Garden Club money will seed flowers downtown

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From left Maxine Beck, Jane Birt, Mary Kay McCleary, Barb Bailey and Dixie Rook, former members of Waynesboro Garden Club, gather in the courtyard at Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library. NANCY MACE/FOR LOCAL.NEWS

A small group of women’s enthusiasm for flower gardening will live on thanks to its donation for the beautification of Main Street in Waynesboro.

More than $2,000 from the former Waynesboro Garden Club was donated to Main Street Waynesboro Inc. and will be used to help pay for the flower baskets that line Main Street and some new planters.

“We’re glad our donation will help them continue, but we’re sad to see the garden club end,” offered member Maxine Beck, who said the group disbanded because of the inability to recruit new members and the challenge of the work.

“Those ladies have been very diligent taking care of the gardens at the (Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free) library and (Waynesboro) post office, and we are grateful for the funds,” said Bill Kohler, director of economic development. “A plaque will be placed on the planters to honor the donation.”

For more than 20 years, Main Street has been a showcase for the flowering hanging baskets, an initiative started by the Morningstar family of Waynesboro. It costs over $1,100 each year for the flowers, watered faithfully by the Flower Patrol, according to Kohler. “We are taking it over this year … organizing the volunteers. We have a full slate but are always looking for substitutes. Anyone interested may call Main Street at 717-762-0397,” he added.

“I just enjoyed it and it was a great way to contribute to the community,” noted garden club member Maxine Beck. “We were doing pretty well before COVID, but last year it became apparent that everything had to be dug up, resoiled and replanted. And it was just too much for the four or five people doing the work. We always had people comment on how nice everything looked and we always invited them to get involved,” a sentiment expressed by other members of the club.

Dixie Rook became a member when she retired from the post office in 2014. “I like to play in the dirt and be outdoors. We always got a lot of positive feedback from people coming in and out of the post office, but no volunteers.”

Jane Birt joined the club when she retired as director of Waynesboro Human and Community Services in 2012. A master gardener, Birt also served as president a number of times over the years. “My husband (Jerry) and I put up a greenhouse and grew flowers for the library and the post office that we germinated from seeds. We all enjoyed it, but there were only a handful of us left, and it was a lot of work. It would have been great if we could have gotten younger or more people involved.” 

Mary Kay McCleary also served as president of the club various times over the 25 years she has been a member. “The original Waynesboro Garden Club started in the 1930s or ‘40s and when it resumed after the war, it became the Toll Gate Garden Club. But things changed out there and people wouldn’t show up to work. It goes up hill at Burns Hill (where the Toll Gate house is located) and you really had to have your sea legs,” joked McCleary, who said she then suggested the name be changed back to the Waynesboro Garden Club.

McCleary, who had a garden at her home and has always been interested in flowers, said she has volumes of notes about the history of the organization. “We used to sponsor a number of community events, like a pond tour and flower show. They were very successful and good projects for us. I just want to thank everybody for their participation over the years. We had a lot of fun.”