By Syerra Turry
BELLEVILLE – After spending four years as the Belleville Garden Club’s secretary, Loyalist College employee Barbara Hayward stepped up to assume the volunteer role of president for the past two years when no one else would.
“I knew how it all worked and what needed to be done. A lot of people are scared of this kind of position,” she said.
The Garden Club is a non-profit group that aims to foster an interest in horticulture among its members and improvement in the Belleville community.
Hayward organizes meetings, speakers, events, plant sales, bus trips and is responsible for reporting to the Ontario Horticultural Association.
One of the most notable contributions of the club under Hayward’s leadership was a $10, 000 donation in 2017 towards Belleville’s Memorial Gardens at the corner of North Park Street and Bell Boulevard.
“(The memorial garden) used to have beautiful gardens. They had mums in them years ago. (The city) just got away from it. It was still a memorial garden, but it was terrible looking,” she said.
The donation went towards the redevelopment of the gardens by creating new garden beds, benches and a pergola, a shaded sitting area. The money originated from an investment the club kept for over two decades.
After this development, Hayward said she noticed more gardens and hanging baskets all over the city.
“The memorial garden has opened the city’s eyes to how valuable gardens are to the community. They bring in tourism and add to the beautification of the city. I think that’s really important,” he said.
Members pay a $15 fee to be a part of the club for the year.
“You actually get a lot for that $15,” said Hayward, mentioning that local businesses will offer discounts to club members
Everyone involved in the club tracks their volunteer hours because if they reach 1,000 hours in a one year period, the horticultural association will grant the club $1,000.
The club surpasses that mark every year, said Hayward, usually clocking in around 1,300 hours.
The 50-100 annual members can also attend the general membership meetings held at the end of every month where they can learn about different aspects of gardening and exchange ideas.
Hayward organizes meetings so they have interesting speakers the members can learn from and further their knowledge in gardening.
Gardening interests can overlap into other areas of interest this way, Hayward said. For instance, she organized for a herbalist to speak at a meeting and all the members had the opportunity to make their own tinctures, an alcohol-based mixture of herbs or plants used for medicinal purposes.
Another speaker demonstrated to members how to prune trees so they would know what to look for if they needed to cut their own trees.
The club receives a lot of perks from these speakers, said Hayward. TrueNorth DayLilies once came to speak to members and offered everyone a $15 voucher for a free lily they would dig up if they came to visit their location.
On May 1, Suzanne Quinlan from Gleaners Food Bank spoke to members about the food bank’s plan to add six gardens to help feed those in need in the community. “With the Garden Club’s help, we’re going to make these gardens happen,” said Quinlan.
Hayward presented a donation to Quinlan on behalf of the Garden Club to go towards those gardens.
The largest event of the year is next month, Hayward said. Every year, the club has a plant sale at the Montrose Inn, which she has organized for the past four years. The plants sold are donated by the members and volunteers help to run the event.
The past few years, the club has raised around $1,400 from the plant sale, Hayward said. That money then goes right to the club, she said.
The event is mutually beneficial to the Inn, said Hayward, because it’s turned into a community event with a bake sale and other vendors.
Regular parts of the club’s meetings also include 50/50 draws and door prizes, she said. Members bring in plants or gardening-related items they don’t want and they get repurposed as prizes for other members.
“We just try to make it fun,” said Hayward.
Many members are involved for the social aspect, she said. “A lot of people move to Belleville and they’re looking for an outlet to meet people or to volunteer on a club and be able to spend some time out of their homes.”
The club also awards members who have been involved for 15 or more years a life member status so they no longer need to pay for a membership.
Lawrence Foster, a life member, said the Garden Club is great for the beautification of Belleville’s environment, encouraging landscaping and flowers and overall community betterment.
“Barb has given us excellent direction. It’s a very time-consuming job.”
In addition to general membership meetings each month, Hayward also runs executive meetings with the board members, puts together a yearbook with an agenda for the year for all members, handles communications, organizes the end of the year meeting that includes a potluck and awards ceremony, types up meeting minutes and puts together two six-months reports to the district director with the help of co-chair Chris Green.
“We email back and forth a lot. It’s good because she’s very organized and she’s been doing this for a while, and I haven’t,” Green said.
“It’s a good group of people who have good ideas. It’s nice to be able to share those,” she said.
In some cases, former members will leave money in memoriam to the club, and those funds go into a bank account towards gardens and bettering the community, said Hayward.