those funds dedicated to improvements on the Garden on the Bridge. V.P. Barbara Wright learned Mailchimp and created an attractive monthly newsletter to keep our members informed – especially important, given the elimination of required monthly meetings. Progress was made on updating and improving our Garden Club of Windham website (https://gardenclubofwindhamct.org/ ). More work is planned in the coming year, spearheaded by Brian Taylor. Our map of “Garden Club of Windham – Public Spaces –Landmarks” was revised and updated. It’s on the website at https://gardenclubofwindhamct.org/committees/public- spaces-committee/. New policies were put into place: 1) to organize and streamline e-mail notifications for our events and volunteer activities, to be sent out weekly; and 2) to facilitate care of our public gardens by instituting a system of monitors and mentors. Eight members have signed up to be “Garden Stewards”and six have volunteered to be on call to offer advice in a mentoring role.
With the legal advice of Attorney Barbara McGrath and the help of Liberty Bank officers, the “The Friends of the Garden on the Bridge”became an ad hoc Committee of the Garden Club of Windham.We established a separate bank account and treasurer for the Friends, which will simplify the handling of the large sums being raised in donations and grants for Bridge renovations.
Fundraising: We held several fundraisers: a successful, well-attended plant sale in Spring;a Fall Spear Head Spade fundraiser,(“the best garden shovel ever made,” according to those who own one); a “Round Up” campaign at the Food Co-op; and a yoga/massage event at the Farmer’s Market. Thanks to the hard work of several members over the past 14 months, we have received a number of substantial grants to fund our work.The Pageau Trust has been particularly supportive. It provided $3000 for town/trail signage, and another grant for work on the Garden on the Bridge; it has also committed to giving $5000 a year for the next 3 years to fund improvements to the Bridge. Through a matching program, Patronicity/Sustainable CT provided funding for work on the Bridge; and in fall 2021 AARP CT awarded$5,000 to enhance lighting on the Bridge. An anonymous donor has put up $10,000and challenged supporters of the Garden on the Bridge to match it. Still pending:an Urban Green and Community Gardens grant application that was submitted to DEEP in mid-November.
Public Outreach: The goals of our outreach were to grow membership, increase participation in Garden Club events, and raise our community profile. The results have been encouraging. In an attempt to respond to COVID-19 protocols and increase interest in our activities, we held three outdoor meetings in the spring that were open to all and combined with garden tours: one at Jillson Square, which included visits to three of our public gardens; and two at the homes of Master Gardeners Carole Williamson and Pam Wright,with a look at their gardens. Two “Open Garden”events, held in the beautiful private gardens of club members Becky Salustri and Deb Russel, were a highlight of this season.Open to the public, they were well-publicized and enthusiastically received by all who attended. We made a major effort to increase the numbers of volunteers willing to work with us. It was a special blessing to have an increase in the numbers turning out to volunteer, thanks to the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine. Along with garden club members, we welcomed community volunteers, and students from UConn, EASTCONN, and the ACT magnet high school. We were especially grateful for Eastern’s many
enthusiastic volunteers from sports teams, “MALES” and “FEMALES” service clubs, and from the “Dreamers” program. The Friends of the Garden on the Bridge organized an October Party to publicize progress, raise awareness of continuing needs, and thank the many club members and townspeople who have supported our signature project over the years. Attendees included local dignitaries such as Walter Pawelkiewicz and Al Vertefeuille from the earliest days of the Garden on the Bridge, and officials such as mayor Tom DeVivo and state representative Susan Johnson. Wayne Norman mc‘ed with his trademark wit, and Bruce John’s music was a special treat.
Facebook pages: The Garden Club of Windham page and Willimantic Wildlife Habitat page, along with a new “Friends of the Garden on the Bridge” page, continue to inform readers about our activities and our roles in improving the appearance, ecology and environmental health of our town through gardening.
