A salute to volunteers: Area Garden Club members volunteer in order to educate

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Wesson Garden Club is more than digging in dirt: It’s about education, facilitation and dedication. Those are the right descriptives of volunteers of the group who go out into schools, help landscape county offices and do it all with joy in their hearts.

Dixie Thornton, outgoing president of the club, said the members of her group love showing others how to create gardens as well as relationships with those in the community, county and even the state.

“Our goal is to educate and beautify our communities,” she said. “We volunteer to work on protecting the environment and protecting natural resources, and education goes a long way to do that.”

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The Wesson Garden Club is federated, which puts it under the umbrella of the Garden Clubs of Mississippi, which comes under the National Garden Club. The group is part of an alliance that includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina.

The Wesson Garden Club, which currently has 35 members, works with other garden clubs, even though not affiliated with the National Garden Club, which means they don’t encompass the same goals. But they all love gardening and have the sincere purpose of helping others love gardening as well.

National Garden Week is celebrated every year by the federated clubs. “We and all who are members of the Garden Clubs of Mississippi and the National Garden Club do this every year,” Thornton said. “We don’t get paid anything for what we do. We pay dues, actually, and we work to maintain seven gardens just in the town of Wesson.

“We have volunteers who go into the schools to teach children about gardening, we teach others about container gardening and we work with veterans organizations to honor those who served our country.”

Another volunteer program the garden club members enjoy putting on is the Lanoux Youth Camp, this year set for June 13 in Wesson. These young gardeners-to-be are third through sixth graders called The Butter Beans. “We teach young gardeners about the environment, horticulture and we do so with a lot of great arts-and-crafts activities,” Thornton said. That means the young people will get to know all about famous volunteers by the name of Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl, the two so well-known for their catchphrases “Only YOU can prevent wildfires” and “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute.”

The youth event will teach children about using recycled goods to create art projects. “All our members work during National Garden Week, too,” Thornton said. “Both at schools and during the summers, we have a lot of diverse events for both kids and adults.”

Thornton said some of their older members cannot take on a lot of physical activity, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still volunteer. “They do education displays at the library, teach container gardening, some work with school system gardens, while others write articles for publication about gardening and the environment,” she said.

In addition to working with children, the garden club volunteers take great pride in working with veteran organizations. They partner with the American Legion to mark the Blue Star maker in town with a wreath of remembrance.

“It’s not just stuck with digging in the dirt,” Thornton said with a laugh. “We worked with Wesson Attendance Center youth, the Wesson Board of Aldermen for beautification landscaping and the town of Wesson to place banners on the streets. It’s all about bringing in beauty to pull in tourism and to help our town thrive.”

The group also partnered with Co-Lin Community College to re-landscape the front of the Fortenberry Building. They also helped the Crystal Springs Garden Club and the city of Hazlehurst to re-landscape the Copiah County Courthouse.

“We went to promote our own town, but also our county and state.

The Wesson Garden Club recently received more than a dozen awards April 14-19 in Starkville during the 94th Annual Convention April 14-19 of The Garden Clubs of Mississippi, Inc. They received a first-place group award for their Roadside Beautification project as part of the Deep South Garden Clubs, Inc., as well as first place for te “Adopt-A-Park” project.

They also won jointly the State of Mississippi Department of Transportation 2022 Commissioners’ Roadside Award with the Chautauqua Garden Club and the Louise Godwin Highway Beautification Award first place award.

Additionally, the club won the following: Social Media by Club Member – first place and overall; Public Relations, second place; Arbor Day, second place; Historic Preservation Award, second place; Publicity Press Book, second place; Pollinator Garden, second place, Butterfly Conservation, third place; Geraldine Dean Award (Yearbook), honorable mention; and Special Service (youth related), third place; and $500 for the 2022 GCM Nature Grant Award.

Incoming president Denise Jackson is excited about where the club is and where it’s going. Their volunteering will continue, as they see it as the best way to bring the garden to a potential gardener.

“The Wesson Garden Club has well-established relationships in our community and our county,” she said. “As incoming president, I will guide our club to maintain our community relationship as we continue volunteering to beautify our town with plants and flowers.

“Our slogan for this year will be ‘let’s grow together.’”