Efforts to garner publicity for our work through local newspapers and radio have been successful. Neighbors ran two major articles about us: one about the Garden on the Bridge (September 2020) by Briana Hernandez, and a second piece focusing on the Garden Club’s mission, by Pam Wright (January2021). Several articles appeared in The Chronicle publicizing our activities, including pieces about the Garden on the Bridge’s new amphitheater, the Open Gardens, an editorial titled: “Let’s Help to Grow the Local Garden Club” (May 8-9, 2021), and another on the role of the Bridge in Willimantic’s economic development (November 22, 2021). We were featured on two occasions as guests on the WILI Radio show “Guess Who’s coming to Breakfast” with Wayne Norman. In May, Pam Wright discussed the importance of native trees, the environmental and human importance of the “urban trees” movement,and how our projects support these initiatives. In October, Faith Kenton spoke about the progress of the Garden Club’s work to refurbish the Garden on the Bridge, including the plans for the Pleasant Street Hillside, and the upcoming celebration of our progress on the Bridge. Our projects also received notice in several other publications, including the members’ magazine The Last Green Valley. The spring issue lauds the activities of the Garden Club of Windham and mentions by name club members Jean de Smet, Faith Kenton, and Pam Wright.
On Saturday, November13, perennial daylilies (Hemerocallis) and Japanese anemones were distributed free of charge in front of the Food Coop to anyone who wanted one. The plants were donated by a grower/wholesaler in Pomfret, and the giveaway was organized by Faith Kenton and Yves Kraus. It stimulated good conversations about gardening and lots of good will for the Garden Club.
Projects and Improvements: Club members continue to maintain14 public spaces. We were fortunate this year to see a return of Community Volunteers to help care for these areas, and much was accomplished. The “Friends of the Garden on the Bridge” accomplished major physical improvements in the “Hillside” section of the Bridge between the RR trestles and the Pleasant Street. Overgrown junipers were pruned back, weeds and invasive plants were removed, and a stone amphitheater and two terraces were added along the walkway leading up the hill. On the Bridge, a fence and railings were replaced. Enhanced lighting, public Wi-Fi, new benches, and additional plantings are in the works. Another new initiative this year was to link Windham gardens with the national and regional Pollinator Pathway Project. This work is a vital part of our emphasis on protecting our environment in an urban setting and collaborating with the communities around us. Under the guidance of Faith Kenton and Yves Krause, the “325 Trees” project drew toward completion. In 2020-2021 alone over 200 native and pollinator-friendly trees, shrubs, and perennials were put in the ground on the High Street Hillside.Counting these recent additions, along with the trees planted along the East Coast Greenway, at Memorial and Whitewater Parks, and at other town sites, the project has far exceeded its original goal of planting 325 trees in three years. The Garden Club’s Wildlife Committee collaborated with the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership to plant a sustainable stand of trees in the Whitewater Park along Bridge Street, made possible by a $1,000grant the WWP received for that purpose.
Educational signage was increased throughout town. The $3,000 Pageau grant to the Wildlife committee was used to build a patio and kiosk for a trail hub and landmark sign near the corner of Bridge and Main Street,the Shilberg Butterfly Garden received a large new sign, and ‘Pollinator Pathway’ signs and ‘GCoW Pollinator Garden’ signs were added to gardens around town. The Wildlife committee worked with EO Smith students to provide tall stake labels for native trees and shrubs;they indicate the plant’s common name, Latin name, and benefits to wildlife.
Several volunteer weekends were dedicated to the removal of invasive plants,which were doing major damage to the ecosystem in several of our public areas. We educated students about this environmental problem as we removed large stands of mugwort, oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, and ailanthus, replacing them with milkweed and other beneficial plants.
Plans and Recommendations:
We have exciting plans for 2022. My term is up this November,but I would like to mention some of the plans already under discussion. They include organizing senior citizen bus tours of our public spaces, guided tours to the Goodwin Forest gardens in Hampton, and visits to the Caroline Black and Native Plant Gardens at Connecticut College in New London.
Of course, work will continue on our own gardens, with special attention to the needs of our signature project: The Garden on the Bridge. With this in mind I would like to make two recommendations for the coming year:
1. That we elevate “The Friends of the Garden on the Bridge” from an ad hoc to a standing committee of the Garden Club, in recognition of the Bridge’s special importance to us; and
2. That we vote to donate $2,000 from our savings account to the Friends’ fund seeking to match the $10,000 contributed by an anonymous donor.
Respectfully Submitted, Pam Wright,
Garden Club of Windham President, November 2020 – November2021